When high achieving people think that they have to be perfect all the time, they fail to ask for help when they need it. Or, they may fail to prepare and put in the effort that a task requires, thinking that it should be easy. Like a duck swimming on top of the water, their swimming looks effortless and smooth – almost like floating. But underneath the water, they are paddling madly, trying to stay afloat. For students with duck syndrome, they are struggling and failing privately and not accessing help that they need.
Avoid trying new things for fear of failure; Procrastinate and leave work unfinished out of fear it won't be good enough; Focus on mistakes, rather than on what they did well; Set unrealistic goals and then condemn themselves when they don't achieve them; Lose their former enthusiasm for learning because of an obsession with what "good work" should look like; and Underachieve because of an inability to complete projects considered less than "perfect.” Have trouble accepting criticism; Find it hard to laugh at themselves; Focus on end products, rather than on the process of learning; Approach assignments with an inflexibility that insists on one "right" way to do or be; Judge themselves severely whenever they get a grade below an "A“
Smutny, J. F. (2014). Preventing perfectionism in children. National PTA. Obtained on August 1, 2014 from http://www.pta.org/programs/content.cfm?ItemNumber=1769
Perfectionism--vice if it leads to being less happy. Achieving excellence can only happen when someone pushes him or herself every day with an inner drive to produce great (maybe perfect) work. Becoming is better than being. Teach children to take on a beautiful (effortful) journey of becoming themselves, striving messily for greatness.
If students are frustrated when they don't receive the highest marks on a project, parents should allow their children to express these feelings.
Perfectionistic students have a hard time grasping this concept and often spend inordinate amounts of time on simple projects by greatly extending the scope of the project.
Rate each thing you’re doing on a scale of 1 – 5, 5 being something that needs to be done perfectly (think brain surgery), and a 1 being something that can take what my Grandma calls “a lick and a promise.” It is a waste to spend Level 5 energy and time on a Level 2 task. You don’t need to hit a bulls eye every time.
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become more effective in making progress towards program completion
Gifted students can learn many lessons from studying the lives of eminent people by reading biographies and autobiographies, or simply watching television shows such as Biography. One basic lesson to learn is that the path to success is not a simple linear, one. Barriers such as rejection, illness, economic misfortunes, and relationship issues can make it difficult for an individual to achieve success and maintain it. One of the key factors is being able to persevere in the face of obstacles. Great effort is required. Failure can be constructive.
In one of Fred Astaire's first screen tests, an executive wrote: "Can't sing. Can't act. Slightly balding. Can dance a little.“
Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, had his first book rejected by 27 different publishers. AP Photo Dr. Seuss became a legendary children's author known around the world for classics like "The Cat in the Hat" and "Green Eggs and Ham." His books have sold over 600 million copies.
There used to be these toys called Weebles that had round bottoms. The jingle on the advertisement for them said, “Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down.” – you could knock them over, but they wouldn’t stay there. You’re going to get knocked down. Get up. In fact, don’t even think of it as being knocked down; think of it as a wobble. Channel your inner Weeble and bounce back up
Guess what? People mess stuff up all the time. It’s okay as long as you fail falling forward. Take your mistakes and make them worth it. Use them. Make them make you better. If you become paralyzed by your mistakes, you have surrendered to them. They have won.
Don’t be your own worst enemy. The world will do a fine job trying to beat you down – don’t join in the chorus. When you feel discouraged, recognize it, name it, shrug your shoulders and try one more time. Perseverance. Grit. Determination. You’ve got it somewhere. Don’t hide it under all the critical self-talk that says you can’t do it, so you might as well give up. Work hard, and be nice to yourself.
When Odysseus set out to go home to Ithaka after the Trojan War, he has no idea it will take so long. Cyclops and witches and Sirens, not to mention the pesky Sun God’s cattle keep him from where he’s going. But guess what? It was the journey that was important after all. Constantin Cavafy, a Greek poet
(C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992)
Perfectionism vs excellence
Audra Rowell, Advanced Academics
Summer Enrichment Scholarships
2 Senior Scholarships
Duke TIP 4th – 6th Grade
March 31, 2016
Advanced Academics/Gifted Website
Types of Perfectionists
Academic Achievers: unrealistically high
Risk Evaders: fear failure due to asynchronous
development or physical limitations
Aggravated Accuracy Assessors: attempt task, get
frustrated with inability to meet mind’s ideal
Controlling Image Managers: want others to regard
them as perfect
Procrastinating Perfectionists: plan extensive
project, fail to start for fear of inability to achieve
(Adelson & Wilson, 2009)
Who Will You Become?
Will you chase perfection or
Perfection or Excellence?
1. Perfectionism means
thinking less of yourself
because you earned a
B+ instead of an A.
2. Perfectionism means
being hard on yourself
because you aren’t
equally talented in all
3. Perfectionism means
beating yourself up
because you lost the
student council election.
1. The Pursuit of Excellence
means thinking more of
yourself for trying something
2. The Pursuit of Excellence
means choosing some
things you know you’ll be
good at—and others you
know will be good for you or
just plain fun.
3. The Pursuit of Excellence
yourself because you were
nominated and deciding to
run again next year—if
that’s what you want.
Perfectionism Pursuit of Excellence
Putting the Brakes on
Show children that you value them more for
who they are as people than for what they
Help them understand that mistakes are a
normal part of learning.
Encourage a sense of humor.
Celebrate creativity and originality.
Involve them in activities that aren't graded
Communicate with the child's teacher.
Smutny, J. F. (2014).
Lessen the Anxiety
Applaud children's efforts, especially when
they take risks or overcome obstacles.
Help them plan for new challenges:
Talk to them about their concerns, what difficulties
they might encounter.
What actions they can take, even in the "worst
Have you had an a-ha?
What thinking has this spurred for you?
Teach Students Not to Take it
Students need to learn to separate their self-worth from their
Evaluation simply reflects the extent to which their work matches
the criteria used for grading.
After a "cooling period" a parent might begin a discussion by asking
to see the rubric or evaluation criteria used. Parents can support
their children by focusing first on the content that meets the criteria.
Children might identify one thing to improve upon when a new
project is assigned.
Pyryt, M. (2004). Helping Gifted Students Cope with Perfectionism. Parenting for High Potential
National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) , http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/Articles_print_id_10459.aspx
Match the Time Commitment to
the Value of Assignments
Students need to know that effort is important.
If a student wants want to earn the highest grade,
he/she should put the most effort into the
assignments or components that count the most.
Parents can help children express their
understanding of the weightings of the different
parts of the assignment and how they have
addressed each part.
Pyryt, M. (2004).
Know When to Quit
Parents can help their children by . . .
guiding them to find closure at the end of each
by routinely having discussions on project
asking questions about the parameters of the
helping them develop monitoring skills to check
that their projects fall within the expected
Set Goals and Focus on
Attainment of excellence typically occurs as a result of
small incremental improvements over time rather than
Parents can help students
determine the steps needed to accomplish the goals,
develop an action plan for achieving their goals, and
monitoring attainment toward the goal.
The acronym SMART (Specific, Measurable,
Achievable, Realistic, and Timeframe-provided) can
be used to facilitate the goal-setting process.
Pyryt, M. (2004).
The Path to Success
What are some struggles and challenges
you have faced that you can share with
Tips for Parents & Teachers
in Managing Perfectionism
Watch for signs of unhealthy perfectionism and
intervene if necessary.
Adults should model a healthy approach and be aware
of their own predispositions toward compulsive
Refrain from setting high, non-negotiable standards.
Emphasize the effort and process, not the end result.
Do not withhold affection, support, or encouragement if
goals are not met.
Teach your gifted child to manage perfectionistic
behaviors and focus on positive self-talk.
NAGC, 2014, Perfectionism. Retrieved on August 1, 2014 from Tips for Parents & Teachers
in Managing Perfectionism. http://www.nagc.org/resources-publications/resources-
Change your Focus
Determine the sources of your perfectionism.
Reassess your feelings about failure or success.
Stand your ground against people who pressure
you to be perfect.
Learn ways to be easier on yourself so you’re free
to take risks and try new things.
Look for joy.
What are some other ways to pursue excellence
or avoid the perfection trap?
(Delisle & Galbraith, 2002).
As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery . . .
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.
Adelson, J. L., & Wilson, H. E. (2009). Letting go of perfect: Overcoming
perfectionism in kids. Waco, TX: Prufrock Press
“Anxiety BD” (2014). How to overcome perfectionism. Retrieved on August 1,
2014 from http://www.anxietybc.com/sites/default/files/Perfectionism.pdf
Deihl, E. (2014) Is perfectionism growth-minded? Obtained July 29, 2014 from
Delisle, J. & Galbraith, J. (2002). When gifted kids don’t have all the answers.
Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing.
NAGC, 2014, Perfectionism. Retrieved on August 1, 2014 from Tips
for Parents & Teachers in Managing Perfectionism
Pyryt, M. (2004). Helping Gifted Students Cope with Perfectionism. Parenting
for High Potential. National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC),
Smutny, J. F. (2014). Preventing perfectionism in children. National PTA.
Obtained on August 1, 2014 from
Van Gemert, L. (2014). The perils of perfectionism and ways to make it better.
Retrieved on August 1, 2014 from http://www.giftedguru.com/forget-your-
Schuler, P. A. (2014) “Perfectionism: blessing or burden? Creative Insights.
Obtained on August 1, 2014 from http://www.slideshare.net/ecugifted/ecu-
Take this test to see if you are a Perfectionist