Tuesday, March 31, 2009

WFMW: Pete the Perfectionist

This week's WFMW is a backwards edition; this week, I get to hear your tips! Here's my dilemma:

Persnickety Pete, my 1st grader, is painfully perfectionistic. (Try saying that 10 times fast!) He is very bright but feels that everything is "too hard", and he often refuses to do his work for fear of messing something up. For the record, I am extremely patient and try my best to make school fun and laid back. I never, ever criticize; I try to stay really positive. Here are some examples from our homeschool:

One day, he had a complete meltdown because his work was "too hard". His assignment? No, it wasn't to calculate pi; all he had to do was draw four small circles and cut them out! He either forgot or didn't hear me say to draw them first, and he was left with a paper that made Swiss cheese look solid!

Today, he was to think of words that begin with the letter "n" in order to finish a simple project. (Keep in mind, he is reading very well at this point.) I showed him lists in dictionaries, on the web, etc. and nothing satisfied him. He never did do it.

Sometimes he cries and refuses to continue if he's drawing or writing something and it doesn't look good enough in his eyes.

I really want him to have a good school experience and feel good about himself. This is driving me NUTS! Any ideas?

Here are my previous WFMW posts:

Checkout Line Pastime
Cheap Capris
Save a Life! (Not WFMW, but an important post!)
Cooling Oatmeal
Backseat Entertainment
Gifts to Spark Your Child's Imagination
Reading Motivation
Finding a Babysitter
Charging a Cell Phone
Swim/Shower with a Cast
Free Tech Support
Calming Injured Children
Choosing a Phone Number
What NOT to Soak Contacts In
Broken Glass Cleanup
Cheap Rolling Cart for Conventions
Chocolate Recipes
Tooth-Tugging Tip for Terrified Tots
Handy Earache Relief
Uses for Leftover Bread
Leaky Diaper/Pull-up Fix
Snack Mix Recipe (at the end of the post)
Awesome Stain Recipe
(at the end of the post)
"Fun"damentals of Family Life
Removing Wite-Out from Everything
When NOT to Save Money
Public Service Announcement

For more WFMW, stop by We Are THAT Family!


TuTu's Bliss said...

I am the same way with my little. She was like this from the womb. I swear she refused to be born because she might not do it JUST right. She never baby stumbled, she waited forever, never pulled up and then up and ran. I have noticed she will NOT do something unless she kknows she can get it perfect. I know that if I show her even if she doesn't do it she is absorbing it..she just learns by watching. I have also noticed NOT being there is helping. I give her a task and wander a safe distance away, (and claim soapy hands, or wet toes) so that she can't rely on me.

Liz said...

Hi, I think that the best thing that helped me understand perfectionst kids is making sure that both you and them understand that wanting to do well and taking pride in your work is a good thing, but it's ok to make mistakes.

You don't want your child to make a 180 degree turn around and not care about making mistakes or just not bother or try hard with his work. You only want him to make a 15 or 20 degree turn around, just to take the edge off.

Things which might help - point out when you make a mistake, but things still turn out ok. For example, a meal when you ran out of an ingredient and had to substitute another, or if you forgot to buy something one day and had to go back to the shop the next day to get it. Not perfect, but everything still worked out ok. Point out to your son that if you didn't ever make dinner because you were afraid of mucking it up, then what would happen?

If you think it would be a good thing, get your other kids to point out when they make a mistake, but things still worked out ok (or sometimes better). Perhaps an art project was mucked up, and ended up looking better than originally planned!

Sayings which might help - 'God never gives us more than we can handle' and perhaps more amusingly, 'We all make mistakes, that's why they put erasers on pencils'.

Good luck, hope things work out well.

Noel said...

the more you can get him to do, the more confident he will become. This is a good thing in the long run, if you can get him to the point he is willing to try anthing. make it fun! make it quick, don't let too much time drag by!

Melissa D at DropTheBabyWeight.com said...

One thing I've read a lot about recently is about how to constructively praise kids: instead of saying "wow, you're smart", say "wow, you really worked hard on that" or "I'm proud of the way you kept on trying".... praising the effort that gets the result rather than making a value judgment of the person that the child may find hard to live up to. (I say this as someone who was constantly called "smart" as a kid and who felt trying new things would put me in a dumb category...)

That said, I think that praising the effort would go a long way and build on itself.

Oh, and everything Liz said above! :-) Good luck with this!