Parenting the Gifted – the Challenge of Perfectionism

Blog tour

Guest Blogger, Janine Logan, sets the scene for a mini-series on perfectionism, by describing the impact it has on her gifted son. 

I remember being told by a teacher how lucky I am to have such a clever, gifted and talented son and how wonderful it must be to have a child that I “don’t have to worry about” because he is a constant high achiever, able to do everything asked of him.

Well yes! I am extremely lucky. My boy can be amazing and I am often astounded by his reasoning, intellect and sporting abilities. What people don’t seem to see is the other side of raising a gifted child; the oversensitive, difficult, bored, lazy, unchallenged, and often defiant side of a frustrated child who feels like a square peg in a round hole.

I worry, as all parents do. The worry is just different! 

My son may go a long way, but I worry that he may just decide to ‘switch off’ as school learning is simple, needs no effort and can be just downright boring. The spark to keep learning has to be fanned – not snuffed out by learning inactivity.

I also worry about perfectionism.

My boy is a perfectionist in many areas and, for him, not achieving top marks means that he has done badly, and he is cross and disgusted with himself. His expectations are sky high. This means that if everything is not perfect he is one very unhappy child and we all know what it is like to deal with an unhappy, frustrated individual. He is of the opinion that everybody else thinks that he is perfect because he is gifted, and so he adds pressure to himself to “perform”. Nothing he ever does is good enough for him – he can always do better in his own mind. Maybe sometimes that is true, but usually he has created an amazing piece of work – he just doesn’t realise it. He only sees the areas that are not totally perfect.

The perception from the general public seems to be that it is just wonderful to have such a high achiever. It must be child’s play to raise such an intelligent child! They don’t see how difficult it is to parent a gifted child. The don’t see the constant battles with school to challenge him, the constant battles to keep him occupied at home, the stress and upset caused by not achieving perfection in his eyes.

He has his difficulties and life challenges just like everyone else, they are just different to the ‘average’.

Yes, I am blessed to have such a wonderful young man but life is not perfect and, if you take the time to look in depth, you will see the duck gliding effortlessly across the water – but you will also see the legs paddling furiously underneath to give the illusion of calm and perfection. Dealing with a gifted child is exceptionally hard work!

Head and breast of a swimming drake.

It takes a whole lot of activity beneath the surface to keep a young perfectionist afloat!

This photo, by Flickr member ViaMoi, has attribution, non-commercial and no derivatives licenses.

Return to the blog tour home page to find upcoming articles by psychologist, Dr. Lynley McMillan, on appropriate strategies for coping with perfectionism.

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About Mary St George

I teach in gifted education, both online and face-to-face.
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1 Response to Parenting the Gifted – the Challenge of Perfectionism

  1. Susanne says:

    I have friends with all manner of children, some that will never be functioning adults, some that will get there in their own time, and some that are as ‘normal’ as a kid can get. It has to be very difficult for all of them to see the challenge of the other side of the coin. They don’t have to see the meltdowns, worry about burnout, or see their childs face crumble when they miss one problem out of one hundred. It’s probably also hard to have empathy for parents when the perception and myth is not that the kids were just born this way, but rather that somehow YOU did it. Kind of like the feeling towards someone who is thin because they are hyperglycemic and in the hospital for passing out half the time and someone who is thin because they work at it all the time, you can’t tell by looking who is who, so you assume that they are doing it to themselves. Knowing that doesn’t make it any easier as a parent because it’s nice when we can get that empathy and understanding.

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