Welcome to a collection of thoughts, questions and interesting links relating to giftedness ..............
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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Perfectionism - is the label a 'diss' or a 'kiss'??

I have to admit I stole that catchy line from Dan Pink, and while it also makes me sound like I am up to date, it makes an interesting point. Is perfectionism a problem or a plus? Well, maybe that depends.

We urge our children to do their best, we put in place complex systems of rewards from gold stars to badges of achievement and prizes, perhaps even financial incentives. On the other hand we are reminded that perfectionism can also lead to feeling frozen and blocked, and a reduction in risk taking or willingness to ‘have a go’ and that worries many of us.

So it is a problem or a plus? A diss or a kiss?

Perhaps it depends on how we think about perfectionism. Or perhaps more importantly what drives the perfectionism – whether it comes from an inner urge to strive for excellence or from an outside push to meet the standards of others.

Adaptive perfectionism can lead us to great achievements, striving to better our performance and to continual improvement. This comes from an internal desire for our own excellence.

Maladaptive perfectionism is just the opposite. It can limit us to ‘safe’ choices, the easy option and increase our stress levels rather than our satisfaction. The driver for this sort of perfectionism is thought to be external, fed by our concerns about what others might think, whether we measure up, what they may think if we make a mistake.

We acknowledge that creativity is an important part of life and learning. But creativity is messy, it involves making mistakes and taking risks. And that can make it scary for perfectionists who like to know exactly what is expected.

What can we do to encourage our children towards adaptive or positive perfectionism? Setting high standards and encouraging excellence are still important, but expecting perfection may not be productive. Praising effort and ideas rather than simply results and setting attainable goals may also help keep the balance towards the positive side.

So is perfectionism a problem or a plus?  For most of us, It is a work in progress, the drivers shifting depending on our perceptions of competence and how important success is to us (and to significant others in our lives). I have a feeling that our mindset plays a more significant part in this than we might at first think (more on mindset soon).

If the idea of looking at things differently interests you, you may also be interested to listen to a short (under 3 mins) presentation by Derek Silvers called Weird, or Just Different?

There is a flip side to everything. It just depends on how you look at it

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A New School Year

It seemed that no sooner was Christmas over than the Back To School stock appeared in the shops (and before we were back to school, they has started promoting Easter). In our household, this year is our last Back To School and it is with some relief that it is behind us, that we know who the teachers are, what the expectations are and have an idea of what is to come.

I suspect there has been a lot of breath holding over the last few weeks particularly in families with gifted children. The start of a new school year can be a stressful time not only for a gifted child, but also for their parents. Depending on how things have gone in the past, the enthusiasm level for school can vary (for both parties). The child is waiting to see if the teacher 'gets' them, the parents are waiting to see if the teacher 'gets' gifted kids......... in some cases parents are waiting to see how long the calm lasts.

Many parents know after the first day or two how the year is likely to go. Sometimes it takes a bit longer. Sometimes kids are willing it to be good so hard that it can take a little while for the cracks to appear. They try so hard to do what is expected, to follow instructions, to get on with the other kids their age and many succeed quite well while it is new and they are refreshed. Perhaps they also have to adjust to a new school or setting.

As tiredness creeps in a little, or the novelty wears off, cracks may begin to show in the facade of all being well.

Even though it is only a few weeks into the year I have had calls from a few families where they are already under pressure. One family were being asked to relocate their child to grade level after 8 school days in a new school as the teachers didnt think he could cope with the work. It can take many sensitive children a little longer than that to adapt to a new environment, new expectations and routines......... One family were already trying to help the teacher understand that apparent lack of motivation might be turned around with something more challenging. Another were looking for some strategies to help the teacher see their child's strengths (rather than just the weaknesses), something that a previous teacher had been able to see but apparently were now invisible.

Parenting gifted children is a journey. It is hard to tell what is around the next corner, or even when you will approach a corner. It can be time intensive and at times heartbreaking and at others breath taking and joyful. Developing a positive relationship with the child's teacher and being involved when and where you can, can help to smooth the (school) bumps a little, not least because perhaps you might get to see the bumps before you hit them.

Fingers crossed that the year is a good one, or at least a step in the right direction for you and for your children.

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