I’ve seen perfectionism manifest itself in several different ways. The child for whom anything less than 100% just isn’t good enough. The child who doesn’t bother starting because there is no way that they would ever be able to do what they’ve imagined in their mind. The child who invests ten minutes in a three day project because if they get a bad mark it will because they didn’t try anyway. Or the child who destroys a beautiful drawing because there was a little smudge on it.
One of the strategies that I have been using with students is to have them focus on the process. As they’ve been working on challenges over the past few days I’ve been drawing their attention to what happens in the process. When the basic rule for brainstorming is “withhold judgement” the ideas start to fly furiously and it’s great to watch the fun they have as they build their ideas. I help the students recognize how much creativity, problem solving, patience, consideration, flexibility and courage they’ve developed and practiced over the past few days and how these skills and virtues are as important as the final product. When the focus is off things needing to be done a certain way we are able to celebrate all the products with encouragement through generous and enthusiastic applause.
There are other strategies for parents who have children who are struggling with perfectionism here.