Student who expects perfection

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by minnie, Aug 17, 2017.

  1. minnie

    minnie Cohort

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    I have a student who cannot finish assignments because he wants it to look perfect. Like...he wants it to look like mine. Then he gets mad and starts saying that he can't do it since it's not perfect. How do I get him to be ok with imperfection?
     
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  3. vickilyn

    vickilyn Magnifico

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    Does he show other signs of OCD? What age?
     
  4. minnie

    minnie Cohort

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    He's in kindergarten. He's always afraid that I'm mad at him. He's otherwise a normal boy but very active. He has the best fine motor skills of the class but just gets super upset if it's not perfect. Today, he was drawing a picture of himself. I gave him three papers because he kept "messing up." I finally told him that I cannot give him anymore papers and he shut down. I always tell the class that I don't want to see perfect, I want to see their best. And everyone's "best" is different. I am a grown up so my pictures or handwriting will look different than theirs and that's ok. He still struggles. :disappointed:
     
  5. minnie

    minnie Cohort

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    Maybe anxiety?? I just don't know what to say to him to help him feel better about his work.
     
  6. vickilyn

    vickilyn Magnifico

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    Aug 18, 2017

    Most OCD students are anxious. Sometimes you see some of the same behaviors in students with ADHD. When my son was young, he was classified. In his class, there were 2 boys with ADHD, and both exhibited behaviors like your little guy. Now I teach SPED, mostly EBD in HS, and I have several students with OCD, anxiety, and ADHD. It seems to present as a package deal. Another type of student that can present with the need for perfection is the one with some characteristics on the autism spectrum. Think mild, like what we used to call asperger's. Some of the time the anxiety and perfection is all you see initially. You might want to see if your CST would take an informal look, no testing, just to get another set of eyes and some suggestions. It is early in the year, and he may just be nervous or have some pressure on him from home. No matter what it turns out to be, catching it earlier rather than later would be a good thing. Maybe they will tell you to monitor and document, but you will know that you didn't ignore the problem. With time, he may improve, or the anxiety may escalate. The documentation you do now may really help down the line. Best of luck.
     
  7. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    I had a third grade student like this last year. I referred her to the counselor who helped her come up with some strategies to implement when she was experiencing anxiety. She really never did overcome her perfectionist ways, however.
     
  8. MissScrimmage

    MissScrimmage Aficionado

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    I had a student like that one year. She would get really upset if her work was not perfect. I would try to get to her before she became upset and say, "Oh, that looks perfect" and that seemed to help keep the fits to a minimum. I did tons of teaching and modelling on how to learn from mistakes and keep emotions in check.
     
  9. minnie

    minnie Cohort

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    Thank you for the replies. I don't see signs of being on the spectrum because he has decent social skills and gets along with the other students. But I do think he has anxiety. He just can't accept his mistakes and go with the flow. The other student will even encourage him but it's like he gets in this rut and no one can convince him otherwise. I'm just trying to find the right words to say to him to prevent a meltdown.
     
  10. vickilyn

    vickilyn Magnifico

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    Aug 18, 2017

    If you have a counselor, perhaps a couple of visits to have a second set of eyes.
     
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  11. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    Have you spoken with the parents? Sometimes you get an interesting perspective from them. Occasionally, I will get a parent who is applying the pressure at home for the child to be perfect in school. The parent sees it as a personal attack on their parenting skills if their child isn't perfect in all they do outside the home.
    Or, the parent may have some strategies they use at home to help the child overcome anxiety.
     
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  12. minnie

    minnie Cohort

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    I haven't spoken with the parent yet but I plan to. I work at a very, very small rural school so unfortunately, we don't have a counselor. We are trying to get a part time psychologist from the county because our old one got another job at the local high school. So right now, I don't have another source to talk to. :( hopefully I will soon. The funny thing is...he's got great fine motor skills. The best in the class. His handwriting and coloring skills are above and beyond but he doesn't seem to see that. He is having a hard time being in class all day which is totally understandable at the beginning of the year. I really do suspect anxiety though. He's always biting on his fingers. Poor guy.
     
  13. christie

    christie Rookie

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    Perfectionism can often be tied to giftedness. It is definitely something that should be addressed. Consider a read-aloud using The Most Magnificent Thing, The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes, and/or Your Fantastic, Elastic Brain. All of those address the need for mistakes and how kids learn from them.
     
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  14. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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    ,
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2019
  15. vickilyn

    vickilyn Magnifico

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    As I had mentioned, sometimes being on the spectrum will create these OCD traits. One who many are familiar with is Dr Temple Grandin. These people may have some talents where their skills are exceptional, but they still struggle. Many gifted surgeons are on the spectrum. They are able to focus with great accuity but not be able to walk on the cracks in a sidewalk - OCD. They can figure out complicated symptoms, but not display a good bedside manner. None of us is simple, navigating through our strengths and weaknesses. I am so sorry, OP that you must struggle with this alone.
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2017
  16. CherryOak

    CherryOak Companion

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    Note: I'm not qualified in elementary education. But, one of my kids is a perfectionist with a bit of anxiety. The other is almost too laid back. Same mom! Haha.

    Perhaps it will help to first focus on the appropriate ways to react and display frustration and disappointment? The desire for perfection and the shut down/emotional response are connected now but are separate challenges in my head. Controlling the emotions will probably take less time to learn than not seeking perfection.

    Document. It's probably going to be a continuous challenge and worth watching for a while. Reprimand very softly. Lots of reassurance. Encourage him to focus on just doing it "today's way" and loving it anyway. I don't know if this is what the experts would say, but it helped mine. Give him lots of opportunities to create without a model. Good luck!
     
  17. MissScrimmage

    MissScrimmage Aficionado

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    I always kick off the year reading the book "Ish" by Peter Reynolds. "Ish" becomes part of our classroom culture:
    - We draw dogs-ish
    - We cut straight-ish
    - We run fast-ish
    "Ish" becomes synonymous with "our best", which is what we are working towards.
     
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  18. minnie

    minnie Cohort

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    That's a good idea to give him opportunities to draw without a model. I will try that! I will also help him to control his frustrations in class. I am a little worried though because in kindergarten, I model a lot. That includes arts and crafts, handwriting, and drawing. So, I just worry that he'll want ALL of his activities to look just like mine.
     
  19. minnie

    minnie Cohort

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    I love that! I definitely will add that to my class vocabulary!
     
  20. svassillion

    svassillion Companion

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    Aug 23, 2017

    Definitely sounds like OCD, but as far as things you can try you may want to stress growth mindset to them. You can do this by celebrating mistakes or when students say "I don't know" and explaining how our brains are getting stronger when we face difficult tasks or failures. If you can make it part of your classroom culture students will be more likely to persevere because they'll know when they feel like giving up their brains are actually growing the most. If this one boy is having trouble controlling his emotions in these circumstances, use the other kids to curb his emotions like a more positive form of peer-pressure. But it would have to be a whole class effort.
     
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  21. minnie

    minnie Cohort

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    Aug 24, 2017

    Ok so I talked to the parents. They said that he does get easily stressed at home sometimes and they try to down play his stress so he doesn't get more worked up. They said he always asks if they're mad at him even when they just get onto him for little things. I see that at school.

    I don't see him obsessing over things at school though. He has a hard time keeping still (but it is kindergarten) and keeping hands to himself but he is getting better.
     

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