How Parents Can Partner Against Perfectionism
By Brezny Galiby
We all want to succeed. Its natural. For some, though, putting in the work does not seem to equate to their desired success. Think of a time that you really put in the work for something and got the results you wanted. How rewarding was it to have your work pay off? Well, now imagine that you are expecting great results and end up with mediocre results or a failure. This is the tension that most students with ADHD or executive function challenges experience. The results they receive are not due to a lack of desire for success or even a lack of effort. (However, it makes sense that most learn to not put in the effort if they aren’t going to get the desired results anyways). Now, there is all of this tension, struggle, and anxiety around school; but the desire to do well never fades entirely. Perfectionism can enter the picture when students so desire to do well that they can’t even get started.
So, what is a parent to do? How can you help your student overcome this anxiety riddled obstacle? Well, the state of overwhelm will trigger fight, flight, or freeze mode; however, when it comes to academic work the reaction is to freeze and avoid. When emotions (the amygdala) are active, executive functions are shut down: the executive functions necessary to complete the assignment. When your child is emotional about an assignment (visibly upset, disengaged, displaying avoidance behavior, seemingly annoyed, etc.) those emotions must be resolved before any work is going to get done. Allow your child to express what they are feeling and navigate what the root thought is that is fueling such behavior. Work together to come up with a new thought that is still true and can replace the previous thought so that productivity can now take place.
The reality is that the same thing is not going to work for every kid, but some things are universally not going to work too.
The key is figuring out how to make your student feel like you are working with them and not against them. As a parent, you cannot simply take the anxiety and stress away, but you can partner with your child to battle against it. They may have a voice in their head telling them they will fail, or they/their work is not good enough, but you can be a voice outside of their head reminding them that they are smart and capable!