Perfectionism in a 5 year old.

Preschool took an interesting left turn today and it made me feel grateful that my sons home with me so that I can pick up on certain teachable moments.

We were practicing writing our numbers on the window with window markers.  The boys love this and were having a great time, but at one point the perfectionist bug hit Boston and he became obsessed with his number 2 not looking perfect.  He normally is so proud of his writing, but today he couldn’t let it go.  I don’t correct their writing usually at all, just give them guidance when they ask so I started giving Boston some tips to make it look more how he wanted, but he wasn’t satisfied.  He broke down in sobs and could not handle it.  I gave him a worksheet to trace his 2, hoping that if he got out one 2 he was satisfied with, it would turn his mood around.  But nothing was working.  He just sobbed harder.  So we stopped and I told him he wasn’t having a problem with his twos, he was having a problem with perfectionism.  We talked about this being a good moment to step away and go do something fun, go play and come back to it later, but he still wasn’t feeling better.

At this point I changed up our plan completely.  We stopped playing, I gathered the boys and I told them we were going to play a new game.  I told them that sometimes our brain tells us lies, and the only way to stop our brain from telling us lies is to talk back and tell it the truth.  So I was their brain and I would tell each of the boys lies about themselves (it felt really mean!)

I’m your brain and you’re not cool Charlie.

Yes I AM cool!

I’m your brain and your not a good boy Isaac.

I AM a good boy!!!

I’m your brain and you are NOT good at writing twos Boston.

I AM good at writing twos!!!

As each boy shouted his truth back at me I shrunk a little until eventually I was lying flat on the floor.  (The boys were laughing really hard).  Then we played the game again and this time the brain would say things like,

You’re actually kinda cool Charlie.  Your two doesn’t look that bad Boston.  You are pretty nice Isaac.

And as the boys kept shouting their truths eventually their brains (me) started speaking truth back to them.

You’re awesome Charlie!!  Your twos are AMAZING Boston.  You are SUCH a good boy Isaac.

I told the boys that this is called self talk and the only way to get our brains to tell us the truth is to talk back whenever it’s telling us lies, but if we do this enough eventually our brain will just know the truth and we won’t have to talk back to it.  We also talked about who wants us to feel sad and bad about ourselves and who wants us to feel good.  And finally we discussed that the Holy Ghost will help us know when our brain is telling us lies and what our truth is by the feelings we get.

This self talk concept isn’t something I learned about until my 20’s and I’m still working on mastering it, so I figure these kids have a leg up on me anyway! Boston was also really tired from being up late last night and it reminded me how hard I can be on myself when I’m not on enough sleep.  It was a good reminder to be kind to myself!

I had art projects and number games planned for today, but they’ll just have to wait.  Right now the boys are eating lunch, watching Leap Frog, I have a moment to write this down and everyone is happy.  I think this is just what we needed!



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