Yes, being a perfectionist can cause stress and many hours of sleepless  nights. Perfectionism is a personality trait that is characterized by a tendency to set extremely high, rigid, or “flawless” goals and place excessive demands on ourselves and others. A person with these traits often has high standards that relate to almost any area of their life. 

In the DISC Behavioral Model the C Style, or as we at PeopleSmart say, the Owl Bird Style, set very high standards for themselves and are often perfectionists, looking to achieve excellence in all they do.  I’m not saying that focusing on a high level of excellence, by giving our best to any task is a bad thing. However, when there is an intense desire for others’ approval, or having unrealistic expectations and there is a feeling of guilt because you got it wrong, along with negative self-talk can be unhealthy. 

Is Your Child A Perfectionist? 

As a parent a key part of parenting is learning. As humans we learn every day and chasing perfection takes us away from the learning experience.  Here’s some tips for your child for letting go of trying to be a perfect human being:

  1. Ask them to let go of their preconceived thoughts that there is a perfect child, the perfect brother or sister, the perfect friend or the perfect student. 
  2. Encourage them to surrender to the day and tell themselves the rest can wait until tomorrow.
  3. Teach them to ASK FOR SUPPORT: Tell them they don’t need to be in control of everything that happens throughout their day. 

Many of us believe that it’s a positive thing for children to have high expectations for themselves. However, the difference between healthy striving and problematic perfectionism comes when anything short of perfection is perceived as a failure. The Owl children often have a rigidly critical mindset and a negative view of mistakes (known as “perfectionistic concerns”) and can be strongly linked to poor mental and physical health effects.

I’ve just read a great article at that says a teenager who constantly strives for perfectionism often has a hard time recognizing the downsides of their perfectionism. This article also gives some good tips on how to teach a child to reframe their negative thoughts by replacing them with self-compassion. Here’s a couple of the tips:

  1. Help the child to stay focused on what they can control. Remind them there are three things they can control—their attitude, their effort, and their actions. Help them see that so many aspects of success (or failure) are outside one’s personal control.
  2. Celebrate the growth that comes from mistakes. Let the child know that you value their good effort, regardless of the outcome. Share your own mistakes, and what you learned from them. Consider a ritual of celebrating highs and lows of the day, with special attention to finding the silver lining in apparent dark clouds. “I like this one don’t you!” 
  3. Model acceptance and flexibility. It’s normal and healthy for us as parents to want the best for our children. But take care that you’re not being too rigid in your expectations. Check in with a child periodically with empathy and curiosity, and be willing to shift your hopes and plans for them if those aspirations are not actually serving their best interest.  

​Whether you are a parent or homeschooling one, and have a child with perfectionist tendencies, teach them that sometimes it takes applying self-discipline so that they don’t get blown off course by their desire to be perfect. Say to them, it’s about establishing healthy habits, and listening to those inner thoughts that bring up emotions, for example when you make a mistake or get it wrong. I always say to myself, “Ok Sandra that was a learning experience, now wasn’t it!”

Oh, and here’s another tip… Ask a child to challenge the behavior and beliefs that drive perfectionism. If you have a child that feels the need to check their homework multiple times before turning it in, ask them how come they need to do this. I’m not saying that attention to detail is wrong or a weakness. However it’s all about having a balance of recognizing when “good enough” really is good enough and it’s time to hand in that project. 

At the end of the day, it’s all about noticing when perfectionism gets out of control and starts to interfere with your child’s relationships or becomes obsessive. You can use this one if you like…As I often say to myself, “Sandra, time to relax a little and just go with the flow for now, tomorrow is another day”. 

For those of you that liked these tips you might want to grab my book called You’re a Family, Now What? This is a complete guide for raising happy kids that can tackle anything: You’re a Family Now What?