Inside: A creative solution to free your child from the fear which goes hand in hand with being a perfectionist.
Is your child a worrier? Mine too. He’s taking tests at school this week, and for the first time in ages he’s creeping into our bed in the middle of the night.
And, for the first time ever, he said he doesn’t want to go to school anymore.
The perfectionist problem
Are you a perfectionist too? Experts can’t quite agree whether perfectionism is inherited or learned. Either way, us ‘perfect’ parents are probably partly to blame.
Do you remember exams? Burying yourself in your books all day and all night. On the day itself? Clammy hands. Dry mouth. And that voice in your head which insists ‘You will FAIL.’
Imagine how anxious our children must feel. They shouldn’t have to go through this.
The feeling of failure
My poor son came home after Day 1 of testing with nails bitten down to the quick. He could describe the questions he couldn’t answer in vivid detail. They must have been playing over and over again in his head.
He turned to me for reassurance, and I said things like:
- “You’re bound to have passed.”
- “They’re not important.”
- “It doesn’t matter if you fail.”
I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t want anyone to say any of those things to us in the same situation.
I wasn’t helping.
My usual reaction is to find a story to help us solve our problem. So the next day I set out to look for the perfect book. I drew a blank. Why has nobody written Resilient Ronald Messed Up his Tests, but Cleaned Up Later in Life, or Just do your Best, You Won’t Fail that Test?
I was well aware it wasn’t quite right but couldn’t find anything better. And my worried little boy needed help straightaway.
The book. Did it help?
ish is about a young boy called Ramon who loves to draw until his big brother laughs at one of his pictures.
After that, Ramon keeps on drawing but throws the pictures away. Then one day he discovers his big sister has displayed his crumpled artwork in her bedroom.
“This is one of my favorites,”
Marisol said, pointing.
“That was supposed to be a
vase of flowers,” Ramon said,
“but it doesn’t look like one.”
“Well, it looks vase-ISH!”
This ISH revelation helps Ramon look at art in a whole new way:
It’s a glorious book with a clear message: good enough IS good enough.
But was it good enough to solve our problem?
My son came home on Day 2 in even more distress. The skin around his nails was torn and raw.
He spied ish and read it.
“Did you buy this to help with the tests?” he asked.
“I like it,” he smiled. “Thanks.”
I’d set out to find the perfect book to help my son, and instead found one that was only perfect-ISH (in my eyes). But it was good enough to make all the difference to him, and his grin made all the difference to me.
I learned a valuable lesson: Sometimes, good enough is perfect.
Now let’s run with it
When we find a book with an inspirational message, we like to run with it. We decided it would be fun to create some ISH pictures of our own.
No rulers, no erasers, and no more than 2 minutes – Go!
I found it as liberating as he did!
If you know any perfectionist children (or adults), ish is the perfect gift.
Go on, grab your art supplies and get creating! I’d love to see your ISH pictures.
I write about parenting problems and the picture books we used to solve them.
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Do you have ways to help your child’s perfectionism? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.
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