Socially Inappropriate Behaviors

Descriptions of socially inappropriate behaviors and suggestions on how to break their cycles.
Grades:
5 |
6 |
7 |
8
Subjects:
Themes:
Updated on: April 10, 2001
Page 2 of 2

Perfectionism

This trait occurs at all ability levels, but it appears to be a plague among bright children. It is a trait that concerns parents of gifted children and appears to occur often in the crossover population. Given their academic deficiencies, perfectionism may present a greater problem for the crossover children than for the gifted children who do not have disabilities. The poor spelling and writing skills of crossover children result in messy, inaccurate papers. Most children with these problems are very aware of the differences between their written products and those of their classmates. The perfectionist wants a perfect product, a nearly impossible goal for the crossover child.

When perfectionism permeates every part of the child's life, careful monitoring and assistance may be necessary. Perfection is a goal no one can attain, so the perfectionist never lives up to their expectations. Adderholdt-Elliott suggests the following guidelines for recognizing and breaking the cycle of perfectionism:

  1. Differentiate between pursuing excellence and perfectionism.
  2. Recognize that the ideal body, life, marriage, or career description in the media are ideals, not reality.
  3. Stop reinforcing a straight-A, win-or-nothing mentality so that children do not learn that receiving love is conditional upon getting all As or winning an academic, music, or athletic contest.
  4. Realize that procrastination and other paralyzed performance behaviors (such as writer's block) are signals of a perfectionist who, by not performing at all, cannot be open to criticism of the final product.
  5. Realize that many physical and emotional symptoms accompany perfectionism. These warning signs of stress may include:
    • headaches
    • stomachaches
    • respiratory illnesses
    • sleep disorders
    • addictions
    • eating disorders
    • depression
    • attempted suicide
    These same symptoms are, of course, present when people are faced with other life stressors, but adults should be especially alert when they occur in a "good kid" who has "everything going for them."

To break the cycle of perfectionism, Adderholdt-Elliott suggests such steps as:

  • Learning to fail
  • Learning to laugh through the conscious pursuit of humor
  • Taking risks by trying new activities in which one cannot excel
  • Finding new friends who aren't perfectionists
  • Prioritizing and accepting that neither "superkids" nor "superwomen" are possible or desirable
  • Setting aside time for personal pleasure
  • Learning to reward oneself for practicing these new behaviors
I Want to Be Like Everyone Else

Whether it is articulated in words or evident in deeds, one goal of every exceptional child is to be liked and accepted by his peers. In our society, being average may be more highly encouraged and prized than being exceptional. Parents of any exceptional child can be expected to say, "I just want him or her to be normal."

Because of the very conditions that have been identified as exceptional, the child is, in some sense, not "normal" and will never be so. The goal should not be normalcy but the development of a child and a family who both accept and value uniqueness and work hard to diminish the negative effects that may accompany that uniqueness. Denying exceptionality does not make it go away.

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