Parenting a Perfectionist: 5 Strategies
Are you struggling in parenting a perfectionist child or teen? If so, you’re not alone. I’ve got one too!
Parenting the Perfectionist
Perfectionist children and teens have a personality trait that literally accepts nothing less than perfection. They desire flawless outcomes. These kids are extremely critical of themselves when they don’t reach the unreasonably high standard they set for themselves.
Since they are not perfect, they will inevitably fall short of their own standards. Then the tears, self loathing and fear of what others are thinking begins.
Like any caring parent you’ve probably tried to convince them it’s OK to get less than a 100% on the test. Or maybe you’ve reassured them they are still getting dinner even though they didn’t score a goal.
Still, the perfectionism persists. And, you’ve probably noticed some days it flares up worse than others.
Doesn’t perfectionism seem like an infection that’s resistant to antibiotics?
I keep reassuring… and reassuring… and reassuring… it doesn’t work.
Parenting a perfectionist needs a strategy and it doesn’t include more reassurance. It needs a new mindset.
So, let’s start with the mindset…
Parenting a perfectionist is a marathon, not a sprint. We must understand that it will not be a “one talk and done” situation. This is a process of seed planting.
As we move through the 5 strategies of parenting a perfectionist, you’ll see how we point to Scripture. Even when it doesn’t seem to be sinking in, it is. How do I know that?
“So is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” ~Isaiah 55:11
Stand firm in this promise. There is nothing more powerful you can give your children than God’s Word. Speak life into them. Every. Chance. You. Get.
You’re also parenting an area that left untargeted will follow them into adulthood. Take advantage of your time with them now and don’t give up. You’re teaching them important life skills that will reap a harvest later. Remember – God’s Word does not return void to Him.
Sit down for what’s next…
When a perfectionist child turns into a teen – it gets worse. I know, it sounds impossible. If you’re in the throes of parenting a perfectionistic child you’re probably wondering how could this possibly get worse…
The brain is still developing. During the teen years there is an area of the brain that goes into emotional over drive in social situations. The concern for what others think goes up and peaks around 15 years old. See how being a perfectionist can get worse in the teen years?
Are we ready to dive into strategies?
5 Strategies for Parenting a Perfectionist
1.Trade lies for Truth.
This first strategy opens with a lot of questions from me. No answers, no reassurance. I ask open ended questions – those questions sound like this… How did you feel? What were you thinking about? What did you want to see happen? What were you afraid would happen?
Paraphrase what they say to make sure you understand. This also conveys you’re listening and reminds them you care. Simply processing a stressful event verbally is helpful.
While you’re listening, keep an ear open for anything you can combat with Truth. I find it most effective when I stick with 1 or 2 things that need to be knocked down with Truth. Pointing out more than 1 or 2 things often leads to a glazed over face. Have you seen that face?
For example, I often hear a theme of “I’m not enough”. I will remind her that God doesn’t intend for her to be perfect. I point to God’s grace being enough (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Another theme I hear, “I’m worthless because the outcome wasn’t perfect”. I remind her of God’s view of her – more precious than rubies (Proverbs 3:15).
Even when the responses are rolling eyes and silence, remember – the Truth is still bouncing around in there. Trading lies for Truth is the BEST legacy to leave your children.
Trading lies for Truth is the BEST legacy to leave your children.
2.What advice would you give your BFF?
This strategy is one my favorites. I will choose the name of a friend that means a lot to my daughter. Then I ask her what she would say to (insert name here) if they were in her shoes.
She always shares compassionate and encouraging words. I’ll usually respond with, “Wow, what a great friend. God absolutely delights that you would build up your friend like that. Why such a difference between what you would say to her versus what you would say to yourself?” Then pause, be still and resist the urge to continue speaking.
This usually hits home. Not that she says, “You’re right mom, I feel much better”. But her silence speaks volumes!
Edison failed 1,000 times before inventing the light bulb. We learn far more in failure than victory. In fact, it’s our imperfection that His power is made perfect (2 Corinthians 12:9).
When parenting perfectionist kids, celebrate the imperfections. Ask them what they learned from it. Remind them often that God doesn’t expect perfection. In fact, if perfection was possible we wouldn’t need Jesus. Oh, how we need Jesus.
4.Emphasize their value apart from works.
We are not valued based on our works. Each of us is made and loved by God just as we are (Romans 5:8).
The best way to convey this is remaining consistent in your demonstration of unconditional love and connection no matter what. This unconditional love can remain consistent even when they disobey, come home with bad grades or lose a game. Work to reinforce that love and acceptance is unconditional and not based on performance.
5.Emphasize effort over outcome.
Even when victory (100% on that spelling test) happens, point out how hard they worked to get the A. I would rather a hard earned C to an easy A any day of the week. Celebrate the effort. After all, God cares most about the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
Behind the Scenes: Prayer
Be prayerful that your child would see themselves through the eyes of Christ. Pray that the Truth you speak into their lives would take hold. And ask God to raise them up, firmly rooted in their faith.
Parenting a Perfectionist: Wrap Up
Stand firm in your mission to parent a perfectionist. Change can seem slow, but God is working behind the scenes. Let’s quickly go over the 5 strategies one more time:
- Trade lies for truth.
- What advice would you give your BFF?
- Celebrate failure
- Emphasize value apart from works.
- Emphasize effort over outcome.
Which strategy are you gonna start with? Leave a comment below.
Great advice Sunshyne 🙂 My kids didn’t fall into this category, but I know a lot of people who do (like myself at times) so, the suggestions are duly noted! Praying God blesses you abundantly today with His love. Visiting via #coffeeforyourheart with Holley Gerth
Thank you Sherry!