Thursday, July 21, 2011


My two (almost three, but not quite) year old is a perfectionist. I didn't realize it until recently. I am a good-enoughist, married to a perfectionist. We tend to balance each other out nicely. He pushes me when perfection needs to happen, I remind him when it's okay to let things go. But our daughter, she's perfectionist to the core, and I'm not sure how it happened.
I know that most studies show that oldest and only children tend to push themselves towards higher standards. Abigail is both of those, for the time being. So I knew that she would likely end up being the kiddo who pushes herself to achieve. I think that might be okay with me, in most realms.

However the things I'm seeing come out already, are frightening. I encourage her constantly. Great job, you can do it, keep trying, you are get the point. But I realized as she was learning to read that if she couldn't get it the first time, she got frustrated and didn't want to do it. I didn't think a whole lot into it, I mean she's two, and she doesn't need to be able to read yet.

Then this scenario played out. I realized my kiddo didn't like puzzles and therefore couldn't do them. I didn't see it as an issue so much as just wanted to encourage her to learn how. So I pulled out our wood puzzles and sat for hours showing her how to make the pieces match 'this is part of a foot, it has to touch the other piece with part of a foot.' Over and over I saw the same thing. She would try to get a piece in, I would let her try for a few minutes and then either encourage her to turn it, or try a different piece first. After about two or three pieces she would begin throwing them, nearly in tears, and yell, 'I can't do it!'

What? You are two. Why are you being so hard on yourself. I mean really, it's a puzzle of Winne the Pooh. This doesn't say anything about who you are or your worth in life. And all of a sudden that same behavior flashed through my head with trying to read. CRAP! My kid thinks she has to do it perfect or she doesn't want to do it at all...

So we are trying even harder to calmly execute new skills. But in reality I am quite frightened of what a two year old showing perfectionist tendencies means down the road. I know where it led Jason, and we would agree that we don't want her to be quite so hard on herself. I want her to try her hardest, give it her best, and know that some people are great at one thing and not another. Sometimes giving your all in a subject in school gets you a C, and that's fine if you gave it your all. What do you do with a two year old who wants to do everything perfect the first time?

My very cute perfectionist.

Trying to show her how to let things be good enough,

1 comment:

  1. My daughter is very much a perfectionist and when something isn't working out like she expected she growls and screams and ....really she makes the midnight gremlins look friendly.