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How to help your perfectionist child

It can be heartbreaking to hear a child say, "I can't do anything right."

how to help a perfectionist child

It can be heart-wrenching to hear a child say to themselves, "I can't do anything right."

Does your child have impossibly high standards for themselves? Do they worry about disappointing their teacher, push themselves to the breaking point or internalize failure as something immovable within themselves? In a recent study of over 1,000 children ages 8 to 11, researchers found that nearly 80% showed perfectionist tendencies—suggesting that this impulse to make everything "right" is more common in kids than we might think.

As parents, we want to have high expectations for our kids, while also helping our children accept the "imperfect" and not be afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes are how we grow. But for kids who have a tendency toward perfectionism—or who get angry when they make mistakes or feel frustrated when something isn't "correct," getting the message across that it's okay to mess up sometimes can be tricky.

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Here's how parents can teach kids to be less afraid to make mistakes.


What does perfectionism in children look like?

Researchers have identified three types of perfectionism:

1. Internally Driven Perfectionism
This child's perfectionism stems from their own expectations for themselves. They're highly motivated and likely to get upset if there is even one mistake in their work.

2. Externally Driven Perfectionism
This child's perfectionism is driven by external forces. They believe that their parents and/or teachers have extremely high expectations for them. They're concerned that if they don't do their best, then their parents will be disappointed in them.

3. Mixed Perfectionism
Children in this last category are a combination of the other two types. They are both hard on themselves and believe that their parents/teachers have high expectations for them.

Of course, having high expectations for a child isn't inherently bad. Past research has shown that if parents have high expectations for their children, then their children tend to perform better in school. However, when those expectations are tied to affection and warmth, then the child comes to believe that their parents' love hinges on their success. It raises the stakes for the child to the point that they link failure to irreversible damage to their relationship with their parents.

Many children who are perfectionists are likely to have perfectionist parents. If you see your own child picking up on your perfectionist tendencies, don't be hard on yourself. It may be overwhelming to try to do everything "right" as a parent—but when you make a mistake, acknowledge it, learn from it and move on. Just as a child can pick up on negative traits, so too can they pick up on positive strategies to mitigate them.

Perfectionism in children is more common than we may think

In a recent study, researchers in Spain sought to understand how each type of perfectionism was linked to school anxiety. They found that Mixed Perfectionism was the most problematic category with the most severe implications for school anxiety. Internally and Externally Driven Perfectionism were both linked to school anxiety as well, although to a lesser degree.

In their sample of 1,815 children ages 8 to 11, nearly 80% of the children fit into one of the three perfectionist categories. Given how common it is for children to feel internal and external pressure to perform, it is vital that we reflect on how to ensure that they feel supported.

The positive side of perfectionism

Perfectionism isn't always a bad thing. It has been shown in past research to be linked to better performance in school. Children who are perfectionists have been shown to be highly motivated, have strong problem-solving skills and have high self-efficacy—meaning that they tend to believe that they're likely to succeed when they confront an obstacle or task. However, these benefits depend on two key factors:

1. A child needs to be self-motivated. Their perfectionist tendencies can't be a result of external pressures from teachers or parents.

2. A child's self-talk and thought patterns need to be motivational rather than self-deprecating. If a child is constantly telling themselves "I can't do this," then it'll be impossible to stay motivated. If they tell themselves that they can do better, then they'll push themselves to improve in a positive way.

How parents can help perfectionist children

1. Be mindful of how you react to your child's mistakes. Do you signal your disappointment in your body language or in what you say to them? To help them approach difficult problems, try saying, "This is really tough! Let's see if there's a way we can figure this out together." Reminding them that you're there to support them is essential.

2. Pay attention to how you praise your child. Specific, process-oriented praise reminds children that mistakes are an opportunity to learn, rather than a sign of failure. When a child works on a puzzle, instead of saying, "You're so smart," try saying, "I love how you tried so many different combinations of pieces!" Not only is this much more specific, but it also refers to the process of problem-solving. Praising intelligence, on the other hand, can lead children to believe that their success hinges on a trait. When they eventually fail (and they will), their failure will threaten their view of themselves as smart. They'll be less likely to take on challenges and less likely to persevere when a task is difficult.

3. Remind your child that your love for them is unconditional. This is especially important for children whose perfectionism is externally driven. They may need reminders that even if they don't do well, you'll still love them.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.



Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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