BY: KAREN L. BROWN
Gifted learners bring a unique set of characteristics to the table; perfectionism can be at the forefront. This characteristic can directly impact how the gifted student connects with learning opportunities. Perfectionism isa personal standard, attitude, or philosophy that demands perfection and rejects anything less. Most learners want to be correct; to have the right answer. However, striving for perfection when left unchecked can take this desire to a whole new level. “Perfectionism on steroids” can leave a learner unable to take risks necessary to function in the learning environment, keeping the learner from engaging in the learning process. Learners may set impossible goals, limiting their options to avoid taking risks. They often cannot enjoy the moment because they are too worried about the future (Delisle & Galbraith, 2002).
Supporting the perfectionist in moving forward can feel overwhelming for both the learner and parents. Fortunately, there are several strategies that can help.
1. PRAISE EFFORT
Praising the effort allows the learner to see that it isn’t about the product or grade but rather the effort that one puts into the task. For example, think about that vocabulary quiz your child brought home. The score earned was 23/25, a very commendable effort. Was your comment, Great job; you worked hard on those words!Or What happened we studied those two? Without intent the second response tells the learner that anything less than perfect is unacceptable. Gifted learners must learn to how to separate their self worth from the product or grade they create.
2. CREATE A SAFE ZONE FOR MISTAKES
A failure safe zone is quite simply a place where it is acceptable to be unsuccessful. Prepping for mistakes may sound a little strange, but it is really just the practice of role-playing what might happen in a given situation.
3. S.M.A.R.T. GOAL SETTING
Gifted students may have difficulty setting realistic goals that will lead them to the excellence they seek. The acronym S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timeframe-provided) can be used to facilitate the goal-setting process. Educators and parents can utilize this process to guide learners in generating goals, determining the steps needed to accomplish the goals, developing a viable action plan for achieving their goals, and monitoring attainment toward the goal.
4. EMPHASIZING THE PROCESS OF EMINENT INDIVIDUALS
Studying the lives of eminent people is an excellent way for gifted students to see that the path to success is rarely singular and often filled with twist and turns.A perfectionistic student may win a state science fair and still be disappointed that the project did not produce a scientific breakthrough. The student needs to understand that, for example, Einstein didn't produce the theory of relativity at a young age, either. In fact at twelve, Einstein's potential greatness was masked by poor school performance. It took Einstein more than twenty theories to fully formulate the equations for the theory of relativity.
Gifted students can learn valuable lessons from studying the lives of eminent people by reading biographies and autobiographies, or watching television shows that share the accomplishments and journeys of these people. Challenges like rejection, illness, economic misfortunes, and relationship issues can make it difficult for an individual to not only achieve success but to maintain it. A key factor to success is the ability to persevere in the face of obstacles.Another lesson is that great effort is required. Edison observed that genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Michelangelo did not paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in a weekend. Revision and refinement are part of the process. Authors share that manuscripts go through a nerve wrecking revision process prior to publication. Perhaps the most valuable lesson to be learned though is that failure can be constructive.
5. CELEBRATE THE JOURNEY
Celebrate all that life has to offer, mistakes and successes! Gifted learners see the world in ways that others can only imagine. Supporting them in learning how to navigate the challenges that they face does not mean removing the obstacle rather it means teaching them to see it for what it really is a chance to grow! Challenge your child to find an activity that will help them feel as if they are making a difference in the world.
ABOUT KAREN BROWN
Karen Brown is the Gifted Program Mentor for Paradise Valley School District. As a National Board Certified educator she works extensively with teachers in grades K-12 to ensure that the instruction and curriculum provides the appropriate challenge and support for all students. In her role as Gifted Program Mentor she supports administrators, teachers, parents, and students in both academics and social emotional areas. Karen teaches classes in the Gifted Education Masters Program at ASU as well as consults with districts throughout the country on social/emotional, curriculum, Depth of Knowledge training, differentiation strategies and depth and complexity training. Karen was the co-recipient of the 2013 NAGC Professional Development Award. She co-authored Differentiated Lessons for Every Learner: Standards-Based Activities and Extensions for Middle School and A Teacher’s Guide to Flexible Grouping and Collaborative Learning. Karen is the 2018 winner of the NAGC Specialists and Masters Award.