This session was held in an absolutely packed ballroom. I suspect perfectionism is a common problem in our homeschools. I won't try to reproduce the handout Dr. Koch supplied, you'll need to attend one of her sessions or read one of her books for that. I'm just going to share a few of the points that really jumped out at me.
- God is a strategic and intentional God. He designed our children.
- See the talent to develop, not the problem to eliminate.
- A child is not a project to finish or a problem to solve.
- Affirm effort & accomplishment.
- Talk about character.
- Perfectionism comes when expectations are higher than the child is prepared to risk.
Dr. Koch pointed out that perfectionist kids come from perfectionist parents and there was much nodding and assenting in the room. Here were her four antidotes for "The Perfection Infection":
- Compassion - for the child, for yourself
- Love - pause first, ponder the situation, then proceed
- Acceptance - resist the urge to compare the child to anyone else, especially the child you imagined you would have
- Perception - think, engage, listen, & wait. Parents rush in too often.
I appreciated the samples of what a parent can say in certain situations, things like
- "That was an honest effort." or "Good attempt."
- "Don't panic, it's new." (I'm definitely using this one with my perfectionist children. They look in a textbook we haven't done yet and despair that it's too hard, before we've done anything.)
- When a child says, "I can't," a parent should respond with "What can you do?"
- When a child says, "It's too hard," a parent can respond with, "How can I help?"
The idea is that we're equipping them to handle the difficulties that arise. Dr. Koch gave every parent permission (not that we needed it, but you know what I mean) to walk away from whiners, meltdowns, and manipulation from our kids.
I heard this repeated by Susan Wise Bauer: walk away from the meltdowns. When the child is overwrought and you're frazzled is not the time to fix things. Eat, sleep, take a shower, or whatever needs to happen and then address the problem when you're both calmer. I'm guessing I heard this advice repeated at the GHC because I'm going to need it this year, if only for myself.
Dr. Kathy Koch is a plain speaking, direct, effective communicator. She is not necessarily a homeschool advocate and she speaks in public schools and other settings as well. Do I agree with everything she says or writes? Probably not. But I highly recommend you attend at least one of her seminars if you get a chance. You can find out more about her at Celebrate Kids.
Are you raising a perfectionist? What are your strategies for helping a perfectionist child?