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5 Thoughts to Help You Parent a Perfectionist

I have a gifted perfectionist in my home. (Well, more than one, if I want to look in the mirror.) Parenting such a kiddo can be overwhelming, so when WAETAG (Washington Association for Educators of the Talented and Gifted) offered a webinar on the subject, I hurried to register. The speaker was Lisa Van Gemert, who authored a book entitled Perfectionism: Managing "Never Good Enough." Here are a few of my take-aways from her presentation:

1. There are different types of perfectionism. While some perfectionists strive for 100% on every school assignment, others won't even start a project if they think they'll make a mistake. Recognizing some work avoidance as fear of failure can inform your response.

2. Sometimes adults unknowingly feed perfectionism. I need to examine the way I talk to my kids.

3. Make it about the learning, not about the grade. A post-report card discussion could include questions like, "Do you feel these grades accurately reflect the amount of effort you put in?" or "What is one of the most valuable things you learned in this subject?"

4. Model that it's okay to make mistakes. Lisa said she keeps a "favorite mistakes" board in both her classroom and home, where kids and adults can post reminders of efforts that didn't go over smoothly. This can serve as a reminder that it's okay to do things at which you're not already perfect.

5. Family history stories can be powerful. We can derive strength knowing we're from stock that faced tough times but still made it through.

Keeping these thoughts in mind has already helped me relate to my child better, and it's also given me some insight into myself. I hope you can likewise extract some pearls of wisdom.

-Michelle Smart, PATH President

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