by Stephanie McCauley
Gifted learners can often be perfectionists. According to the National Association for Gifted Children, about 20% of gifted children suffer from perfectionism. Although not always detrimental, perfectionism can inspire unhealthy expectations and even cause anxiety and depression in children.
So what can we do to help our gifted students enjoy their work in a beneficial and rewarding way? Here are some ideas:
- Identify healthy and unhealthy perfectionism: NAGC provides a list of healthy and unhealthy behaviors. For example, does your child set high standards and display a general acceptance of self? Or is she constantly dissatisfied with her performance, even when she has put great effort into her work?
- Work with kids to expose and alleviate their worries: In this article for The New York Times, Jessica Lahey considers how to help children realize that mistakes are normal. This process involves listening carefully to students’ worries and helping them reframe their expectations. This article from NAGC's Parenting for High Potential also includes some tips to help students cope with perfectionist behaviors.
- Shift your perspective as a teacher or parent: In her article “Perfection and the Gifted Adolescent” Mary Codd urges readers to consider both the positive and negative aspects of perfectionism. Although perfectionism may be tied to negative effects, it can also push gifted students to succeed. Olympic athletes and concert pianists, for example, may need to strive for perfection to reach their goals.