perfection...help

Christie - posted on 03/05/2010 ( 8 moms have responded )

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I have talked and read so many books on this I don't know what to do. My daughter who will be 9 in 2 weeks can't accept anything but perfection from herself(sometimes others). It's in every aspect of her life from school,friends,home and cheer. I tell her that we are all just human and we all make mistakes...plus you learn from those mistakes. But still it's almost like deep down inside she can't forgive herself for even the smallest mistakes. I would like her to one learn to love herself no matter what and two not to seem to feel stupid or worthless with every little mistake. Has anyone had any success getting your gifted child to accept imperfection in themselves and others?

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Mena - posted on 03/13/2010

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if you figure it out please let me know... I have a saying I use all the time with my son , I've even gone so far as to put it on his bedroom wall.... "EVERYONE MAKES MISTAKES , THAT'S WHY PENCILS COME WITH ERASERS" he's very hard on himself if he makes a mistake, he's "SO stupid" etc.. I don't know how to get him to realise that it only makes him human, he is anything but stupid he is exceptional smart actually.

Jane - posted on 03/11/2010

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I am not trying to be glib, however, I had to laugh when I read your post. I laughed because my now 20 year old daughter was EXACTLY THE SAME WAY! She was deemed gifted in the very early years of elementary school and she would be so hard on herself if she forgot something, didn't get 100% on something, messed up socially...whatever. I can say that you are saying and doing the right things by telling her she is human and we all make mistakes but the only thing that will really help is time. So keep saying it, don't only praise her for the things she excels at but praise her for making a mistake and learning FROM that mistake. My daughter is still a perfectionist (almost done with 2nd year of college and maintains a 4.0), however, she has learned that you learn from mistakes and those mistakes are as great a learning experience as being perfect at things. Your daughter will be just fine...it's the curse of a gifted child!

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Robin - posted on 03/28/2010

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I heard a talk by a specialist in gifted behaviour, and he said something that was profound to me about this behaviour. It seems that gifted children understand that they are different, but they fear that they will lose their abilities. They don't seem to understand a grey area, so if they do something well they are still gifted, but if they do something poorly then they go into the "stupid" category with everyone else. They are smart enough to know that thinking of everyone else as "stupid" is not socially acceptable, so they don't say that, but they really feel it inside. While I think what you are doing already is just fine, maybe you could find a way of reassuring her that her giftedness is a part of her and will not go away if she makes a mistake. It seems that some of this stems from the school system where every year they have to re-prove that they are in fact as smart as you said they were, and every year they are terrified that really they aren't quite that smart, that they just got lucky or something. I have found that affirming that my children are gifted in their hearing helps them a lot. And I don't mean stuff like "well, you are so much smarter, blah blah blah". I mean things like "A lot of gifted kids struggle with feeling like they have to be perfect. That is just another part of this brain you got, and it comes as a whole package. You get the good side, that you learn quickly, and the bad side that you understand how little you also know." So talk to her about being gifted and help her become comfortable with that, so she understands that what makes her special and her won't just go away if she isn't the smartest or the quickest or the best all the time.

Sheila - posted on 03/26/2010

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My daughter is 2 and is on that path. I let her see me make mistakes and I say "Silly Mummy" and show her it's a mistake and it's no big deal. I can see this may be a problem for us in the future based on her current behaviour. Sx

Kylie - posted on 03/07/2010

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Hi Christie

My daughter just turned 9 and is also a perfectionist but thankfully can be quite laid back too. We did go through a similar thing about a year ago and I just spoke to her about what it was that made her who she was and what we loved about her. She is also talented athletically so I included that. It basically went with my asking her, "If you were in an accident and couldn't swim, dance etc anymore, would you still be you?" To which she answered "yes". Then, "If the accident scarred you and you looked different, would you still be you?" Then, "If the accident damaged your thinking and you did not do as well at school, would you still be you?" After answering yes, I explained that was because being pretty, smart and athletic were gifts that were certainly going to make life easier for her but they were not who she is. She is the sweet, caring, funny, empathetic person that we adore and the other things are just bonuses.

Mind you I do tell them that their intelligence is a gift and that many children who struggle at school would give their right arm to find it as easy as they do and so they should not just sail through school but apply themselves and try to be the best they can be.

I also remind them when they become frustrated that they have only been alive for a very short period of time and I after almost 40 years still make mistakes and am still learning new things every day. My not being perfect seems to make it o.k. for them too.

We are for the second year running starting off with her going underground and just trying to fit in and not stand out intellectually. Thankfully her teacher advised me of this within the first 5 weeks of school as she has taught her before and recognised the problem immediately. I thought we overcame this last year but it seems as though every time a new school year begins she needs time to acclimatise.

Good luck.

Kathy - posted on 03/06/2010

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My daughter is now 11 and used to come home and cry about getting a 95 on a test. "How could I have gotten that one wrong..." SHe now has matured a bit and it is not so much of an issue with her. She even got a B one time and accepted it. She still makes a game plan on her own to improve her 92 average in a particular subject, but, with time, the perfection has eased. Hope this is of comfort to you. It's always good to acknowledge their feelings, empathize with them, but do as you have and point out that humans do make mistakes and it's a good way to learn. My best to you!

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