My Child Is A Perfectionist, Now What?

In 2015, when we were struggling to make the decision to keep Ava back and have her repeat Grade R, we had her assessed by an educational psychologist . The findings were fascinating and the more I learn about my child, the more I realize just how true they really are.


At the time, the educational psychologist we  had been seeing, picked up that Ava had a lot of insecurities, with regards to tasks she attempts and within herself. She strongly links her self worth to how well she can compete or complete a task or activity.

And it has become more and more apparent as time goes by…

At the beginning of 2016, she took up horse riding and she loved it! Obviously, having been a horse mad child and still a horse mad adult, I really encouraged her participation, there are just there are so many benefits to horse riding , not to mention the physical and mental work out. And she was doing amazingly well. Granted, she had two falls and was a little nervous, but she was still totally into it. Then one day she just wasn’t.

She refused to attend lessons any further, which was hugely disappointing for me because I’d just taken up the sport again and was enjoying this as special time between her and I. But on a day, she simply refused to go and wouldn’t tell me why.

The real reason…

Came out only months later, when she finally admitted to me that the reason she chose to quit was after a lesson where I’d been riding in the same arena with her, but not part of her lesson, she realized I was a much better rider and that she wasn’t as good as me. Which, as an emotionally mature adult, I realize is ridiculous. But in Ava’s mind it was not.

That’s when I saw the pattern.

She’s always been like this and it’s exactly as the educational psychologist had said. My child is struggling with perfectionism and if she feels she can’t be the best at what ever she’s trying, she’ll simply refuse and give up. Or not even try to start.

This cycle has been repeated over and over again in her short life.

I have so many antidotes I can share, horse riding is just one such example. There are many. Another incident springs to mind…. she’d been on a play date with two friends. The mom, a friend of mine, relayed the story to me afterwards. She’d bought magnets for the kids to paint and decorate. One of the kids had told Ava her designs were ugly. My friend found Ava crying in the bathroom, furiously trying to scrub the designs off the magnets she’d created. When my friend asked her why, she said it was because they were ugly and the others had created better designs than her. 

She loves drama and music and was invited to audition for a TV ad recently but she refused to go because, her words, not mine: ” What if I don’t do it right?”.  She is an amazing artist, I have another friend who has a degree in art and is an art teacher, she’s even commented that Ava’s art is far beyond her years, her understanding of depth and dimension is way ahead of most 7 year olds. We’ve tried to encourage her by offering to take her to kids art classes, she refuses to go, believing her art isn’t “perfect”. She just simply will not attempt any task where she thinks she won’t be the best. She’s highly competitive, currently top of her grade and with an almost full round of distinctions for the third term in a row.  I worry about the pressure she’s putting on herself to be perfect and the joy and fun she’s missing out on when she thinks she won’t be good enough.

And so I did some research….

And then after consulting with a number of professionals, I wrote this article for Parent24:

Are You Raising A Perfectionist?

The article and research I did provided a lot of interesting insights into the signs to look out for if you child is struggling with perfectionism and what you can do to help them.

Does your child struggle with perfectionism too? 

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1 Comment

  • Reply Natalie

    You mention rewarding ‘soft skills’ in your article and I think that is a very important aspect. Finding joy in being of service to others is a brilliant antidote for constantly needing recognition for achievements. I certainly recognise my childhood self in Ava and I sometimes default back to having to be perfect when I’m feeling insecure about something.

    October 16, 2017 at 9:01 am
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