perfectionism and gifted children

Perfectionism And Gifted Children: What You Need To Know

Gifted children often struggle with perfectionism. It can affect all aspects of their lives in significant ways and requires understanding on the part of parents and educators. Here is what you need to know about perfectionism and gifted children. 

perfectionism and gifted children

The Link Between Anxiety And Perfectionism

What is perfectionism? Is it anxiety? The answer is yes and no.

Perfectionism isn’t in anxiety disorder, but perfectionism can cause anxiety and anxiety can cause perfectionism.

Perfectionism isn’t just striving for excellence. We want our kids to want to achieve. I’m not talking about them wanting to be good at a hobby or talent. Our children can have a healthy striving for excellence and that is good. We want our kids to want to be good at what they do. We want our kids to try as hard as they can, to be the best in whatever it is they’re doing,

Perfectionism becomes a problem when it overtakes our children.

3 Things You Need To Know About Perfectionism And Your Gifted Child

Perfectionism typically shows up in three different ways.

1. Validation and Love

Perfectionism can cause an unhealthy perception for your child that they must do something perfectly in order to be loved or valued. 

Obviously, human beings cannot be perfect. We’re going to make mistakes. In fact, we need mistakes in order to learn. So this idea that everything we do has to be done perfectly is not only not achievable. It’s just downright unhealthy. Tie this to a child’s feeling of being loved and validated and it can be a dangerous way of thinking. 

2. Perception of Others

The second way we see perfectionism is in the erroneous belief that others expect us to be perfect. It’s not just that your child wants to do everything perfectly. It’s that they think that others expect them to be perfect and we’ll be judging them if they’re not. They’ve projected this idea on others that if they’re not perfect, they’re not worthy. 

The worst part is, they know in their gut, they can’t be perfect.. Thus, no matter what they do, they’re going to disappoint.

3. Expectation of Others

The third way we see perfectionism is when a child expects others to be perfect. 

Your child may expect things to be done the exact way they see them in their mind. They expect others to see what’s in their head and get it done that way too. They can be difficult and hard on the people they love, who could never live up to the expectation that’s in their head.

perfectionism and gifted children

Perfectionism And Learning

I was fascinated by an artist named Wyland when I was a kid. He traveled all over the world, creating giant murals of beautiful underwater scenes. He used scaffolding to be able to reach and create this huge mural. He built the scaffold as he went, as he created his masterpiece.  

This is image of building the scaffold as we go is a great image for how help our perfectionist children in learning and in life. You can apply this metaphor to anything you’re working on with your kids. Executive function, skills, anxiety, study skills –  any kind of learning. We want to lay the foundation and we want to give them new tools and support as they grow into themselves.

As we learn about perfectionism, one of the strategies that helps is to share with our children stories about others who struggle with perfectionism or others who have made big mistakes and the mistakes have turned out really well.

We want to build that scaffold together with our children.  

perfectionism and gifted children

Perfectionist Kids And Perfectionist Parents

If you struggle with anxiety and your kids struggle with anxiety, you may battle perfectionism in your family as a whole. It can become debilitating to the point where you don’t even want to start anything because you are sure you will fail. You are not alone in this. Many perfectionist children have parents who also struggle with perfectionism. 

I am not a perfect parent at all, though I struggle with perfectionism myself. I am not an expert on how to talk to children all the time. I make mistakes every single day with my children, every single day. It’s inevitable. We’re going to make mistakes.  But once you know it, you now have new tools to build the next level of that scaffold.

One way to help is to highlight for your child when you make mistakes. Let them see it and let them see that it all works out in the long run. 

perfectionism and gifted children

Raising Lifelong Learners Podcast #155: Perfectionism and Gifted Children

In this episode of the Raising Lifelong Learners Podcast, Colleen talks frankly about the impact of perfectionism on gifted children and how parents can help. 


Links And Resources From Today’s Show:

What to Do When Mistakes Make You Quake: A Kid's Guide to Accepting ImperfectionThe Book of MistakesMistakes That Worked: 40 Familiar Inventions & How They Came to BeThis Is My Life: A Guided journal and Planner for Tweens and TeensRaising Resilient Sons: A Boy Mom's Guide to Building a Strong, Confident, and Emotionally Intelligent FamilyRaising Creative Kids: A Collection of Simple Creativity Prompts for ChildrenThe Big Book of Kids Activities: 500 Projects That Are the Bestest, Funnest EverWhy I Love Homeschooling Neurodiverse Kids: 25 Parents Share the Joys & Challenges of Educating Their Kids Who Have ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, Giftedness, or Are Otherwise Differently WiredLiving with Intensity: Understanding the Sensitivity, Excitability, and the Emotional Development of Gifted Children, Adolescents, and AdultsDifferently Wired: Raising an Exceptional Child in a Conventional WorldOn the Social and Emotional Lives of Gifted ChildrenBright Not Broken: Gifted Kids, ADHD, and Autism



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