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The anatomy of a perfectionist

- Good, better, best -

Name: Perfectionist Poindexter

Scientific name: Nevergood enoughitis

Age: 12

Traits: Perfectionists become anxious about going to school because they know it will be yet another day when the rest of their classmates really don’t get it. Perfectionists tend to see others as slackers and goof-offs.

Perfectionists want to make sure everything is just right, and they will go to great pains to make certain their homework is completed, their clothes fit just right and all their school supplies are neatly arranged.

Because perfectionists believe they know exactly how matters should proceed, they hate group activities where others may be allowed to work on assigned tasks and fail to measure up.

Commons phrases of Nevergood enoughitis: “Wouldn’t it be better this way?” “Let me handle it.” “I know how to do this because I’ve done it before.” “If you let me take the test again I know I’ll get all the questions right.”

Be warned: Perfectionists end up disillusioned and aggravated. Other students silently hope they’ll never get saddled with them as a team member again because perfectionists insist their methods are best. When perfectionists try to go along with the majority, they grow frustrated that others aren’t doing things their way.

While perfectionists are irritated that classmates don’t appreciate them, they sometimes mistakenly assume they will be the teacher’s pet. But they actually get on an instructor’s nerves. Perfectionists believe they must volunteer for everything, from passing out papers to taking the attendance sheet to the office — even if another pupil already has been assigned the task.

The constant desire to please inhibits perfectionists from finishing assigned tasks. They are out of their seats nonstop, trying to impress the teacher with knowledge or willingness to work. They are so eager to make an impact that they blurt out answers instead of raising a hand.

Perfectionists delude themselves into thinking they must do everything faultlessly. Even if such a student receives an “A” on a project, missing a single question somehow brings a sense of failure.

Taming a perfectionist: A perfectionist child needs to understand that he or she never will achieve true fulfillment based on performance.

Parents of a perfectionist must be careful to praise and reward behavior other than accomplishments and achievements, according to Christian clinical therapist Dr. Linda Mintle. That might include commending a compassionate response to a hurting person or boldness in standing against peer pressure.

“Usually at the root of perfectionism is poor self-esteem,” says Mintle, author of Raising Healthy Kids in an Unhealthy World. “So children need to be taught where true esteem comes from — Christ who accepts them and gives unconditional love.”

Scripture to consider: “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation” (Philippians 4:12, NIV).

Conclusion: Mintle encourages parents to walk children through scenarios of what would happen if they didn’t finish first or didn’t get an A on a test. Pupils should be taught to do their best and expect to make an occasional mistake.

Researcher: John W. Kennedy

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