Parenting a Perfectionist


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Perfectionists can be driven to achieve, but they can also get tied up in knots over their expectations of themselves.

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Clothes having to match. Toys arranged in neat rows. Outbursts over not being able to get a task right the first time. These behaviors can indicate to parents that they may have a perfectionist on their hands, for better or worse. Perfectionists have high standards. Perfectionists can be driven to achieve, but they can also get tied up in knots over their expectations of themselves. Psychologist Madeline Levine suggests in her book “Teach Your Children Well,” performance-oriented children “are so afraid of failing that they challenge themselves far less, take fewer risks and therefore limit opportunities for growth.”

How can parents recognize a perfectionist tendency in their child? And what actions can they take to help their child do their best without getting hung up on “best” never being good enough? A few experts and moms offer their advice.

Model Making Mistakes

The truth is, as adults we can also struggle with setting our standards too high for ourselves and our children. We may not handle our own failure well, unwittingly communicating a negative attitude toward mistakes. We can help our children by instead admitting our own behavior needs an adjustment.

“You don’t want to stress that children shouldn’t make mistakes in the first place,” says Dr. Wendy Grolnick, psychologist and author of “Pressured Parents, Stressed-Out Kids.” “You want to have the attitude that mistakes are our friends. We learn from them,” she says.

Kelly Arabie, a mom of two, works to pass this attitude along to her kids. “The faith journey I’ve been on has taught me that life is very much a process and that I’m not going to be perfect as long as I’m living. It’s a gift I can give my children to be able to share that with them.”

Occasionally point out a mistake you made to your child. Talk about the outcome, that it didn’t derail life and that it doesn’t reflect poorly on you. Explain what are doing to correct the mistake or what you plan to do differently the next time. Let your child see you learn from your mistake.

This goes for owning up to imperfect parenting too. Allowing your child to let you off the hook for a mistake made toward him helps him develop tolerance and compassion toward others’ blunders. It can help him to understand that others will want to show the same compassion for his errors, and to be compassionate toward himself.

Focus on the Process Not the Outcome

Perfectionists tend to be most concerned about the end product. Oftentimes a perfectionist will do work over and over in an attempt to achieve a flawless result, but they miss the enjoyment of learning along the way.

Kathryn Johnson’s son, Alex, is a hard-working student who takes this approach. “I see him striving to do his best,” she says. “But it borders on constant dissatisfaction. He always thinks, ‘I can do better.’”

These children don’t always gain much for their efforts. A York University study of elementary- and middle-school students found that perfectionists didn’t score any better than their peers, but don’t tell perfectionists that. Their competitive nature only pushes them harder toward the goal of doing better than others. Of course, as Grolnick points out, our outcome-based academic culture isn’t helping them any either.

“There’s more competition than ever before. There’s more stress on grades and standardized test scores.

It is a set-up for kids focusing on outcomes.”

Parents can help by encouraging their child to recognize his growth and what he has learned from an assignment or task. Instead of asking ‘what grade did you get’ ask ‘what did you learn about today,’ or ‘what stood out from the unit you just completed.’

“I would like to see learning as a lifetime process and help my children to see that as well,” Arabie says.

It’s important for parents to talk about what they’re learning too. Children appreciate seeing that Mom and Dad, who they might think know it all, are still acquiring knowledge and skills.

A focus on outcomes also can cause an aversion to challenges. Perfectionists stick with tasks they’re sure to complete well, instead of delving into new territory. It’s up to parents to notice this behavior and assist their child in combating they tendency.

“The best way we can help our children welcome challenges is to encourage them to work just outside their comfort zone, stand by to lend a hand when needed, and model enthusiasm for challenging tasks,” Levine says.

Live With Limits

Johnson found it helped her son when she set limits for completing tasks.

“A lot of it was encouraging him to stop working on something,” she says. “We had to help him realize that at some point he’d wreck his work in trying to fix it.”

Letting go and learning to pick a stopping point have been central in his adjustments, otherwise, as she puts it, “where does it end?” Try setting a deadline for completing a task. Use a timer during homework.

Parents may also find their child letting natural deadlines speed up their work — procrastination can be common among perfectionists. For a procrastinator, chunk projects into smaller pieces and set mini-deadlines for achieving each of those chunks.

Perfectionists also need to learn to live with their own limits. This means acknowledging that the ideal in their head may not be possible in this world. A good phrase to teach a perfectionist

to say to himself is: “This is the best I can do for now,” promoting the idea that improvement is always possible.

Unconditional Love and Validation

Parents can inadvertently communicate that they value accomplishment and results, what Grolnick calls “contingent parental regard” by giving more attention when a child performs well, and less when they don’t. It’s easy to slip into when we want to praise a child for work well done, but it can work against us when the child associates the praise with being valued for what they do.

Let your child know your love is unconditional. Be vocal about it. Grolnick says parents should tell their kids, “You’re no less loved if you don’t do something perfectly.”

Arabie echoes this in how she talks with her children. She’ll tell them, “I love you for who you are and not what you do.”

It may take being specific, such as telling your child that it’s OK that they struggle in a certain area or that a B or C grade is just fine.

As you implement any or all of these strategies remember: Parenting any child, perfectionist or not, is an imperfect job done by imperfect people. Which practically makes each of us perfect for doing it.


Lara Krupicka is a freelance writer, mom to three girls and sometimes a perfectionist.

 

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July 2020

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Sims Park
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Cost: $8, $10 on weekends and school holidays

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Superior Play Systems
11415 Granite St.
Suite C
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View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

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Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
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1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
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Cost: Free

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The Billy Graham Library
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Cost: $8, $10 on weekends and school holidays

Where:
Superior Play Systems
11415 Granite St.
Suite C
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Cost: $5 per swimmer, max $15 per family

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Goldfish Swim School
13403 S. Ridge Drive
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Mint Museum Randolph
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Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
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Website »

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Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
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Cost: $11 for one hour

Where:
DefyGravity Trampoline Park
8116 University City Blvd.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows presented faith of Jesus Christ in song. Come discover the ways the Lord used their efforts and their music to open hearts around the world. Read inspiring...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
, NC
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Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
Website »

More information

Drop in for safe play on the equipment indoors.

Cost: $8, $10 on weekends and school holidays

Where:
Superior Play Systems
11415 Granite St.
Suite C
, NC
View map »


Website »

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Explore the Mint Museum's exhibitions without charge.

Cost: Free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph, 2730 Randolph Road
Mint Museum Uptown, 500 S. Tryon St.
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Telephone: 704-337-2000
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More information

This exhibition is the first to focus exclusively on the black basalt sculpture made by Josiah Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potters in late eighteenth-century England. 

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

Where:
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
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View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
500 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
Website »

More information

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Drop off your little ones to explore, play and learn during Music Mondays, Theater Thursdays and Food Fridays. A small snack is provided. Register online.

Cost: $21-$31

Where:
New Hope Baptist Church
2024 Redbud Drive
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Toddlers can enjoy a special jump session every weekday morning. With each child age 6 and younger, an adult may jump for free, not including DefyGravity socks for $3.

Cost: $11 for one hour

Where:
DefyGravity Trampoline Park
8116 University City Blvd.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows presented faith of Jesus Christ in song. Come discover the ways the Lord used their efforts and their music to open hearts around the world. Read inspiring...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
Website »

More information

Drop in for safe play on the equipment indoors.

Cost: $8, $10 on weekends and school holidays

Where:
Superior Play Systems
11415 Granite St.
Suite C
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Hear live music every Thursday, June 4 through August 13. Bring chairs, blankets, and money for food trucks, beer, wine and sodas. See website for lineup.

Cost: $5 per person (free for members); $5 per car for parking

Where:
Anne Springs Close Greenway
291 Dairy Barn Ln.
Fort Mill, SC
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Website »

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River Jam brings live music outdoors, right in the middle of the world’s largest man-made whitewater river. Hear music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, as well as during each of...

Cost: $6 for parking

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Website »

More information

This exhibition is the first to focus exclusively on the black basalt sculpture made by Josiah Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potters in late eighteenth-century England. 

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Multiplied: Edition MAT and the Transformable Work of Art examines the rise of three-dimensional objects issued in editions, which emerged as an international phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s.

Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

Where:
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

The Things Come Apart exhibit reveals the inner workings of common, everyday items. Images explore how things are designed and how technology has evolved over time.

Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

This exhibit explores the various aspects of walls, which includes the artistic, social, political and historical aspects, as well as the physical barriers like fences or sand berms. The space is...

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
500 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for our Pinkyswear Virtual Kids Triathlon event. This virtual event which kicks off formally on June 1st for all ages and abilities, and the triathlon can be completed anywhere! The...

Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Drop off your little ones to explore, play and learn during Music Mondays, Theater Thursdays and Food Fridays. A small snack is provided. Register online.

Cost: $21-$31

Where:
New Hope Baptist Church
2024 Redbud Drive
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Toddlers can enjoy a special jump session every weekday morning. With each child age 6 and younger, an adult may jump for free, not including DefyGravity socks for $3.

Cost: $11 for one hour

Where:
DefyGravity Trampoline Park
8116 University City Blvd.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows presented faith of Jesus Christ in song. Come discover the ways the Lord used their efforts and their music to open hearts around the world. Read inspiring...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
Website »

More information

Drop in for safe play on the equipment indoors.

Cost: $8, $10 on weekends and school holidays

Where:
Superior Play Systems
11415 Granite St.
Suite C
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Caregivers and their littles learn new yoga poses with songs and games. Multiple class rates available.

Cost: $20

Where:
Tiny Blooms Yoga
15905 Brookway Drive
Suite 4106
Huntersville, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Teach or play with your child in the heated pool.

Cost: $5 per swimmer, max $15 per family

Where:
Goldfish Swim School
13403 S. Ridge Drive
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

rab dinner from a variety of local food trucks at this weekly rally. Visit the website for a list of participating trucks.

Cost: Free admission

Where:
Resident Culture Brewing Company
2101 Central Ave.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Sycamore Brewing
2161 Hawkins St.
, NC
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Cost: Free

Where:
Stumptown Park
120 S. Trade St.
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Cost: Free

Where:
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19725 Oak St.
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Cost: $25

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, NC
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More information

Live the story of Stephen and the Apostles. Experience the rousing power of ANNO DOMINI: the year of our Lord while enjoying a Greek dinner.

Cost: $10-$40

Where:
NarroWay Theater
3327 Highway 51
Fort Mill, SC  29715
View map »


Website »

More information

River Jam brings live music outdoors, right in the middle of the world’s largest man-made whitewater river. Hear music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, as well as during each of...

Cost: $6 for parking

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Website »

More information

This exhibition is the first to focus exclusively on the black basalt sculpture made by Josiah Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potters in late eighteenth-century England. 

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Multiplied: Edition MAT and the Transformable Work of Art examines the rise of three-dimensional objects issued in editions, which emerged as an international phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s.

Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

Where:
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

The Things Come Apart exhibit reveals the inner workings of common, everyday items. Images explore how things are designed and how technology has evolved over time.

Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

See the original, Broadway-style dinner show, and experience the story of Stephen and the Apostles. See website for showtimes.

Cost: $10-$40

Where:
NarroWay Theatre
3327 Hwy 51
Fort Mill, SC
View map »


Sponsor: NarroWay Productions
Telephone: 803-802-2300
Website »

More information

This exhibit explores the various aspects of walls, which includes the artistic, social, political and historical aspects, as well as the physical barriers like fences or sand berms. The space is...

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
500 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for our Pinkyswear Virtual Kids Triathlon event. This virtual event which kicks off formally on June 1st for all ages and abilities, and the triathlon can be completed anywhere! The...

Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

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Cost: Free

Where:
Kings Mountain Historical Museum
100 East Mountain St.
Kings Mountain, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows presented faith of Jesus Christ in song. Come discover the ways the Lord used their efforts and their music to open hearts around the world. Read inspiring...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
Website »

More information

On Saturdays and Sundays from noon-5pm, the arcade bar opens to all ages with a parent or guardian present.

Cost: Cost for games

Where:
Abari Game Bar
1721 N. Davidson St.
, NC
View map »


Telephone: 980-430-4587
Website »

More information

Live the story of Stephen and the Apostles. Experience the rousing power of ANNO DOMINI: the year of our Lord while enjoying a Greek dinner.

Cost: $10-$40

Where:
NarroWay Theater
3327 Highway 51
Fort Mill, SC  29715
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Northlake Mall Live 360° Games Court
6801 Northlake Mall Drive
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: Northlake Mall
Website »

More information

River Jam brings live music outdoors, right in the middle of the world’s largest man-made whitewater river. Hear music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, as well as during each of...

Cost: $6 for parking

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.
, NC
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Sponsor: USNWC
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Bring chairs and blankets to watch movies in the park. Concessions will be available for purchase. The second Saturday of the month, May through September with a Halloween special on Oct. 17. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Stowe Park
24 S. Main St.
Belmont, NC
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This exhibition is the first to focus exclusively on the black basalt sculpture made by Josiah Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potters in late eighteenth-century England. 

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
, NC
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Multiplied: Edition MAT and the Transformable Work of Art examines the rise of three-dimensional objects issued in editions, which emerged as an international phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s.

Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

Where:
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
, NC
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The Things Come Apart exhibit reveals the inner workings of common, everyday items. Images explore how things are designed and how technology has evolved over time.

Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
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See the original, Broadway-style dinner show, and experience the story of Stephen and the Apostles. See website for showtimes.

Cost: $10-$40

Where:
NarroWay Theatre
3327 Hwy 51
Fort Mill, SC
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Sponsor: NarroWay Productions
Telephone: 803-802-2300
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This exhibit explores the various aspects of walls, which includes the artistic, social, political and historical aspects, as well as the physical barriers like fences or sand berms. The space is...

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
500 S. Tryon St.
, NC
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Join us for our Pinkyswear Virtual Kids Triathlon event. This virtual event which kicks off formally on June 1st for all ages and abilities, and the triathlon can be completed anywhere! The...

Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
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Annual Guides

G.P.S. [Go.Play.See]

Your guide to raising kids in the Queen City, plus our 2019 Readers' Favorites for places to play, explore and learn with the kids.

Education Guide

A comprehensive guide to independent, private, charter and public schools in Cabarrus, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Union and York counties.
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