- Many gifted students are perfectionists because they have a strong sense of purpose and vision (Robbins, 2012). They are motivated, not only to succeed, but to be the best. This trait can be an asset if it empowers them to accomplish difficult tasks with a feeling of satisfaction, however, if they are at the point where they never feel satisfied, the perfectionism can cause many issues. Often children will avoid new challenges or activities unless they are confident they will excel in these endeavors. By doing this they miss chances to learn new information and will start to underachieve. Besides underachievement, this drive to excel can cause depression, isolation, eating disorders and emotional outbursts. It is important to work with students to learn healthy ways to deal with the drive to be perfect.
What can I do?
- Give your child encouraging feedback that focuses on the task and not a personality trait. For example, say, “You did a great job on organizing the information in this paper” instead of, “You always do a great job because you are so smart.”
- Acknowledge your child’s weaker areas and maintain reasonable expectations.
- Guide them in realizing all they have accomplished because many perfectionists will just focus on unmet goals.
- Help them to be challenged from an early age, so they learn to deal with situations that may not come easy to them. This will help them learn coping strategies while they are young.
- Reinforce the importance of making mistakes; help them to see these setbacks as learning opportunities (Schuler, 2002).
- Help your child to set goals for themselves by accomplishing small steps at a time.
- Help your child to find biographies on eminent people since many of these people had to overcome barriers to reach success. It reinforces the importance of being able to persevere in the face of obstacles.
- Pyryt, M. (2004). Helping gifted students cope with perfectionism. Parenting for high potential: National association for gifted children. retrieved from http://www.davidsongigted.org/db/Articles_print_id_10459.aspx
Robbins, S.H. (2012). The everything parent’s guide to raising a gifted child. Avon, MA: Adams Media.
Schuler, P (2002). Perfectionism in gifted children and adolescents. In Neihart, M., Reis, S.M., Robinson, N.M.,& Moon, S.M., The social and emotional development of gifted children (pp 71 - 80). Washington, DC: Prufrock Press, Inc.
Walker, S.Y. (2002). The survival for parents of gifted kids. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirt Publishing Inc.