Fredericksburg Parent

June 2012

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family values Perfection... Parenting Perfectionist Children By ELAInE sTonE Part three in a three-part series assignments were simply overwhelming. At most, one or two sentences would be scribbled down while other children produced paragraphs or full pages. her astute teacher noted the problem. she encouraged olivia to "just start writing", but as she encouraged, the stress of the task escalated. This precious child simply could not "just start writing." her mind was caught up in a story well beyond her abilities to write down. she couldn't figure out how to start and still be successful. she didn't know how to spell the words she was thinking. her creativity was so elaborate it overwhelmed her and she did not want to produce a mediocre product and so she was paralyzed with the fear of failure, resulting in failure to write anything. "I think olivia is a perfectionist," the teacher said to her parents. It was news to them. As the teacher spoke, the pieces fell together. olivia was well aware of her abilities. she knew she did not have the writing abilities to complete the task in the form it occurred in her brain. so, she simply chose not to complete the task. she wanted to write it down the way she thought it. It was not an option for her to compromise. And that made it impossible to complete. There was a huge gap between her "perfect" story and her writing abilities and she was not going to write it in an "imperfect" manner. she could not figure a way out of this dilemma. It took some intentional one-on-one coaching by her teacher and parents accompanied by some innovative interventions for her to begin producing a creative writing page. But, as the year progressed, she improved. she had begun the process of learning to deal with her own perfectionist tendencies. Fourth grade was another huge milestone proving extremely frustrating for olivia, her parents and F irst grade creative writing assignments: she sat frozen as a blank paper stared at her. she was a bright social child who loved school, but these 20 Fredericksburg Parent and Family • June 2012 Teach that mistakes are simply "mis" "takes," like in movie productions when the producer yells "take one, two, three" and scenes are shot many times. and she would get lots of chances to improve. she eventually mastered the multiplication tables; the math wasn't the issue, she knew the right answers. she had to learn to be willing to write down her first hunches and be satisfied with some wrong answers in order to finish in the allotted time. These issues were way beyond a simple math problem. olivia had to learn to deal with a core issue that raised its head again and again; perfectionism. Perfectionism is not an inborn trait. It is a learned response and a tendency, although, some personalities lend more toward perfectionist tendencies. The article "Pitfalls of Perfectionism" by hara Estroff Marano , written on Psychology Today website states, "Perfectionists, experts now know, are made and not born, commonly at an early age. They also know that perfectionism is increasing." (www.psychologytoday. com/articles/200802/pitfalls-perfectionism) They believe increases are seen because of society's quest for children to excel in academics, sports, etc. and teacher: Timed Multiplication Tests. It took quite a bit of dialogue and trying to figure out her thinking process to help her maneuver this hurdle. The tests being timed was the first stressor. The pressure of having a limited amount of time to produce perfect work seemed impossible. she again froze in her tracks. Pull out the timer and she shut down, halted by stress. she could not, in her mind, write down a wrong answer. Everything in her shouted that she had to write down the correct answer. The only way she could make sure her memory was correct was if she first counted on her fingers to prove the right answer. This took far too long and the timed test would end before she finished one quarter of the problems. Again, it took lots of work and effort to teach olivia to trust her brain. she had to be convinced and then convince herself, during the tests, that a wrong answer was okay A+

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