Reducing Perfectionism

When young people perform academic-type tasks and are corrected before obtaining feelings of empowerment or success, they become candidates for discouragement.

A friend of mine related an incident that occurred at the birthday party of his young daughter. After his daughter opened a present he had just given her, my friend asked, cajoled, and finally coerced his daughter into sharing her new toy with the other children. It is hard for a child to share or open to others that which the child does not yet “own.”

The same principle holds true in learning. Young people need to feel some degree of ownership or success in performing a task—or have a feeling that they are capable of it—before correction becomes beneficial. Otherwise, the good intentions of correction are perceived as criticism, which leads to a dampened desire to perform the task.

Unless a student is very motivated, he normally does not like doing something for which he will be criticized. However, once possession is felt—once he feels competent—he can open himself to others. Misguided attempts to correct before possession is taken can have unfortunate results.