Supporting a bright perfectionist who gives up if there's a risk of failure

(55 Posts)
poachedeggs Fri 13-Sep-13 12:35:09

DS is 6, and has never been a risk taker. He's cautious, sensitive and loves rules. He's just gone into primary 2 (he's 6) and he's finding some of the handwriting really tough going. The school are strong on basic literacy and the teachers are pushing the pupils to work hard this term, which I'm fully supportive of, but he's really feeling the pressure. I've spoken to his teacher and she's aware of this.

The thing is, he's bright (according to teachers, not just me!) but if he can't do something easily he gets frustrated, tearful and anxious, so he's struggling to develop a work ethic. I was the bright kid at school and very similar in that I lost confidence in myself, and it's held me back all my life. I want him to learn now how to deal with challenges, for his own good.

At the moment I'm flooding him with relentless positivity, using examples like riding his bike, reading and swimming, all things he used to find hard when learning but is now good at. I've explained that if something's hard he can make it easier by practising, and that it's OK to fail. But as a perfectionist myself it's difficult to be objective.

I'd be really grateful for any experiences, tips or ideas on how to help him learn to have confidence in himself and to persevere.

Quincejelly Mon 16-Sep-13 09:37:45

I can only say, as mentioned by earlier posters, read Carol Dweck!

I found her book "Self Theories" really useful on this topic - as someone who was myself also this kind of child...

wordfactory Mon 16-Sep-13 09:44:04

Perfectionism is the enemy of achievement. It will always hold a person back.

One of the best ways to help DC with such tendencies is to lead from the front.

Take risks yourself. Get out of that comfort zone. Fail. Laugh about it...

daftdame Mon 16-Sep-13 10:58:52

I find breaking down tasks really helpful for my DC.

For example with a piece of writing, getting him to ask himself some questions relating to the topic and then answering them helps.

Eg Where is this story set? - A wood. What is the wood like? Dark. What is in the wood? A small mouse. When does the story take place? The evening. With this information you could get, "Once there was a small mouse who lived in a dark wood. One evening..." as a story opener.

Then, if he is able to write in rough first, that can help lessen the pressure. After this you can have a check list to make sure he has capital letters and full stops etc, add some 'wow' words for example 'minuscule' instead of 'small'. Then he can copy out - but this is easy as he has to think less about what to write.

rhetorician Mon 16-Sep-13 12:06:59

Oh I have one of these as well! She is not yet 5, just started school. Teacher said to me this morning "when DD decides not to do something there's no moving her. She just says 'I don't like my picture'" she too will not try things because she is scared to fail. Tries things once, doesn't work, cue wailing and frustration. Sister totally different (not yet 2). Builds tower, tower falls down, dd2 laughs and just does it again. And again. It is temperament. It's hard to see them not fulfilling their potential, and hard to support them, but I find it useful to remember that bright as she may be (she is, but has none of the skills that some of her peers have because she hasn't learned how to try) her reactions to these things are all about her emotions. I have had some success with bribery (!), e.g. Getting her so focused on the reward that she will keep trying. And once she has done the task once, then she is sorted.

Lemonytrees Mon 16-Sep-13 13:24:28

Ds is like this too. You have my sympathies as it can be really hard to see them like this. He finds a lot of things easy, but absolutely cannot cope when he can't do something easily. Like morethanpotatoprints I was going to suggest a musical instrument. This has taught him patience, he still gets angry and upset when he can't do it straight away, but always comes back eventually (without any encouragement from me). He has learnt to break things down into more manageable chunks and the joy of practising something until it's perfect

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