Why Early Intervention Matters

Identifying signs of perfectionism early can help reduce future stress and insecurities

Christina Corcoran

1 min read

blue orange green and yellow plastic toy
blue orange green and yellow plastic toy

I first noticed signs of trouble when my daughter was just two years old, although she seemed very bright, alert, and precise, I was also noticing more and more frustration and outbursts with simple activities, like stacking blocks or doing a puzzle. Her Parents as Teachers educator suggested she might be gifted, which led me to a support meeting at the Gifted Resource Council. The topic that night was perfectionism.

It was an awakening because even though I gave myself the label, I did not fully understand what it meant. Even more revealing was when I brought home the printout and my husband shook his head in wonder, because he also checked all the boxes. We did not know whether she was gifted, but she seemed to have the "perfection" gene.

By kindergarten that I realized things were not getting any better, so I searched for help. Sadly, there wasn't much information out there about perfectionism in early childhood. That's how the idea of my book started.

What are the early signs of Perfectionism?

  • Consistently frustrated and embarrassed by mistakes or perceived failures

  • Unable to refocus and resume activity after mistake or challenge

  • Avoidance of activities they normally enjoy

How can you help?

This is where things get tricky. Young kids are not built with the full capacity for self-awareness or cognitive restructuring, heck even adults struggle with it, so telling them to try again or assuring them that the mistake is no big deal won't really help them in their moment of despair. A hug is a great start, followed by, "show me the tricky part."

But to really see improvements, parents will have to look at their own responses to imperfections, mistakes, and challenges. What kids see is what they learn.

I've been working on my own struggles with negative self-talk and self criticism and I can tell you it is hard, but as I improve, she improves. And this is why it matters immensely that we examine this trait while our children are young because as they age these habits become more entrenched and harder to change.