The Curse of Perfectionism
Gifted children are unique. They have their own personalities, own strengths, own weaknesses, and own areas of interest. One thing many gifted children have in common is what I call the Curse of Perfectionism. They seem to suffer from having a picture or idea in their head that they think they should be able to put down in a concrete way. Many times in their thoughts and expectations are unrealistic. I have some students in my class over the years that when they do a project it has to be perfect. If it isn’t perfect, then it is worthless. This all or nothing kind of behavior or thinking can be a serious set back for many students. According to an article on the Davidson Institute website by Michael Pyryte,
There are two major concerns about perfectionism for gifted students: under achievement and emotional turmoil. Perfectionist tendencies make some gifted students vulnerable for under achievement because they do not submit work unless it is perfect. As a result, they may receive poor or failing marks. In terms of emotional stress, perfectionism is seen to cause feelings of worthlessness and depression when gifted individuals fail to live up to unrealistic expectations.
What is under achievement? Underachievement occurs when a child’s performance is below what is expected based on the child’s ability. We know gifted children can be hard on themselves. They can be their biggest critic. I will be discussing this more in the future.
I do want to discuss the emotional stress that gifted children place on them selves. This stress isn’t healthy, and as parents and teachers we need to recognize this stress and show these students how to deal with this stress. The few things that I have learned in my research is that we need to allow gifted students to feel what failure is. Let them know that it is ok to fail at something. One of things that parents and teachers need to do is to model for these kids what it is like to not have something come out as planned. This will help them later in life.
Gifted children need to be given diverse experiences to learn new and exciting things. Gifted children need to experience things that they aren’t good at or as seen as challenging, as well as those they have a deep interest in. By doing new exciting activities gifted children can exposed to things that they aren’t familiar with where they can learn frustration with learning something new. By doing something that they are comfortable with will allow them to “veg out”, and let go of some of the stress they may occur with perfectionism.
To conclude, we must stay connected to our gifted children if we are parents or teachers. We need to let them know that it is human to succeed and to fail. To observe their behavior and let them observe yours when failure comes. Let them be children. Enjoy their giftedness, and allow them to enjoy it as well.
Resources to look at: