Great Expectations – Four Ideas for Dealing with Perfectionism

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What’s so bad about wanting perfection? To desire that events happen how you’d like them to sounds appealing, does it not?  But with the high expectations often placed on them at an early age by parents, teachers, or society in general, many gifted children begin to expect perfection of themselves. The assumption that something must happen a certain way is often not realistic.  And when you expect something to happen that is not realistic, you’re likely to be disappointed.

Over time children may develop perfectionistic thoughts, often in academic areas.  For example, Bill may fear that if he doesn’t get the highest score or even a perfect score on his Geometry exam, there is something wrong with him.  Jill worries she must be at the top of her class, or she will lose the admiration of others.  She may obsess spending excessive amounts of time trying to reach this goal; and if it doesn’t happen, she feels emotionally crushed.  In these cases of extreme thinking, each sets unrealistic expectations which affect thoughts of self worth. How, as parents or teachers, do we help deal with this?  Though not intended to be exhaustive, here are four ideas I came up with:

1. Discuss what a healthy expectation is.  There is a difference between wanting something and expecting something.  It’s okay to want to shoot for the moon, but first one must build a rocket and research a little science.  Expectations not grounded in reality can lead to misery.  Understanding the steps it takes to get somewhere and setting realistic smaller goals can make a bigger dream reachable.

2. Realize that the path to a goal is not always a straight line.   By this I mean sometimes our path twists and turns, or we fail.  Help children learn how to experience and deal with failure at an early age.  For example, adding challenging problems in math that require multiple steps to solve may teach him how to deal with difficult problems.  He must work harder and return again and again to a problem until he finds a solution.  Also, add reading selections that make a child ponder awhile and ask questions.  By giving children harder, more thought-provoking problems, they develop skills to solve them.  These problem solving strategies can transfer to other non academic areas as well and enable one to get beyond mental road blocks (like perfectionism).

3. Go easy on the criticism.  If a child has made a strong effort on a test, for example, but doesn’t score as high as he would have liked, offer encouragement.  If I’d taken the test, what would I like to hear after I’d done the same thing? None of us is perfect. Often children will look to adults to understand a situation. Show him support.

4. Encourage a child to realize that she has infinite worth apart from how she performs.  Would I want my self worth to be judged based solely on how I perform? Of course not.  But children often lack the years of perspective that adults have. Understand that emotions are closely tied to thoughts.  If our thoughts are unrealistic, our emotions will suffer.  If a child is feeling depressed, nudge her to write down her thoughts on paper or discuss them with you.  Try to get to the thoughts behind the emotions.  Then replace those mistaken (unrealistic) thoughts with true (reasonable) thoughts.  Emphasize that her value as a human being is not tied to her performance.

It’s okay to dream big and aim high.  But when a child crosses the line into destructive, perfectionistic thoughts, there are constructive things we as parents and teachers can do to help.

Great Expectations – Four Ideas for Dealing with Perfectionism

Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour, 2014

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Welcome to the 2014 Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour!

Parenting a gifted child can sometimes be as challenging as it is rewarding. That’s why for the third year in row, parents from The Well Trained Mind Message boards have created a blog tour to share wisdom, joy, tribulations and advice.

Starting Sunday, June 22nd the Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour will discuss some of the most pertinent issues facing gifted education today:

On June 22nd Sceleratus Classical Academy will kick off our tour with “How a Gifted Childhood Prepared Me for Gifted Parenting”.

On June 23d At Home in the North Woods will share “Great Expectations, four ideas for dealing with perfectionism.”

On June 24th Homeschooling: or Who’s Ever Home will write about “Following the Passions of the Gifted Child.”

On June 25th Teaching My Baby to Read will feature a guest post.

On June 26th Homeschooling Hatters will discuss “Twice Exceptionality, when just one exception isn’t enough!”

On June 27th Teaching My Baby to Read will write about “Intensity Fades but doesn’t Forget.”

A difficult thing to understand about children with high IQs is that just because they are gifted, it doesn’t mean they are easy to teach or parent. In fact, often times the opposite is true.

This blog tour is written by people who understand what you’re going through. We are sending encouragement your way! So the next time you wake up at 3 AM worrying about your child, at least you’ll know that you aren’t alone.

Thanks for being with us on this journey!

For previous tours, click on the links below:

Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour, 2014

Flowers for Mama – Wordless Wednesday


When the Explorer, 6, returned from recess, he carried with him a surprise for me.  He presented me with a bouquet of fragrant wildflowers he’d picked from our yard.  ;)


“Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.” ~Henry Ward Beecher

Flowers for Mama – Wordless Wednesday