What to do if your child is a perfectionist?

As parents, we’re bad at bragging about our child’s achievements or celebrating everyday perfectionism. Unfortunately, as many parents know all too well, true perfectionism can affect every aspect of someone’s life — and not in a good way. It can lead to children having panic attacks at school or abandoning activities because they are “not good enough.” Over time, this can wear down a child’s self-esteem and damage their mental health.


If you’re a parent and you notice that your child is struggling with their “perfectionist tendencies,” here are some practical tips you can use to help them.

RELATED: Smart kids aren’t perfectionists, study reveals

Build your child’s self-esteem

Often a child’s perfectionist tendencies result either from his own expectations or from the fact that he believes others have high expectations of him. They fear that if they make a mistake, someone will love them less or they will lose friends. For this reason, the VeryWell Family team recommends boosting your child’s self-esteem to counteract perfectionism.

  • To build their self-esteem, be sure to talk about parts of them that you love, not just their accomplishments.
  • Also, encourage them to engage in activities that make them feel good about themselves.
  • Some activities that can help are volunteering, artistic activities, and non-sports groups.

If your child is talking negatively about themselves, sit down and talk about it. Help them restate the situation and add any positive comments they can make to themselves. This will help them see that they are worth it and help them engage in positive self-talk naturally, which will boost their self-esteem even more.

Teach them what is within their control

Another problem children with perfectionist tendencies typically have is that they will fight over things that are actually completely out of their control. However, this can only worsen the problems. Therefore, the team at PsychCentral recommends Teach your child what is under their control and what is not.

Your child will have aspirations that may or may not be entirely under their control. Life throws curveballs at all of us too, and kids need to learn that. So make it clear to your child that they cannot control other people or the environment. They can only control their own actions and decisions.


Once children understand this and can look at situations from all angles, they can more easily recognize when events that don’t work out aren’t their fault. This is especially important for things like sports, friendships, and dating.

Normalize mistakes and big emotions

No matter how old they are or how much they claim to know everything, kids still learn a lot by watching us. Therefore, as an article in the Washington Post points out, It is important for parents to make mistakes and feel emotions about events in our everyday life.

When children see that we make mistakes and admit them, their fear of doing the same decreases. You can see that something didn’t work out and the world didn’t end. It’s all OK. They can also see how we deal with these mistakes and correct them, which will help them learn how to do the same in the future.


Additionally, Children need to see that we are sad or angry from time to time. You need to hear us say, “You know, I’m really sad I didn’t win this award” and stuff like that. It shows them that adults have negative feelings too and that these emotions are an everyday part of life. Again, showing them how we handle these emotions is just as important for us as modeling them, but both are necessary.

Celebrate efforts, not results

As a parent, it’s easy to get caught up in celebrating winning a baseball game or getting an A+ on a math test. However, these celebrations of achievement can sometimes cause children to relapse into their perfectionist ways. Instead of this, We need to find a healthy balance to celebrate every aspect of the journey.

Instead of celebrating the bottom line, we need to make sure we applaud our child’s efforts along the way. If a child studied hard but only got a C on the math test, that’s okay. The real success is that they put in the effort and saw that studying paid off. Similar, We don’t need to nag them for everything they do wrong, but find ways to point out what they do well.


All of this can help build a child’s self-esteem and show them that it’s not always about making things perfect, it’s about trying our best to do something.

Perfectionism can be dangerous for children. It can lead to anxiety disorders and even lead to problems at school or beyond. But if parents are willing to recognize the problem and agree to be part of the solution, children will be much better off.

Sources: Verywell family, PsychCentral, The Washington Post

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