Parents and teachers often observe different types of perfectionistic tendencies in academic settings with gifted children. There are healthy and unhealthy behaviors gifted children manifest with perfectionism. Some positive behaviors include high levels of achievement, self-confidence, and/or motivation. However, unhealthy perfectionistic behaviors may include risk-avoidance, procrastination, and stress. Often, unhealthy perfectionistic behaviors are unknowingly reinforced in gifted children when they are exposed to unchallenging school work where they have been able to achieve perfect or near-perfect scores with little effort or mistake-free learning experiences supported by teachers, parents, or peer groups. These factors put high ability and gifted children at risk for unhealthy perfectionistic attitudes or behaviors.
How do gifted students demonstrate perfectionism?
Wilson and Adelson (2018) indicate 5 profiles of perfectionistic behaviors gifted children can manifest in different areas of their lives (e.g., homework, extracurricular activities, or independent tasks) and provide strategies teachers and parents can use to help them cope with their environments as listed in the chart below. The best way to develop healthy learning behaviors with gifted children is to minimize the effects of unhealthy perfectionistic tendencies through safe academic learning environments. When academic risks are modeled through mistakes, when praise is offered for tackling or attempting difficult tasks, and when student growth is celebrated, gifted students will begin to shift their mindset and engage deeply, showcasing their potential.
At SIG we strive to implement these recommended intervention strategies and encourage parents and teachers to use them at home and school as well.
Wilson, H. E & Adelson, J. L. (2018). Perfectionism: Helping gifted children learn healthy strategies and create realistic expectations. Parenting for High Potential. 7(3), pp 8-11.