The Child Perfectionist – A Guest Post from Good Googs.

November 3, 2011

This is a guest post from the totally gorgeous Zoey from Good Googs!

perfectionist child good googs

My child is a perfectionist. It’s not a phase. It’s not something that she’ll grow out of in a couple of months. It’s a core part of her personality. It makes her prone to outbursts if things happen in an unexpected way, temper tantrums if people play with her in a way that she hadn’t planned for and high levels of frustration with attempting things that she’s still learning.

As a recovering perfectionist myself I see all of this very clearly. And I also see how unhelpful this particular trait is. Perfectionism doesn’t make you better, it just paralyses you. Perfectionists are always disappointed. Always. And so I actively work against this perfectionist streak in my daughter. I challenge it. I challenge it head on, sometimes. I challenge it from the side, sometimes. And sometimes I challenge it in subtle ways so that it doesn’t just continue on, unchecked.

I’m wary that it may just be her personality. Would I force her to be outgoing if she was shy? Absolutely not. Would I push her towards being less assertive or less dramatic? And the answer is of course not. But perfectionism seems to hurt her in a way that other things do not. And so I challenge not the part of her that wants to do everything well, but the part of her that wants to do everything in a certain way. That rigid part, that stops her from enjoying spontaneity and the leadership of others. The part of her that makes her want to destroy an entire drawing rather than accept there is a line where she hadn’t planned for one.

When I’m drawing with her, I make sure I draw in an expressive way. I try to draw in an unconventional way so she can see that it’s alright to do things a bit differently.

When she spills something, I never react, even if it’s 6pm and she’s been stumbling around like a drunk midget.

When we play games, I make sure that at least in part we play outside the rules of the game, or at the very least outside her rules.

And sometimes, when she’s being particularly rigid, I accept that we have to stop the play experience entirely.

And when she has a big reaction to a relatively minor thing I try to talk her off the ledge.

But mostly I try to show her that love, affection and shared joy are not tied to success or failure and hope that somehow, someway it’s getting through. Because I don’t want her to be perfect, I want her to be happy.


Zoey is a reformed perfectionist, tiny dictator, lover, chaos manager, baby snuggler, undomestic goddess, and social media addict. She blogs, and vlogs, about life with two gorgeous girls at Good Googs.

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{ 14 comments }

Zoey @ Good Googs November 3, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Thank you for sharing this Kate!

Kelly Exeter November 3, 2011 at 1:54 pm

This is so interesting to me Zoey! I too am {trying to be} a reformed perfectionist and I see definite signs of ‘particularity’ in my two year old. It doesn’t impact too greatly on his life or how he reacts to things right now, but that is probably because I indulge him! And I often wonder where my indulging him is going to lead further down the track!

Jane November 3, 2011 at 1:54 pm

I feel your pain! The way you describe your daughter you could be describing my daughter! I too try to challenge this personality trait but at 4 years (sorry 4 and 3/4 years old) it is still well and truly present! I fear for her starting school when there will be many new experiences to try and she may not be able to do them straight away. We have found the gently gently approach works quite well, we show her how to do something eg ride a bike, then we just leave the equipment available and don’t apply any pressure. Usually she will gradually start to attempt the new activity in her own time. She knows how to draw flowers, so we get ALOT of flowers, when she attempts something else we give lots of praise, not about the final drawing but that she tried something new! Taking other people’s ideas into account while playing is still a work in progress for us!

Tatum November 3, 2011 at 2:35 pm

great post! it’s fantastic that you have been able to recognise this trait in your daughter at such an early age…it took me a few years to see it in my eldest (she’s 9 now)…and the ways that you are working with the perfectionism & challenging it are great, it is so difficult seeing your children be so hard on themselves…and it’s not as if girls, in particular, don’t end up with so many other external pressures without constantly beating themselves up. It can be heartbreaking.

My number one piece of advice…don’t make her share a bedroom :) We’ve been in a bedroom sharing situation this year and it has been a loooooong year with the perfectionist!

Tatum xx

Deb @ Home life simplified November 3, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Great post Zoey – I am in the same boat as I have passed on my perfectionism and anxiety to both my daughters (6 1/2 and 8 yr olds). I am working on myself right now and working to teach them to let go of perfectionism as well. I am just grateful I did not wait any longer to say No to this trait in myself – I know i can change and that will help them 9and my marriage).

Megan at Writing Out Loud November 3, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Beautiful post, Zoey. It’s so true – perfectionism sets us up for failure in our own minds, and I think that your message will come through to R clearly as she gets older. As you say, it won’t change who she is but it will show her that she can push herself and learn to accept what she can’t change. I think it’s wonderful you’re supporting her in learning that (rather than leaving it to learn by herself later in life).

Jo @Countrylifeexperiment November 3, 2011 at 4:52 pm

I sooo understand the rigidity of a child with perfectionistic (is that a word??) tendencies. My oldest child (now almost 7) used to be incredibly rigid, and would dissolve when things didn’t go the way that she decided it should. We have really focused on helping her to develop coping skills, and finding strategies to help her deal with unexpected events. It has taken a while, but we are starting to get there. She will always want things to go a certain way, but at least she can now see it is not the end of the world if it doesn’t.

Kristyn November 3, 2011 at 7:15 pm

Loving and brilliant post Z. Mine is far from being a perfectionist, but if she was, I’d do the same as you — loving guidance.

Shae November 3, 2011 at 10:27 pm

Tannah is a perfectionist as well. It’s making reading and writing hard!

Lisa Jay November 4, 2011 at 12:14 am

I am just experiencing this with my 4 yr old. She draws pictures until she gets it ‘right’. She has a melt down if clothes are not sitting on her properly or a drawing isn’t turning out the way she wants it to. I have done so much free play, creative play & messy play (mud etc) with her since she was tiny, that it just has to be part of her personality. I have been relaying the message to her that ‘it doesn’t have to be perfect’. Just this week she stopped herself before the melt down moment & said “it doesn’t have to be perfect does it mum!” I was so happy to hear that the message is being absorbed. I have to be very aware now of the subtle messages I may give her in my own actions.

Krys - Baby Massage November 4, 2011 at 5:37 pm

OMG I’m a recovering perfectionist. I think I’m doing quite well actually, but I totally see this in my Mr 4 and it really terrifies me. I have been there when he destroyed his drawing. We now use more pencils and less textas, but that’s hardly a good solution…

Marita November 4, 2011 at 8:05 pm

Oh I feel your pain. It is hard yards teaching perfectionist kids that it is okay to make mistakes.

Jacquie November 4, 2011 at 9:10 pm

Great article Zoey. My middle child who is almost 6 is a perfectionist (unlike either myself or my husband!). He gets very frustrated and angry when he can’t do something perfectly the first time. He is actually very capable but can’t handle making mistakes. He will either be completely embarrassed and upset or really frustrated and want to give up. We are very patient with him but also very firm and keep making him have a go. He played football this year for the first time and was actually quite good, but if they didn’t win the game he would come off in tears and throw a tantrum! There was no score kept and there was no actual winner but he kept score himself so he knew! I spent the whole season talking to him about good sportsmanship and even though you like to win you have to learn to lose graciously too so that the other team can enjoy their win and everyone can enjoy the experience. It’s slowly working as he’s definitely improving.

Martine@themodernparent November 5, 2011 at 8:50 am

It’s great Zoey that you are already doing things to help and certainly the earlier you challenge this the better. I have been getting some research together about perfectionism for a post and I have come to realize how frustrating it can be as they tend to be inflexible, critical and tend to be governed by absolutes, thinking in terms of black or white. You are doing lots of great things to help her and so I am sure this will help her change some of her thinking and behaviours. It can also be helpful to have them volunteer or help out other people where the focus is on the participation rather than the result, and it is focusing on the needs of others rather than the needs of the self. Letting them see that it is the contribution they make rather than the results can also help take some of the pressure off. I think it’s great too that you brought up this topic as so many people don’t realize the impact it can have on the individual and those around them. :)

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