I’ve been working with a perfectionist – but he’s only 5 years old !

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Posted by: Sue Atkins


I’ve been working with an absolutely lovely 5 year old who is suffering already from self imposed “Perfectionism.”

He is incredibly hard on himself. When he gets some small thing wrong he has a meltdown, says “I’m terrible at everything. I can’t do it. I can’t get anything right”

It’s distressing to see and even worse to hear.

So here are some simple ways I am working with him as well as his lovely Mum & Dad.

  • Tell him how much he is loved and cared about.
  • Tell him how they love the way he tries so hard.
  • Tell him how they love his attitude to learning.
  • Tell him how they love, respect and admire his effort.
  • Tell him how they love, respect and admire his tenacity ( stickability)
  • Tell him how they love his keenness to do well.
  • Tell him how they love his keenness to please.
  • Tell him how they admire all the spellings he gets RIGHT and make a fuss of this success of 8 not the “failure” of 2 wrong
  • Tell him how special he is – good at being kind to his sister, great at making up games in the garden, how good he is a Judo ……
  • Teach him that mistakes are how we ALL learn – they are all part of learning.
  • Talk about a famous footballer eg Wayne Rooney  that he loves and how he practises every day and makes LOADS of mistakes but in time gets better
  • Teach him that EVERYONE makes mistakes from Daddy to the Queen but teach him it’s what we learn from our mistakes that’s IMPORTANT.
  • Teach practice makes us better but never “perfect” !  ( as it  makes us more confident, more proficient, and more skilled)
  • Tell him we are ALWAYS there for him no matter what – whether he gets a right answer or a wrong answer or makes a big mistake or a huge mistake. Teach him that he is loved UNCONDTIONALLY.
  • Look for ways to reward and praise his relaxed attitude to everything – from doing up his football laces to doing up his coat buttons.
  • Look relaxed and chilled yourselves and say “Oh dear I’ve made a mistake – aaah well never mind……. I’ll have another go……” To model the attitude and behaviour you want to teach him.


The focus is to talk & teach  him to be more forgiving of himself and to educate him NOW to re- correct this destructive, negative pattern as it will impact him in his life and will have an negative impact on his ability to learn, bounce back from failure or disappointment ( real or perceived) and his ability to “have a go” so needed to enjoy a happy life.

I am trained by Tony Robbins, the Peak Performance Coach, and he describes perfectionism as a ‘crazy eight.’

This is a situation in which there is a clash between two opposing forces. Those two opposing forces are in battle with each other,  and they are: avoiding your greatest fear and pursuing your greatest desire.

For a perfectionist their Number 1 goal is to move towards perfection. They want everything they do/be/have to be perfect, however, the definition that they have defined for what perfection is, is so unattainable that they can never achieve it and as a result it sets off their greatest fear (the greatest fear all people share) the fear that they are ‘not enough’ not worthy of being loved and accepted for who they are.

This self defeating cycle is called a crazy eight.

The unknowing perfectionist will spend their entire life in this loop where every project that they embark upon sets off their greatest fear of not being good enough and then sends them into anxiety or depression when it isn’t perfect.

And the reason I know all about this so well is that I am a recovering perfectionist!

One can never find peace in a crazy eight loop. For a perfectionist to find peace in their heart they must truly let go of the idea of being perfect because it doesn’t exist and they must create a new definition/new goal that they will pursue.



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