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    LNEsMom Offline OP
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    So my DS8 is just now learning to tie shoes due to a fine motor skill delay that we only recently recognized (I thought he was just being obstinate about doing certain things, turns out it was because they were hard!). He is in OT and has made a lot of progress, so we bought him a pair of tie shoes for school.

    Fast forward to this morning when we are trying to get out the door for school and he is having difficulty with the laces (I think because he was trying to hurry). He asked for help and I quickly tied it for him (oops!) and then the full on melt down began. "I'm so dumb I'm in second grade and can't even tie my shoes!" "When you do it for me, you're saying I'm too dumb to do it myself!" "I am going to have a terrible day now!" "I hate everything in the world now." Me: "Even (your baby brother, who he adores)?" "Well, everything but him. And our family."

    By the time we got to school it had mostly passed, but what to do in these situations? He thinks that he should be able to do everything right away with little practice. And that if someone else can do something that he can't or is hard for him, then he's "dumb" or "the worst". DH thinks this is just him being dramatic for attention, but I don't (ok maybe occasionally but definitely not in the example above). I think it is the fateful combination of perfectionism and emotional intensity. Anyone have experiences/ideas on how to help your kid work through these feelings and keep their self esteem intact?

    Last edited by LNEsMom; 11/22/11 10:28 AM. Reason: corrected spelling
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    Here's a list of some facts about perfectionism I put together some time ago:

    Causes and signs of perfectionism

    Perfectionism in gifted children may be caused by factors including a desire to please others, easy successes at a young age followed by more difficult challenges later, and difficulties in setting realistic goals (NAGC).

    Symptoms of perfectionism include:

    * Self-imposed performance standards that are rigid and impossibly high (Pacht, 1984)
    * Motivation by fear of failure, rather than pursuit of success (Pacht, 1984)
    * Measurement of self-worth wholly in terms of productivity and achievement (Pacht, 1984)
    * All-or-nothing self-evaluations (Pacht, 1984)
    * Difficulty in taking credit or pleasure from achievements, as success is perceived to be expected (Pacht, 1984)
    * Procrastination in starting and completing work that will be judged, or restarting work often (Pacht, 1984)

    Helping gifted perfectionists

    The following measures have been suggested as helpful for perfectionists:

    * Give permission to make mistakes. (McIntyre, 1989)
    * Use ungraded assignments calling for creative, individual work rather than right/wrong answers. (McIntyre, 1989)
    * Limit time that can be spent on an assignment, or number of corrections allowed. (McIntyre, 1989)
    * Explain that schools are places to learn, not just demonstrate achievement. (Brophy)
    * Explain that errors are normal, expected, and necessary aspects of learning (Brophy)
    * Explain that everyone makes mistakes, including teachers and parents. (Brophy)
    * Teach a child to measure achievement by progress over the past, rather than comparisons with peers or ideals of perfection. (Brophy)
    * Create an environment of acceptance. (Greenspon) Talk about your expectations as a parent, and that you love your child for who she is, not because she meets expectations.
    * Avoid putting pressure on a child to be perfect, including with oral tone and body language. (Hately)
    * Don't add to the pressure with extra work or scheduling constraints. (Roedell) For example, don't overschedule a child with lessons and activities, leaving no time for free play. Don't pile on extra academic work to help a child reach her potential.
    * Do not lower (realistic, achievable) standards of performance. (Hately)
    * Make a child aware of mistakes a parent has made. (Hately, Rimm) Model lessons learned, and try to laugh at one's own mistakes. (Rimm)
    * Help children understand that they can be satisfied when they've done their best. (Rimm)
    * Use praise which is enthusiastic but moderate, thus conveying values that children can achieve. (Rimm) Use "excellent" rather than "perfect", "You're a good thinker" or "You do very well when you try" instead of "You're brilliant", etc.
    * Explain that a child may not be learning if all of her work is perfect, and that making mistakes is an important aspect of challenge. (Rimm)
    * Teach appropriate, constructive criticism skills, for a child to use with herself and others. (Rimm) Help a child learn to take constructive criticism.
    * Read biographies of successful people who surmounted failures. (Rimm)
    * Teach a child that routines and habits should not be so rigid as to be immutable. Model flexibility by purposefully breaking routines every so often. (Rimm)
    * Explain that there is very often more than one way to succeed. (Rimm)
    * Divide projects into beginning, intermediate and final draft stages, with perfection promoted only for the final draft. (McIntyre, 1989) For example, designing a product prototype will entail multiple stages of mockups, etc. that are not expected to be perfect, while still tending towards improvement of the final product (a.k.a. good perfectionism).
    * Avoid modeling perfectionistic tendencies for a child. (Rimm) Avoid being self-critical. Make attempts to fail in minor ways in front of a child, and act like it is no cause for alarm but rather to try harder or fail constructively. Take open pride in the quality of your work, and the fact that you've done your best.
    * Encourage a child to take risks, and find activities with safe opportunities for minor failure. (Hately) Find activities, such as sports, that a child is not inherently good at and has to work to master.
    * Help a child set realistic goals. (Pyryt)
    * Help a child to concentrate on those tasks that require extra effort and/or are high value. (Pyryt) This might include teaching a child that 80% of a reward often comes from 20% of the total effort.
    * Help a child develop a capacity for constructive failure. (Pyryt) Any present imperfection should be seen as allowing for future improvement.
    * Teach a child to know when to quit. (Pyryt) This is especially important with increasing amounts of information available for research online.
    * Encourage a child to separate their own self-worth from their work. (Pyryt)
    * Help a child realize that the commitment to excellence is a lifelong struggle, and the present circumstances are a step towards the future. (Pyryt)
    * Remind a child that a grade only indicates the perceived value of an assignment from one teacher's perspective, matched against a particular rubric. (Pyryt)
    * Discuss observations of a child's perfectionistic tendencies with educators and other care-givers. (Pyryt)
    * Get professional help from a counselor or psychologist, if perfectionism is leading to other problems (OCD, panic attacks, eating disorders, depression, etc.). (Pyryt)
    * Find a child activities that bring joy, independent of any success / failure metrics. (Pyryt)

    Books related to perfectionism

    Adderholdt, Miriam & Goldberg, Jan (1992). Perfectionism: What's Bad About Being Too Good.
    Callard-Szulgit, Rosemary (2003). Perfectionism and Gifted Children.
    Dweck, Carol S. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.
    Greenspon, Thomas S. (2001). Freeing Our Families from Perfectionism.
    Greenspon, Thomas S. (2007). What to Do When Good Enough Isn't Good Enough: The Real Deal on Perfectionism: A Guide for Kids.
    Quindlen, Anna (2005). Being Perfect.
    Terner, Janet (1978). The Courage to be Imperfect: The Life and Work of Rudolf Dreikurs.

    There are many links to online articles on perfectionism, including some at this site, at the following page:
    http://giftedwiki.org/index.php?title=Perfectionism


    Striving to increase my rate of flow, and fight forum gloopiness. sick
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    Wow, lucounou--what a completely AWESOME summary you have worke dup there! I just bookmarked this.

    This:

    "Explain that a child may not be learning if all of her work is perfect, and that making mistakes is an important aspect of challenge. "

    has been really important to my DD this year as, for the first time, she encounters work she doesn't always instantly get right. I shared this way of thinking with her and it was like she honestly had no idea that getting everything right every single time might mean she isn't learning very much. I've really seen a shift in her thinking because of it.

    Last edited by ultramarina; 11/27/11 11:13 AM.
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    We've been having this A LOT with DD6 lately. Just last night, I wanted to do a little guitar practice with her (I'm teaching myself, too). She LOVES the class, but hates to practice. She played the first two lines of the song she was working on pretty well, but line 3 is tricky, and a few mistakes led to several more, which led to complete meltdown. "I'm so stupid." "I hate my life." Etc. She got so upset she decided to put herself to bed without stories (and bedtime stories are her favorite thing all day).

    I stayed in the room with her talking, turning all her arguments upside down on why she's no good at anything, until I think we finally hit on the crux of the problem, when she said, "I can't even make change!" She's in a gifted class for math and language arts, and she's the only first grader, there's just one other second grader, and the rest are all third graders. And contrary to the g/t's statements during her IEP that "we accelerate them one grade level," every single kid in the class is all doing the same work. So recently they were calculating change in monetary transactions, which skipped DD entirely over the concept of borrowing.

    I treated her to a rant at that point, about how she's not being taught properly, they skipped a step for her, and it's not her fault they're not teaching her right. She went to bed in a better mood, but we'll see if it has any effect the next time we try to practice guitar.

    Hopefully, it helps. Also, she's off school all this week, and we're going to use some of that time to show her how borrowing works.

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    LNEsMom Offline OP
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    Thank you, lucounu, for the great references. I have read some of them, but it is great to have them all in one place. And, I reminded myself today that I need to remember to talk with him about these things at other times when he is calm so that when he is prepping for a meltdown maybe we can get some perspective. It is just that in that moment of frustration, I have such a hard time talking him down from the tower, so to speak. And I worry that I am saying the wrong things and actually making things worse. It seems like no matter how much I say its ok to make mistakes, to not do everything perfectly the first time, it doesn't seem to break through, at least in those moments. I am thinking what I need to do is really sit down with him when he is not upset and go through what he was feeling and see if we can come up with something that will remind him in the moment that things aren't so bad.

    Originally Posted by ultramarina
    This:

    "Explain that a child may not be learning if all of her work is perfect, and that making mistakes is an important aspect of challenge. "

    has been really important to my DD this year as, for the first time, she encounters work she doesn't always instantly get right. I shared this way of thinking with her and it was like she honestly had no idea that getting everything right every single time might mean she isn't learning very much. I've really seen a shift in her thinking because of it.


    I brought this up with DS tonight and he seemed to be open to the idea. I am hopeful that if we can reinforce this idea some more, maybe he will be willing to take more risks.

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    LNEsMom Offline OP
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    Oh, and Dude, so interesting that once you talked with your DD it turned out that the guitar frustration was secondary to the school one which she had not previously mentioned. I wonder,actually, if something happened at school to precipitate this morning's meltdown.

    I also love that you are learning guitar along with your daughter. That seems like a great way to model the kinds of approaches we've discussed here. I wonder if I can come up with something we both want to learn. I have on occasion let him teach me things, chess for example, which he loves and I never truly learned how to play. In those situations, though, he just seems to be amused by my shortcomings rather than being inspired by my persistence! lol

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    Originally Posted by LNEsMom
    Oh, and Dude, so interesting that once you talked with your DD it turned out that the guitar frustration was secondary to the school one which she had not previously mentioned. I wonder,actually, if something happened at school to precipitate this morning's meltdown.

    In DD's case, just about everything ties back to school, because she was such a happy, well-adjusted kid before she started <sigh>.

    In your son's case, I can see why the act of tying his shoe would be directly related to the problem, because he has a realistic expectation that he should be able to accomplish that on his own at that age. Add in the fact that he's doing OT, which sends a message "Something is wrong with you," and I could see why he'd be frustrated specifically about shoe-tying.

    But there's probably more to it than that. It's always possible kids are teasing him about it in school. And there's definitely a possibility something else about school is making him feel bad about himself, too. So it's probably worth exploring.

    Quote
    I also love that you are learning guitar along with your daughter. That seems like a great way to model the kinds of approaches we've discussed here. I wonder if I can come up with something we both want to learn. I have on occasion let him teach me things, chess for example, which he loves and I never truly learned how to play. In those situations, though, he just seems to be amused by my shortcomings rather than being inspired by my persistence! lol

    Indeed, and one of my first reactions to her outburst was to pick up my own guitar and play the piece she was working on, which I did to the best of my limited ability, and ask her to count the mistakes. Then I picked another piece that she wasn't working on yet and which I had committed to memory, and again asked her to count the mistakes. There were plenty, both times.

    She also gets to see me pick up my guitar and practice on my own almost every day, so there's more modeling. I LOVE that she's taking guitar lessons, because it's a perfect tool for teaching her perseverance.

    Another venue for modeling this kind of behavior is video games. DD and I were playing Super Smash Bros. in co-op mode this weekend, and there were naturally points where we failed. She'd get frustrated, and I'd say, "Let's just try it one more time, we'll get through this eventually." And then, we did.

    I wouldn't necessarily say it has to be something you're both interested in learning/doing (though that doesn't hurt) if you want to model the right behavior. You could pick something you're interested in learning but he isn't, as long as it's one of those things where you're bound to make lots of mistakes. And then, of course, let him see you making mistakes, and not reacting poorly to them.

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    Follow-up: The night after our little talk, DD actually WANTED to practice guitar, and the practice went wonderfully, with her taking her mistakes in stride. And since then, she has flourished... not only did she learn to play the piece passingly well, but she went and memorized most of it besides. She's also taken to drawing guitars, so she has definitely rediscovered her love for the instrument.

    Naturally, DD gave no credit to her mother or myself, but gave it all to this: http://www.apa.org/pubs/magination/441B016.aspx

    DW gave that to her the night of our successful practice, so I think we'll go ahead and take credit anyway.

    Until the next time the school delivers a major blow to her ego, anyway...

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    LNEsMom Offline OP
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    Thanks for the update and book suggestion, Dude! I will have to find that for DS.



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    LNEsMom
    Did you say that you are in the chicago area? If so there is a talk about Intensity and gifted at DaVinci Academy


    Upcoming Events Open to the Public
    Living with Intensity in Gifted Children, with Dr. Michele Kane, Ed.D.


    �7:00-8:30 PM on Tuesday, November 29
    �Held at Da Vinci Academy, refreshments will be served
    �RSVP at 847-841-7532 or via email to the PA officers


    http://www.dvacademy.org/dva-community/parent-education.aspx

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