To sabotage my perfect stepson...

(118 Posts)
oneoclockblues Fri 19-Apr-13 17:14:24

Out of an act of love?

DSS is 16, we have a close and loving relationship, but this doesn't change the fact that he is annoyingly perfect. He is physically gorgeous, talented at art, sport and music, is intellectually genius and surrounds himself with friends as equally good as himself. If I didn't know any better I would swear he was one of those robot kids from A.I.

But,unfortunately, all his natural talents, combined with a strong sense of ambition has turned him into an extreme perfectionist. I'm not talking the ' I spend a little bit extra on things' perfectionist, I'm talking the ' I spelt a word wrong, so I'm going to rub out the whole sentence and do it again' type.

But over the last couple of days his been moping around the house and stressing out, as he got a 87 on a test, and he has never before gotten anything below 90. Yes, you read that right, never anything under 90. They might have well given the poor kid a 0 the way his acting, like the whole worlds going to end.

And I've come to two conclusions; The kid doesn't know how to fail and this behavior can't be healthy.

I tried to approach DH about this last night, but he doesn't seem concerned. DH, bless him, is in no way a pushy parent, but if DSS decided tomorrow to join the circus, DH would stop at nothing and no expense, to see him the lead clown in circus soleil. He's a big believer in reaching your full potential, and not doing things half assed, not seeing in this case he may be doing more harm than good.

So I came up with an evil plan, to start sabotaging DSS work (Not his school work or anything serious obviously, but just things he does for extra curricular activities, ect) every now and then, so he becomes more accustomed to the feeling of failure (or his version of failure, average) and doesn't have a panic attack, like he is right now, every time something even remotely close to failure occurs, because as I've told him many times in the past, he won't go through life without failing and will have to get used to it sooner or later.

So, am I being unreasonable?

* I know I've taken on a joking tone here, mainly because as a long time user (under different name) I know anything involving stepfamiles is a sore subject, but this is a serious issue, I really believe this behavior is unhealthy, and any serious advice would be appreciated.

AnyFucker Fri 19-Apr-13 17:16:51

Serious advice ?

Stop talking like a loon


youmaycallmeSSP Fri 19-Apr-13 17:16:54

Erm yes, YWBU to sabotage any of your DSS' work. That would completely wreck the trust in your relationship.

What the hell? Help him cope with failure- yes. Make him feel bad and purposely make him fail? YABU.

fuzzywuzzy Fri 19-Apr-13 17:18:51

Depends on what you want to sabotage, it could end very badly...for you. It could ruin your relationship with DSS your DH and your Dh's EW.

Do you really want to risk that?

valiumredhead Fri 19-Apr-13 17:19:08

OMG you nutter, are you serious? Let it happen naturally and let him deal with it himself!

quoteunquote Fri 19-Apr-13 17:19:45

Take him climbing and he can learn about personal challenges.

Have you told him you think it's a problem?

HollyBerryBush Fri 19-Apr-13 17:19:54

Is the Friday night goat thread?

gymboywalton Fri 19-Apr-13 17:20:29

it would be entirely unreasonable ad would wreck your relationship with him and would damage your relationship with your husband. don't do it.

SoupDragon Fri 19-Apr-13 17:20:46

YABU and exceptionally nasty.

MyChemicalMummy Fri 19-Apr-13 17:22:29

Yep, I agree you sound like a total nutter. How would you like it done to you?

greenteawithlemon Fri 19-Apr-13 17:23:03


Just talk to him about how you can grow and improve from failures. How everyone has to fail before they can succeed.

cocolepew Fri 19-Apr-13 17:25:05

Don't be ridiculous, that's just cruel.

Lucyellensmum95 Fri 19-Apr-13 17:25:43

its envy this, isn't it?

Lovecat Fri 19-Apr-13 17:28:22

Get him to watch this and see if it sinks in - FGS don't sabotage him you utter loon !

oneoclockblues Fri 19-Apr-13 17:28:37

Okay, so not my brightest idea ever, and don't fear, I haven't thrown his sketch books in the fire yet ( and not planning to)

But seriously, how do I approach this? Getting so worked up that I had to drag him to the cinemas to get his mind off the failure of an 87 score cannot be healthy.

EarlyInTheMorning Fri 19-Apr-13 17:28:41

Really? And you think that's going to help him? What's wrong with you?!

AvonCallingBarksdale Fri 19-Apr-13 17:29:13

Ummmm, Yes, you would be very, very unreasonable to "sabotage your perfect SS". Very strange avenue to pursue, tbh confused You can talk to him about his perfectionist leanings, explain that you'll support him whatever and that everyone fails sometimes and life goes on. But to deliberately sabotage is really, really unfair and unpleasant.

AvonCallingBarksdale Fri 19-Apr-13 17:29:59

and will definitely damage your relationship.

Obviously you can't do it.

I do agree that he is likely to suffer with increased anxiety unless he starts to cope with failure. Rubbing out an entire sentence concerns me.

How about going bowling or ice skating and teaching him how to cope gently with 'failing'.

greenteawithlemon Fri 19-Apr-13 17:32:25

Just leave it alone! You don't need to 'do' anything.

Just be supportive and easygoing about it, and praise him for effort, not achievement.

JamieandtheMagicTorch Fri 19-Apr-13 17:33:24

What you are talking about is sort of like systematic desensitisation, and it makes sense...... I know you are joking.

It is a frustrating thing to watch. I was a perfectionist and one of my DCs has tendencies. Unfortunately, you just have to let them get on with it and be there for the fallout when they do, inevitably, eventually stuff up.

Dawndonna Fri 19-Apr-13 17:33:58

You sit him down and you talk to him about it. You don't sabotage anything. You don't need to take him to cinemas to take his mind off it.
Trust me, I have a dh like this. He once got a first for an essay instead of a starred first. Fuck you'd have thought we were under nuclear attack. However, I sat him down, we talked. He still doesn't like it, but he copes.

super weird!

aside from that - i like the climbing idea.

wth? who on earth even thinks about doing that? leave him be. he's fine. there's nothing wrong with him!

you on the other hand... hmm

JamieandtheMagicTorch Fri 19-Apr-13 17:37:11

I agree with the idea of doing something fun, but difficult! Like climbing.

Tell him that you simply cannot learn without failing.

oneoclockblues Fri 19-Apr-13 17:37:28

greentea But it's not the achievement that bothers me, it's the effort. In the past I've literally had to take a pencil away from him and given him a pen, after he rubbed out and than rewrote the same sentence eight times because he had couldn't figure out how to spell a word.

Surely that needs some attending towards?

pictish Fri 19-Apr-13 17:37:48

You think sabotaging his schoolwork will help?

How odd.

He is a teenager, and is no doubt overreacting in an adolescent angsty way over his score.

You are a grown up - leave him alone!

climbing is fucking difficult. it taught me a few lessons.

when you're hanging on an overhang freaking out shouting 'i can't' you have to get your shit together pretty quickly and accept that yes you can because you bloody well have to princess because there's no other way round this grin

JamieandtheMagicTorch Fri 19-Apr-13 17:39:02

He does sound pretty anxious/ obsessional

MooneyRara Fri 19-Apr-13 17:39:48

You sound completely MENTAL. HTH

MooneyRara Fri 19-Apr-13 17:41:02

'Surely that needs some attending towards?'

If he has some tendencies towards OCD then yes he needs help. Not some fucking lunatic fucking around with his work.


TeddyBare Fri 19-Apr-13 17:41:37

I'm guessing the final paragraph means we were supposed to know the sabotaging was a joke. It definitely sounds like he is struggling with failing but I think it should be his dad who talks to him about it.

HollyBerryBush Fri 19-Apr-13 17:42:15

I don't know why you don't just leave his parents to manage him and his expectations. Not really your place is it?

And yes, I await the flaming for that.

JamieandtheMagicTorch Fri 19-Apr-13 17:42:28

I am much happier since i became a tiny bit half arsed.

But my perfectionism returned recently overr DS1 s homework until i gave myself a good talking too. His pragmatic laziness is quite admirable

MooneyRara Fri 19-Apr-13 17:42:46

joking tone does not = joking content

JamieandtheMagicTorch Fri 19-Apr-13 17:42:57

To, not too


You see?

IAmNotAMindReader Fri 19-Apr-13 17:44:48

I understand you are worried about him and it does sound like this is heading into some kind of issue he will need conselling with.
Perhaps that is what he needs instead of actual sabotage is to explore the idea of failure and how it would feel versus the actual probal outcome. Counselling would help him with that if you and your Dh get nowhere.
Also others seem to be suggesting climbing so maybe there's something to that too.

ThePavlovianCat Fri 19-Apr-13 17:45:43

I think you are trying to make the point that it is important for people to know that failing isn't the end of the world but that your stepson isn't currently learning that because he is such a high achiever. That could potentially be a problem later on at university or when he gets a job - particularly if he is used to coming near the top and suddenly finds at university that most people there are very good.

I don't think sabotage is the right way forward (but I suspect you know that and were joking). Maybe you need to find things that he doesn't find intuitively easy so that it takes him more effort to succeed at them and maybe has a stumble along the way. Or find activities for him where it's not win or lose but done for the joy of it. I was going to suggest something like running but it would probably turn into trying to get PBs and such like.

I think you have been harshly jumped on here - the joys of AIBU!

IAmNotAMindReader Fri 19-Apr-13 17:46:47

*counselling and probabal.

I can spell, however I don't seem to be able to get my fingers to get their act together and co-ordinate on the keyboard.

MooneyRara Fri 19-Apr-13 17:47:08

I think it would be helpful if the op would kindly clarify if she is serious or not.

my son has a stepmum - I would want to kill her if she did this to him.

IAmNotAMindReader Fri 19-Apr-13 17:47:46


oneoclockblues Fri 19-Apr-13 17:49:20


You can put down the knife - I'm not serious (anymore...)

countrykitten Fri 19-Apr-13 17:50:47

I work with very high achieving teenagers and I do understand where the OP is coming from. The pressure these kids put on themselves is huge and failure is not an option for them.

However - sabotage is not the way to deal with it! Speak to his school who will no doubt we aware of his issues and then let them deal with the work side of things as they are experts and know what they are doing. His extra curricular activities are his pleasure in life surely? Why on earth would you want to spoil that for him?

I do not think that you repeatedly telling him that he will fail in life at some point is helpful at all btw - you will be making him anxious and reinforcing his behaviour. I would not do anything at all without your DH's knowing about it - tension in the household will not help.

At home could try a new sport or hobby together as a family which will have ups and downs and will be a learning curve for all - he can then screw up/fall off/go wrong whatever in supportive and caring environment.

MooneyRara Fri 19-Apr-13 17:52:11

Oh ok.

Are you quite wise?

He will learn in his own time.

For goodness sake, try being proud of him and praising him for his achievements.

monsterchild Fri 19-Apr-13 17:57:27

Sabotage isn't the way forward, how about taking him to meet some very successful non-perfect people? I could see him being surprised that sucessful people aren't always perfect at what they do.

As much as I enjoy climbing, I don't think it will show him how to be laid back, it will totally reinforce the obsessive detaily-ness that he exhibits. He will certainly meet more laid back people, but in traditional climbing you MUST be extremely careful because your life depends on the placement of your pro. Sport climbing, not so much.

Suzieismyname Fri 19-Apr-13 17:57:45

I think you have the best of intentions but just tread carefully...

oneoclockblues Fri 19-Apr-13 17:59:01

Countrykitten The new sport thing wouldn't work with DSS, he has no problem failing at a sport at first, but he will then do it obsessively into he has perfected it, even if he doesn't actually like what his doing. Determined little bugger he is. But then the fear of failure and not being the best sets in and it all goes to shit.

mrsjay Fri 19-Apr-13 18:02:04

what are you talking about serious;y what UABVU AND a utterly WEIRD

Schmoozer Fri 19-Apr-13 18:04:27

Read up on clinical perfection if u wish to help

oneoclockblues Fri 19-Apr-13 18:12:03

So I guess I should start looking into counselling and rock climbing lessons for DSS?

Thanks MN, you have once again talked me out of some very stilly and immature.

Jesus wept. Counselling. Because he's bright and clever and handsome and funny and TOO GOOD AT STUFF.

Now I really have heard it all.

orangeandlemons Fri 19-Apr-13 18:18:23

Wish my ds had had this problem at 16grin. He was more inclined the other way ifkwim

Dededum Fri 19-Apr-13 18:21:25

Your DSS may just be one of those people who is good at everything he does because of his natural talents and determination. I know a few. Lucky him and you, there are tougher challenges out there for both of you.

Don't think enforcing failure is the answer, but maybe encouragement to see things from another point of view. Volunteering in the local community, tutoring a younger kid, maybe a holiday to a more deprived part of the world. Encouraging more emotional intelligence quotients, means you don't concentrate so much on the self

I am like your DSS. There isn't really anything anyone could have done about it tbh. It is just my basic personality type.

One thing that has helped me as I have got older is the realisation that I can't be 'best' at everything at least not simulataneously - there just isn't enough time to put in! Now I have 2 or 3 things that I strive to be best at and make sure that I have other things that I do where I am not best (or even particularly good!)

Of course there are inevitably occasions when I don't do something as well as I want to at something important to me. But as you get older you realise that this is inevitable and the only way you get to be at the top is to keep going through the setbacks and learn how to do better next time.

He could also try meditation if you think he would go for it. It's great for calming a hypercritical mind

tatletale Fri 19-Apr-13 18:28:12

I read it as the problem is that Ops DSS was to devoted at being too good at everything, and then can't handle it and panics when he's not?

If so, I agree, it won't hurt to get it checked out as that's not a normal, healthy coping strategy.

On a side night: Have the SM head hunters taken the night off? I've never seen a SF thread so devoid of abuse and insults! Amazing!

DontmindifIdo Fri 19-Apr-13 18:28:59

OP - this trait is not a bad thing. Schools like Westminster deliberately teach this way of thinking (ie. getting an A* at GCSE is not good enough if it's less than a certain % so they make them retake the next year anyway).

Most people don't care enough, so long as they've passed it's ok, so they don't fulfill their potential and then do "ok" and "ok" could be (like me before anyone starts having a go at me looking down on others) getting Bs at A level, getting a 2.2 from a red brick uni and getting the sort of job that doesn't change the world, but pays £15k over the average wage, so I think I'm doing 'ok'.

However, having mixed with the perfectionists, they are the ones who are earning six figure salaries by the time they are 30 and then going stellar, they are the ones who don't think "ok" is good enough and they push themselves to be the best - people who don't push themselves to be the best very rarely are the best.

And this will look odd, because few people are like this, but then few people earn £1m+, hate to say it, but some people are just better than others at stuff and harder working. He's hard working, talented, clever and good looking, he is going to be one of life's winners, stop trying to drag him down to mediocre like everyone else.

Dawndonna Fri 19-Apr-13 18:30:08

Jesus wept. Counselling. Because he's bright and clever and handsome and funny and TOO GOOD AT STUFF.
Alternatively because he's over reacting to something he shouldn't. A bit of counselling sounds like it may give him some perspective.

PregnantPain Fri 19-Apr-13 18:31:40

I can't even bring myself to type how much of a twat you sound oh wait


I have one like this. He learnt the hard way eventually and is still learning. I never ever even considered counselling for him. It's who he is, it's a part of his personality, just as much as his very bright but very lazy sibling.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Fri 19-Apr-13 18:33:08

He will learn, or maybe he won't need to?

He sounds a lot like my youngest brother, who currently at not yet 30 earns an obscene amount of money and has a lovely house and lifestyle.

Leave him alone.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Fri 19-Apr-13 18:34:47

OP perhaps you need to get some counselling for yourself, to deal with your jealousy issues?

formicaqueen Fri 19-Apr-13 18:36:18

let him try this app for the iplayer/phone.

Positivity with Andrew Johnson

The thing is, if he's capable of over 90 all the rest of the time, then he should be feeling bad and like he failed. Because to his standard, he did.

And I'd have told him that too if I felt he had slacked or not put in enough effort.

FreudiansSlipper Fri 19-Apr-13 18:37:40

what is wrong with the way he is

he will deal with it over time

DontmindifIdo Fri 19-Apr-13 18:38:23

Yep Alibabaandthe40nappies has a point - OP, do you see your DSS massively over achieving compared to you? It's easy to say someone had great opportunities, or were just naturally gifted, or probably just used an old boy network/family contacts etc to get where they are, but up close when you see it's just they worked harder than everyone else and made more of themselves, it's hard not so think "i could have done more with my life if I wasn't happy to do ok and didn't think failing now and then wasn't a big deal."

stealthsquiggle Fri 19-Apr-13 18:38:36

I recognise this worry. You clearly can't sabotage him, but I agree that you need to find something that can teach him that it's okay to fail.

I would be a bit angry with the school that he has got to 16 without someone addressing this, TBH. My DS is like this, and would always refuse to try things and/or hate the results because they didn't meet his expectations. I don't know how they have done it, but I could hug his art and DT teachers, as he has finally started coming home with age-appropriately imperfect projects which he is really pleased with. He is 10. He still puts way too much pressure on himself in academic work, though, but the school are aware and trying to teach him coping mechanisms, as are we.

stealthsquiggle Fri 19-Apr-13 18:40:35

To those ridiculing the worry - everyone meets something they can't excel at sometime. I would rather my DS learned to deal with that now rather than having a nervous breakdown when it hits him as an adult.

wonderingagain Fri 19-Apr-13 18:41:00

YANBU to be concerned about his anxiety. YABU about intervening in the way you suggest. You need to work on DH where all this stems from.

How is he with losing a board game?

Fiddlesticks8 Fri 19-Apr-13 18:41:02

yes it's weird, yes it's probably not preparing him for life and yes it's down right annoying with you as the stepmother and your DH not agreeing with you.
Take it from a 'wicked stepmother' you simply must do nothing, say nothing and tolerate it....try not to interfere as you 'll only get yourself wound up - go out and have some time away from father and son, you ll feel better.

Its so hard when issues come up with 'other people's children' as you feel that you have little control over it but you simply have to stand back and wait ... until you are asked for your help or your opinion.

Stay strong and go out for a few hours x

TalkativeJim Fri 19-Apr-13 18:41:17


The weirdness is strong in you, OP.

JustinBsMum Fri 19-Apr-13 18:41:28

My DCs (2 normally v laid back or even lazy, 1 harder working) were v stressed by the final year in their degree. DS developed psoriasis for the first time, all looked knackered.

I would try some counseling or just some info from a suitable self-help type book, about his over striving to be best, before he is left home and out of reach.

SwishSwoshSwoosh Fri 19-Apr-13 18:41:30

Have you asked him how he feels and why it matters so much?

I would just tell him you love him just as much whatever score, so long as he has tried, and then move on.

He needs to feel disappointment to learn to deal with it, so if this is the first time, it will be hard for him.

Floggingmolly Fri 19-Apr-13 18:42:31

Your DH very much is a pushy parent, I'm afraid.

badguider Fri 19-Apr-13 18:45:07

Does he avoid things he's not immediately good at? Is he stroppy and immature about learning new things that he can't do and others can?

If not, then I wouldn't worry about him, I'd say he's over-acheiving and not 'perfectionist'. Perfectionists cannot stand not being perfect at everything, and are a bloody nightmare to be around when things aren't going their way but if he's not like that then I wouldn't worry.
Who's to say he's wrong being dissappointed at his 87%? Maybe he made a silly mistake or didn't work for it and knew he could have done better? Fair enough I think.

Spikeytree Fri 19-Apr-13 18:53:32

If he is very bright and always achieves over 90 then 87 is a bad score for him and it isn't wrong for him to be disappointed. Hopefully he will channel that disappointment into making sure it doesn't happen again.

I have students for whom any grade at all is an achievement and others for whom anything other than A* is a disappointment.

oneoclockblues Fri 19-Apr-13 19:06:33

Freddiemisagreatshag DH is very much like you, though he doesn't tell him that he failed, he asks him where he thinks he went wrong (this time he messed up a section on his Japanese test) and how DS thinks he can fix it next time. Who knows, maybe this is part of the problem.

DontmindifIdo I'm not jealous of DSS, I just don't want him to panic and freak out every time his score falls below 90, even on a test that doesn't count for anything. Like I've said, it is not the achievement that worries me, but the reaction if it's not what he hoped for and the effort that is put into things that he doesn't like or enjoy for the sake of being 'the best'

wonderingagain He can actually lose a board game. He is not a bad loser as such, more so he seems to see losing and failing as a reflection on himself, if that makes sense.

SwishSwoshSwoosh - I can ask three times a day and get three different answers. I'm not sure even he knows why he has to be perfect at everything. I'm the one in the family who tries to convince him that the world is not going to stop turning because he got a bad grade, but he doesn't listen.

badguider - Not at all. If he can't do something he will do it over and over again into he can do it to a high skill level, even if it's something he can't stand. If he can't do it, he has to learn how and he has to be great at it.

Oh I would say "let yourself down" "didn't do as well as you could have" "should have done better"

I said "like he failed" - and for him, he did.

In my house, anything less than 100% effort is not acceptable. Doesn't matter what the mark is, iyswim, but if you don't put in 100% effort then you're a slacker.

Good enough is not good enough.

I realise I am out of step with most of MN on this though grin

wonderingagain Fri 19-Apr-13 19:16:04

Perhaps you should both ignore his grades good or bad so that he considers that he is doing this for himself and no one else. It may put him in good stead for Uni too where he won't have Dad around with helpful suggestions. hmm

oneoclockblues Fri 19-Apr-13 19:23:07

But it's not just his grades. Anything he does outside of school - music, drawing, even keeping his room clean - have to be perfect. His pretty much that girl from black swan at this point.

CamomileHoneyVanilla Fri 19-Apr-13 19:29:16

Of course you shouldn't sabotage him. This is quite a good self-help book for perfectionism:

Lots of messages that he's loved/good enough/worth loads however he does would probably be helpful too.

quietbatperson Fri 19-Apr-13 19:32:26

YABU, but does he have OCD? An obsession with perfection is rather unhealthy. For me it set me up for quite worrying depression when I didn't achieve what I wanted and I had to let go of some control. Having very pushy parents made it worse as I felt I was letting them down by not meeting very high standards. In this case it sounds like he sets himself very high standards, possibly egged on by your DH.

wonderingagain Fri 19-Apr-13 19:32:54

I think you are right to be concerned as this could get out of hand.

Show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser. Second place is last place.

<shrugs> been there

Hippee Fri 19-Apr-13 20:06:20

I can see why you are concerned. When I went to Cambridge it was the children who had always been top of their class at school who struggled with finding that they were not top any more - sometimes quite seriously. I would talk to the school rather than try to engineer "controlled failure" and see whether they have any suggestions.

stealthsquiggle Fri 19-Apr-13 20:39:51

My point exactly, hippee.

Freddie I hope for your DC's sake that they remain beat at everything they do, forever, but I somehow doubt it, and that attitude is setting them up for a major fall.

Not that I disagree with the effort part, and for some DC (like my DD) you have to push to get them to make that effort, but with others, like my DS and the OP's DSS, they put that pressure on themselves, and you have to teach them to accept that effort doesn't always deliver perfect results.

Stealth - so far they're doing more than fine but thank you for your concern.

maddening Fri 19-Apr-13 22:56:34

Maybe look at coping strategies for obsessive behaviour?

aurynne Fri 19-Apr-13 23:16:24

Sabotaging his work would not teach him anything at all. It wouldn't be him filing, it would be someone sabotaging his work. And just by the way, someone he trusts and who is supposed to love him and respect him.

I have always been a perfectionist, I was that 16-year-old who would start a sketch from scratch if a line was not perfect. I still am, and I am now studying my second degree. I still get upset if I get less than a 90% in an exam or assignment. This trait of mine has meant I have been successful at most things in life and I have had choices that many other "not-perfectionists" now envy. Yes, I got more upset thank other people for things that for them are not important. But I also get less upset at other things that for me are not important and for other people seem to mean a lot.

If a family member of mine had sabotaged my work to make me realise what failure felt like... I can't even imagine how upset, angry and betrayed I would have felt. It would not have taught me anything. And whoever that person was, it would have completely destroyed my trust in that person. Knowing myself, I would probably never ever had spoken to that person again, and would always be distrustful of them.

I know what failure feels like, life gives you many chances of finding that out without the need for sabotage. But my perfectionism has been crucial in making me one of the happiest and most fulfilled persons not only in my family, but in my group of friends and acquaintances.

There is nothing wrong with your DSS. Perhaps it is you who could learn something from him?

Catmint Fri 19-Apr-13 23:30:19

I think you had just seized on the sabotage idea because you are worried and concerned for your stepson. I don't think you would actually have done it. It's not an uncommon way to try to think round a problem to consider the most extreme solution (which would solve the problem in theory but cause many more ) and then work back from there to something sensible.

Just wanted to balance out all the 'you loony' posts.

aurynne Fri 19-Apr-13 23:39:48

Catmint, as a perfectionist myself I can assure you that sabotage would have made the "problem" much worse.

And I can also tell you it is not a problem at all. It is a personality type, and a pretty successful one in the long term.

Buddhagirl Fri 19-Apr-13 23:48:41

Buy him a book on perfectionism or print off a self help guide off the Internet?

Talk about it with him. Help him reduce high standards, point out high standards make him miserable in the end.

Buddhagirl Fri 19-Apr-13 23:51:04

Buddhagirl Fri 19-Apr-13 23:52:45

Just to point out it can be a problem, it can lead to depression.

Quite why this is spread out over 3 posts I don't know!

ithaka Sat 20-Apr-13 00:02:09

Oh go on - make him fail - you know you want to.

Someone certainly needs counselling and it ain't the clever handsome teenager...

Secondsop Sat 20-Apr-13 00:04:29

What aurynne said. Perhaps the kid just is genuinely exceptional. Some people are, and are prepared to work hard to maintain high standards. No need to drag him down into mediocrity just for him to see what it feels like. If he is to fail at any point, then let it be on something he genuinely isn't brilliant at. When I went to Cambridge yes there were some who had a bit of a bump down to earth when they were no longer top of the class, but there were also plenty of others who felt for the first time that they were amongst their own kind. Give him the chance to find out for himself what kind of person he is.

When I was younger I always had to try everything and do everything. My mum would say to me "you don't have to do everything", because it was admittedly a bit of a pain for her to have to ferry me to loads of activities. But I knew even then that I might not get another go at trying out all these things, and found my mum's approach to be really dispiriting.

lisianthus Sat 20-Apr-13 00:05:17

His dad, with the "where did you think you went wrong, let's work it out" is giving him the tools to help himself! Rather than worry about where he went wrong, he is able to sort it out next time. That's what you DO! You don't sit back and say "oh who cares, it's not important".

Your stepson is an extraordinary person with the abilities AND, more unusually, the self-discipline and determination to succeed. That's the kind of person who winds up doing amazing things, saving lives, making discoveries, leading others.

And YOU want to gaslight him with false failure unlil he becomes a "fuck it, let's spend my time on a beach" layabout?

Christ on a bike, if ever I saw a problem caused by your own cultural expectations of children, this is one.

And what Aurynne said.

Apileofballyhoo Sat 20-Apr-13 00:11:02

I would worry too OP, and I admire you for caring about your DSS so much. My DS is 5 and has to have things perfect - rubbing out all his homework to start again. I am a perfectionist in some ways, as is my DH, and it can make life hard. YANU to research this and see how you could help DSS. He will need a lot of emotional support if he continues to be such a high achiever.

lisianthus Sat 20-Apr-13 00:20:09

Seriously, stop seeing perfectionism as a problem. It doesn't have to be. When a heart surgeon has your chest open in front of her, do you want her to be thinking "oh, 51% is good enough, and Corrie is on in 2 hours", or do you want her to be thinking "I will not be satisfied unless I do this job to the best of my ability and my ability is pretty bloody good."?

Because this is the sort of thing your stepson will be doing in 20 years' time with his gifts and his attitude.

Natural self-discipline is a gift other people have to work hard to achieve. Be proud of him, don't try to take it away from him.

SlumberingDormouse Sat 20-Apr-13 00:48:43

Secondsop - that's so true. I was one of those who loved being among 'my own kind' at Cambridge and felt very relieved not to be a 'freak' any more!

OP - are you jealous? hmm Your DSS will learn how to handle his perfectionism, probably when he goes to a good uni and discovers that he won't be able to memorise 100% of the syllabus while having a stellar social life and excelling at several extra-curriculars (even the most gifted have to compromise somewhere). He'll adapt and probably still do extremely well. Leave him be and don't interfere.

Genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains.   (Thomas Carlyle )

JanePlanet Sat 20-Apr-13 06:24:00

Brene Brown has two really good talks on the TED website - and I know she has information on her website and in her books about perfectionism and shame - which you might find will give you some insight OP.

LovesBeingWokenEveryNight Sat 20-Apr-13 06:40:15

Is there something he won't be good at that you could get him to try?

Secondsop Sat 20-Apr-13 06:50:53

I bet it's not that he doesn't know how to fail, but rather that he doesn't like falling short of high standards, because in his eyes 87% is for other people. I think his perfectionist streak is going to stand him in good stead in whatever he chooses to do with his life (and it sounds like the world is his oyster). A couple of us have talked about the adjustment at university when a clever child is no longer necessarily top of the class. Well, there's an even bigger adjustment in the working world in a professional career where the 70% you got in exams to get a First is not good enough and where standards are more exacting because suddenly someone else's money or life is at stake. It sounds like your SS is already working at a level to manage very well indeed when he eventually settles into a career.

I can't help feeling that if he were here his AIBU would be: "'My DSM is great, very loving and I know she cares about me. But I'm finding that we have a difference of opinion in how i go about maximising my potential in life. I always try to be the very best i can be at everything i do and i love thay this is bringing me academic success, great friends and a really fulfilling life, and i admittedly don't like it when i fall short of the high standards i set myself. But she keeps telling me that i won't go through life without failing and will have to get used to it sooner or later. I know she's doing it to help me cope with disappointment when i don't meet my own exacting standards, but it does sometimes feel like she finds my perfectionism annoying and that she might not be taking the same pride in my high achieving as I am because she thinks I need to learn how to fail sometime. I almost feel like she'd sabotage my work to make me see what failure feels like! she doesn't understand that I am determined to excel and that if i fall short, so be it, but when I'm trying hard to be the best I can be it is TBH quite demoralising to keep being told that I WILL fail at something. AIBU to want her to stop trying to make me lower my standards? Or should I just grin and bear it until I go to university in a couple of years?".

countrykitten Sat 20-Apr-13 09:53:28

Good post secondsop.

Does the OP have her own children who are rather less exceptional than this young man?

Fleecyslippers Sat 20-Apr-13 10:01:15

Scary freak.

And I'm not talking about the kid.

whiteflame Sat 20-Apr-13 11:17:09

He sounds similar to me. He doesn't need to learn to fail, he already has. You say when he is bad at something he will keep at it until he is satisfied.

He has learnt very well how to deal with failure.

DontmindifIdo Sat 20-Apr-13 11:45:09

OP, you said: I just don't want him to panic and freak out every time his score falls below 90, even on a test that doesn't count for anything

but that's the point everyone else is trying to make - you have a "it'll do" attitude, but he doesn't want "good enough to get by" he wants the best he can do. As i said, some schools like Westminster make the pupils redo GCSEs they've got A* in if they haven't got a high enough grade - they don't have a "you've passed so that's fine" attitude, they teach about being the best you can be at all times, and the young men they turn out run the country, not the ones who scrapped a pile of Cs and it was ok because they'd passed and as long as you've passed it doesn't matter how.

SlumberingDormouse Sat 20-Apr-13 12:27:15

That's spot on, DontmindifIdo. My best friend resat an A Level Chemistry module she'd got 199/200 in so she could get 200. She duly got full marks the second time. A bit crazy? Maybe. An extremely intelligent, tenacious and successful person? Absolutely. I have nothing but admiration for people who motivate themselves to such high levels of achievement.

crashdoll Sat 20-Apr-13 14:07:04

I know you were 'joking' but you actually sound quite jealous of him. I'm sure you'll tell me that you're not but it really sounds like it.

wonderingagain Sat 20-Apr-13 17:43:23

He sees losing a board game as a reflection on himself. That is a problem as it shows that he is not doing things for the taking part. I would suggest more luck based board games preferably with his Dad.

LittleBairn Sat 20-Apr-13 17:53:09

shock you think his behaviour is unhealthy! I don't think I e ever read a thread on MN that has startled me before but this is just wow...

I haven't read the whole thread but assuming you have your own DC, AR you worried he's out Shinning your DC therefore feel the need to sabotage his success?

raisah Sat 20-Apr-13 20:14:48

I work with a high achiever who has serious anxiety & OCD due to his inability to accept imperfection. He should have proceeded further along his career but hasnt because his obsession wth details has prevented him seeing the bigger picture. He has had a breakdown and recieved CBT.

candyandyoga Sat 20-Apr-13 20:16:45

Really? How nasty, spiteful and ODD of you.

Panzee Sat 20-Apr-13 20:27:51

Wow the Op is getting a completely unnecessary pasting.

Fear of failure and perfectionism is very hard and will stop people functioning healthily. Sabotage is quite an emotive word but I get what you mean. If you can find anything that he can do not quite perfectly that doesn't matter- and games are a good start, even though you said he doesn't mind losing? Or modelling not being bothered about getting 100% in something, or even going OTT about not getting perfection in something you are doing, to show him that it is an OTT reaction?

I often work with younger children who have such a fear of making mistakes that they won't give anything a go, or the paper will be torn up, or they will run away. we have to push the boundaries but very very gently. We often model "failing" and how to react to it. Your stepson is older so it will be harder to show him this but it is all about tiny steps.

It's not easy, I wish you luck.

wonderingagain Sat 20-Apr-13 20:38:54

Yes Panzee, it's getting a bit nasty, spiteful and ODD.

cory Sat 20-Apr-13 22:11:43

We don't know what this perfectionism is like to live with though. The OP is describing a situation where the boy is angsting to the extent where she is having to drag him out to the cinema to take his mind off things- which suggests that he is not just quietly getting down to improving his scores with a view to future success, but actually impacting on the whole family.

Having a drama queen in the house myself, I know how hard it is for the rest of the family to get on with developing their own potential when one person's emotions seem to be taking up all the available space.

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