My daughter, Emma, is a 4 year old perfectionist. She will often tell me that something “isn’t in the right order” and will become very upset if she cannot get her coloring picture to look “perfect”. One day, we were in Kroger, and she was doodling on a notepad. I noticed she was trying to write her name, which I thought was cute, because we hadn’t begun learning to write that yet. Within minutes, she was crying hysterically because she couldn’t get her letter “a” to look right. (it was actually pretty good, considering that she hasn’t been taught this yet)!
So, after dealing with several of these crying fits, I have developed some strategies for dealing with a 4 year old perfectionist.
1. Give positive reinforcement as a child tries something new. When Emma shows me a picture she has worked on, I always compliment her on the colors she has chosen, her picture idea, or for drawing something for the first time.
2. Modeling: Sometimes Emma will ask me to draw something on her paper, saying “I don’t know how to draw it”. I will draw part of it, and have her draw the rest. For example, she was drawing a picture of a person, and didn’t know how to draw a shirt. So, she watched me draw one of the sleeves, and then drew the next one.
3. Talk about their emotions: I have talked with Emma and explained that it is ok for something not to be “perfect”, but it is not ok for her to cry when she is frustrated. Encourage them that it is ok to try again!
4. Give an eraser!
What about you? Do you have a child who insists that everything should be perfect?