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Low self esteem/perfectionism

(4 Posts)
cubscout Mon 12-Sep-11 21:37:21

In the last few months my ds (9yo, Year 5) seems to be developing a problem with low self esteem. He is very bright, classed as 'exceptionally able' in maths and working at about Year 9 level, a solid Level 5 at the end of Year 4 in Literacy and Science. Also very musical.

There are a couple of things worrying me. He has always had a perfectionist streak which, when he was younger would end up in tears if he did not get something completely right. This got better as he got slightly older, helped by the experience of learning an instrument. Today we started on some very gentle practice for 11 + next October, which ended in tears and him saying he was hopeless/stupid/embarrased because he got 5 questions of a particular type wrong. I tried to explain that Verbal Reasoning is as much about learning techniques and practicing as anything else but he really could not listen - even when pointed out he scored 80% overall.

He also seems very troubled by homelessness and what happens if people lose their jobs. I don't know if this is related in the least, but he is regularly becoming tearful and saying he is worried about this (often when something else has worried him earlier, as today).

We try very hard not to be pushy at all. He made a decision he wanted to go to a selective school but tbh I can't bear a year of unhappiness because he doesn't get 100% in a practice paper. We've had long conversations about not being good at everything, but at the moment anything that he can't do perfectly seems to dent his confidence and self esteem.

I would guess some of this is just about growing up and worrying a bit about what his place in the world is. But it really seems to knock him down and make him terribly unhappy. Has anyone any wise words or experience that might help me boost his confidence and self esteem?

dearheart Tue 13-Sep-11 10:52:57

Have you read the Highly Sensitive Child by Elaine Aron. Might be worth looking at - I think sensitivity, perfectionism and high ability often go together.

mistlethrush Tue 13-Sep-11 10:57:02

I can see this happening with Ds - although he's only 6 at the moment. He is ultra critical of himself - and I think ends up not starting things (eg writing) because he thinks it will not be good - so doesn't even have a bash. He is also concerned that I'm better at violin than him - I think we're getting there with that and he understands he needs to practise. I don't know whether you can link the practise of a certain type of question to a similar thing that he's perhaps found more difficult with whichever instrument he's learning?

cubscout Tue 13-Sep-11 18:02:33

Have not read the book, thanks, I will order it. Mistlethrush, that's a good idea about linking to an instrumental difficulty. He does seem to have learned that practice is the only way forward in learning an instrument and he is much more able to deal with his frustrations, but the fact is, at the moment, he finds very few things very challenging. Hence extreme dissapointment when he does come up against something that is not straightforward. He will need to deal with this more and more as he gets older, so I'm keen to try an tackle this helpfully now.

Thanks for the replies.

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