Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Perfectionism is a Four Letter Word

Many of you may know that we've been struggling with Bunny academically for quite some time.  This is not to say she's not smart.  Anyone who has ever interacted with my girl knows lack of intelligence is not her problem.  I've been working closely with her every year since first grade through each school year and over each summer and with her teachers and her principal to try to figure out what exactly the issue is.  Clearly there is a disconnect somewhere, but the best we've been able to come up with is throwing various techniques at her and hoping something sticks.  It's been frustrating to say the least.

Today while correcting her homework, I had a bit of a light bulb moment.  I have struggled most of my life with various levels of OCD and perfectionism.  Anyone who knows me, knows I think in very black and white terms. Grey bothers me.  Grey bothers me a lot.  I want, no, I need things to be black or white, right or wrong, yes or no.  Everything in between causes me great amounts of anxiety.  And I'm a planner.  I have a plan A and a plan B and usually a plan C for pretty much everything with corresponding check lists.  That's not to say that I can't have plans change, I can, but I need to know it's coming, and there needs to be a new plan.  Winging it is not my thing.

Today, I realized Bunny is more like me than I'd like.  So after a particularly hard breakdown over getting something wrong on her homework, I looked up how perfectionism manifests itself in children:

  • Tendency to become highly anxious, angry or upset about making mistakes
  • Chronic procrastination and difficulty completing tasks
  • Easily frustrated and gives up easily
  • Chronic fear of embarrassment or humiliation
  • Overly cautious and thorough in tasks (for example, spending 3 hours on homework that should take 20 minutes)
  • Tries to improve things by rewriting 
  • Frequent catastrophic reactions or meltdowns when things don’t go perfectly or as expected
  • Refusal to try new things and risk making mistakes
Now, she doesn't fall into all of these categories, but she falls into a lot of them.  Tendency to become highly anxious, angry or upset about making mistakes? Check.  Chronic procrastination and difficulty completing tasks? Check.  Easily frustrated and gives up easily? Check. Overly cautious and thorough in tasks (for example spending 3 hours on homework that should take 20 minutes)? Oh, yeah.  Frequent catastrophic reactions or meltdowns when things don't go perfectly or as expected? Oh, hell yeah!

This isn't an official diagnosis, of course.  But if I struggle with these issues, it's easy to see how my girl, who is so much like me, might also struggle. And while I've had almost 40 years of learning how to overcome and compensate, (and I still struggle daily with a lot of things) she's only 8.  All of these feelings can't be easy for her.

The article I read this morning has some helpful hints on how to help children with perfectionism tendencies.  Some things I could probably use myself, to be honest.  If you want to read it for yourself it's here. Of course, there's probably a lot more sites out there, but this is the one I found.  I'll be looking into this more and seeing if some of the tips/tricks help Bunny, but this really is the first thing that makes sense. 

Seriously.. Thoughts?

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