We have countless conversations with parents about how they struggle with perfectionism, both in their students and in themselves. We’re not experts, but we have been intentional in compiling thoughtful commentary and strategies to provide insight and action plans as you continue your journey. Use this as the framework for an essential discussion with your family.
Gretchen Roe: 00:00:05.718
Hi everyone. It’s Gretchen Roe and it’s my delighted opportunity to welcome you all today to the Demme Learning Show. We want to let you all know that we are here today because we want to help families stay in their learning journey as long as possible. Today we’re going to talk about discovering the roots of perfectionism and maybe joining the road to recovery a little bit. Both my colleague Amanda and I have personal experience with this and we want you to know that we don’t have all the answers. We are deep in the exploration of the process. We’ll probably have an additional conversation about this six months from now because I find it fascinating that when we do these kinds of round table webinars, we then find more content and more information that we want to share with you. But today we’re here to talk about this. We know that so many homeschool parents deal with this in their own lives and their children’s lives and so we want to offer you encouragement. And I welcome my colleague, Amanda, today, and I’ll let her introduce herself.
Amanda Capps: 00:01:15.764
Hi. I’m Amanda Capps. I’m joining you from the beautiful spring like weather of northwest Arkansas. I am a current homeschool mother to eight children. My oldest just graduated. My youngest is two. And I have every agent between both boys and girls. I have been with Demme Learning for the past 13 years, and my favorite role for them so far has been customer service. So you may have called in and spoken with me at one time or another. I’m also a second generation homeschooler. So that makes my perspective a little bit unique. And I’m excited about talking about this topic as a recovering perfectionist myself.
Gretchen Roe: 00:01:58.145
Well, I ask Amanda to join me today because I think we have an enormous amount of information that we’ve compiled. We’ve actually been preparing to do this particular event for over a year. And we’ve had lots and lots of conversations about it. We know that there are a lot of families out there who see themselves in the stories and the information that we will share. Again, my name is Gretchen Roe. I’m the homeschooling mom of six for 36 more days and then I will graduate my last one. And it’s a little bittersweet, I have to tell you, but I wouldn’t have traded this journey for anything. And he keeps laughing because he’s like, “Mom, you know how many days I graduate. I don’t.” But I’m excited for him. I’m excited that the journey changes yet again for us both. And I welcome you all to this conversation today. One of the things that we think is important to outline for you is that this is different for every family. And we often begin these conversations with families who will come up to us at a homeschooling conference or call Amanda on the phone and they’ll say, “Well, I have a child who has perfectionistic tendencies.” And so we’re going to say some hard things today to you all. And we think it’s important that you all hear us in what we’re saying because we know that that is important for you to know the information that we’re imparting, but we also want you to know that we understand because we’re right there alongside you. And so I want to start today with a quote from Francis Marion, I shall enjoy the richness of today as my life is weaving an intricate, necessary pattern that is uniquely mine. And that is the premise from which we want to have our conversation spring. Amanda, you said something before I clicked the play button that I think would bear repeating. Can you talk about why we’re here today?
Amanda Capps: 00:04:04.842
Well, I know from the customer service perspective and then just as an adult and a mom that perfectionism is a topic that comes up frequently. Parents are looking for suggestions, tools, and support in dealing with this in their own homes with either themselves personally or with their children. And so I think it’s a really important and really relevant conversation to have. And I think what makes it hard is that it’s rooted pretty deeply in our character and maybe in our family of origin. Perfectionism is something that is acquired. You’re not born a perfectionist. It’s something that is definitely influenced by your environment and so I think it’s a really important conversation to have.
Gretchen Roe: 00:04:57.761
Right. I want to also share with you a quote from Brené Brown, and encourage you all as a little bit of homework after our event to access her book, The Gifts of Imperfection because I think it’s a fantastic read. And it gave me more insight into myself and my children than I ever thought possible. But what she says is this, “The definition that best fit the data is that perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought, if I look perfect, live perfectly, work perfectly and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”
Gretchen Roe: 00:05:46.391
I have to tell you the first time I heard that quote, I cried. The second time I heard that quote, I cried again. But the truth is, I think and one of the things I’m grateful for and you all hear me say this often in webinars is, I’m grateful that I homeschooled in the day before social media was ubiquitous. Because I think social media is driving this train forward of we have to do it perfectly. And from that comes a myth that we are so influential for our children that we can affect every outcome for them. Amanda, you and I talked a little bit about D.. Russell Barkley. Can you talk a little bit about what he says about that? Because I think it’s really important.
Amanda Capps: 00:06:35.041
Absolutely. So he is an expert in the field of persons and children who struggle with ADD and ADHD. And we know from experience that a lot of times sufferers of that particular challenge do struggle with addictive tendencies, whether that be in personality, in substance or anything else. And he really talks about how he takes a lot of pressure off the parent because I mean, I think as women and I think as mothers we put a whole lot of emphasis on did we take all the right vitamins? Did we play classical music to our bellies? Did we read literature while we were pregnant?
Amanda Capps: 00:07:19.408
Were we doing all the things to create this environment for the best baby, the best brain growth, all these things. Because again, as humans we somehow adopt the lie that we have some control in these areas. And I think that’s what we have to say. It’s a complete lie. We lie to ourselves and we take in information and we attribute our actions sometimes. It’s not that actions can’t have consequences. It’s not that actions can’t affect another person, positively or negatively. But we’re taking a lot more ownership than is actually realistic or even scientifically backed when it comes to you know growing babies, growing kids. We can watch two children grow up in exactly the same family and exactly the same environment and have completely different outcomes.
Gretchen Roe: 00:08:20.193
That is really true. And I laughingly think back in the early days when I homeschooled. My first kid to homeschool was relatively easy. And then when I started homeschooling too, I expected the second kid to respond the way the first kid did. And God has an infinite sense of humor because they don’t respond the same way. But I’m going to say something now that I think is hard to hear. It was hard for me to hear. It was hard for me to understand. Perfectionists are not born; they are made. And our perfectionistic tendencies, we need to walk those back in front of our children in order for them to feel comfortable to be able to fail forward. And we can offer them all sorts of platitudes. We can say, “Just do your best. It’s okay,” but what this comes down to is what can they control. And feeling that fear and lack of control is what fuels perfectionistic tendencies. So what does that look like? What does that look like when we homeschool, Amanda? I know you and I have talked a little bit about the tendency to be absolutely obsessed with the fear of failure. And I know I gave you– in our notes, we talked about those ten10 traits. So that’s where I’m going to– I want to talk a little bit about all 10 of those traits. So let’s talk first about that fear of failure. Why is that so prevalent in our students?
Amanda Capps: 00:09:56.265
I think that’s a human fear. I mean just across the board. I mean, no one wants to fail or be bad at something. That’s in our flesh. It’s wired into our DNA. Of course, we want to feel like we are contributing something, that we are adding value, that we have something to offer. And so I think for certain personality types, maybe dependent a little bit on birth order, firstborns tend to be that rule follower, that, “Just give me the formula.” I mean, doesn’t everybody like a formula? Because formulas makes sense. It’s something that you just follow step by step. And then you’re going to get this outcome, right? Except you cannot pigeonhole life into a formula. It doesn’t work. You can try. And it’s very frustrating when you don’t get the outcome that you’re expecting.
Amanda Capps: 00:10:56.419
And I think it’s really, really important to talk to and be an external voice of– the whole point of learning is we don’t know it yet. So we shouldn’t be afraid of something that we don’t know and that we have very little experience with and that we are going to engage in a process, hopefully, that is going to add to our knowledge base, that is going to give us some confidence and some awareness of the topic or the subject or in math, if it is a formula or just whatever it is. But sometimes we can make messes and mistakes in getting through that process. And so I think talking with our children really transparently about the fact that as parents, we don’t know everything, they are in the process of learning, and we’re doing this together. So we’re going to– even if I have a rudimentary knowledge or have had some exposure to whatever it is, I’m still going to gain a deeper level of knowledge working with it right alongside my kids.
Gretchen Roe: 00:12:10.383
Absolutely. And you know one of those things that– what fear of failure generates is the second thing on our list, which is procrastination. And I can tell you, I have a double black belt in taekwondo and procrastination. And if it weren’t for the last minute, I never get a blessed thing done because I don’t want to do it wrong. I only want to do it once. How many of you, well, see these statements in your children? I don’t want to do it wrong. I only want to do it once. That makes the creative writing experience painful from the get-go because we don’t set our kids up for success to recognize that there’s nothing perfect ever, nor is there anything perfect in a first attempt. And if they have a perfect first attempt, it’s much more by happenstance than by intention. And I think that leads us to the third one, Amanda, which is focusing on the results. And I know you talk about this with your kids frequently. So can you address that with– maybe give parents some examples of how you move your kids away from that results-focused to process-focused?
Amanda Capps: 00:13:30.477
Yeah, I think that’s a really good plan to put into place is to try to walk them through you know specific processes. And I find that this is especially– like the environment is especially charged with anxiety if you already have a child that struggles or has a learning difference or they already know they’re having to work harder than maybe their peers or another sibling or maybe they’re even feeling like they’re behind in what is expected. And here again, expectations. Creating unrealistic expectations for any child is going to be detrimental, putting unrealistic expectations on yourself or your partner is going to be very hurtful. I heard a statement that literally blew me away that said, expectations are premeditated resentments. I mean, wow, how often are we doing that to ourselves and to others? And so I think I think a big part of results-focused education is that so much of the education system right now is really focused on tests and standardized testing and standardizing kids in the classroom experience. And can we just take a deep breath and recognize that there is no standard educational experience? Every child is different. Every child is unique. Every child has their own strengths and weaknesses. And it’s an opportunity as a parent and as a homeschooler investing in our child’s education very heavily that we really look not at where– having a goal is important. Having somewhere we’re trying to get to is important. But we can often get so focused on the endgame that we lose so much relationship and so much progress in the process if that’s where all of our focus is.
Gretchen Roe: 00:15:51.475
Correct. One of the things that I learned this past year being a high school swim coach– this was a new endeavor for me. Yes, I’m not psyched I did take on coaching swimming at the high school level this year. I loved it. I can’t wait to do it again. But what it exposed for me is two different kinds of thinking. And I think that this would be really important for us to think about as far as– Amanda has alluded to this about how do you process. So how do you process your thoughts as an adult in front of your children or just in general? And we had insight, Amanda, probably almost a year ago now about being an internal processor and an external processor. So can we talk a little bit about that? And then I’ll bring this back around to the coach capacity.
Amanda Capps: 00:16:44.125
Sure. Absolutely. So I was actually kind of bemoaning a situation with my second daughter. So very typical, first daughter basically taught herself to read. Very much a rules follower. Very much a focused and consistent student. So I really didn’t have a whole lot of fuss with her educational journey. And then the second daughter was really an all-around good student, except there was this incredible reluctance once it came time to drive. And I was just baffled as to what the hesitancy and the anxiety around it was causing. And I was talking to a friend and a mentor, and she said, “Well, how much or how often are you externally dialoguing about what you’re doing when you’re driving and they’re in the car?” And I thought, “Well, I’m just driving. It’s very automatic. And I’m just driving. And typically, I’m in my own head. And I’m thinking about a million things I’ve got to do and all the things on my list that I’m taking off. And so yeah, I’m probably not really talking about what I’m doing as I’m doing it.” And she said, “Well, that might be where you need to start. You might need to start being more of an external dialoguer and really involving them in your thought process and why you’re doing what you’re doing while you’re driving. And you might find that it really helps clear up some of that hesitancy and encourages her that she knows what’s happening and what needs to happen and what sequences and it might just solve your problem.”
Gretchen Roe: 00:18:37.268
And part of the reason that Amanda and I want to bring this to you is because Amanda is an internal processor and I’m an external processor. I say everything out loud. I’m not sure what I’m thinking until I’ve said it out loud. And both of us create situations in our children because of that because if you’re an external processor, you might say to Amanda or me on the phone, “My daughter is really doing well, but she’s behind mathematically or in her writing,” or whatever we’re having a conversation about. And when we externalize that, our kids internalize that. And when they hear that kind of commentary, then they think, “Okay. What’s wrong with me? What do I have to fix? I’ve got to become more intentional,” or they give up. And we don’t want either of those things. We want to be able to strike a balance. So one of the things, I think, is important for us to point out to you is you’re homeschooling because you want a different outcome. You’re educating your children differently because you want something that’s different. Amanda and I were watching a TED Talk today, which will be part of the show notes for you all. And it talked about in the US today, we have over 120 standardized tests that children take between kindergarten and twelve grade and that is in our public parochial traditional school system. Now, when we homeschool, we can absent ourselves from some of that, but that test expectation creates a scenario where children who don’t do well then internalize that. And so we want you to think about the intentionality of setting up encouraging word processes. And so instead of being focused on, look what a good paper you wrote, say, I’m really impressed that you stuck with that topic until you’d explained it thoroughly. There’s just a difference there because one is outcome-based and one is processed-based. And that makes a realistic expectation for our children. Toward that end, I said I’d bring this back around. What I’ve learned as a coach is, I got a whole lot more output from my students when I found what they did well and encouraged them than when I brought up what they weren’t doing well. And I kind of knew that intrinsically having been a homeschool mom, but it was interesting to see that in a public environment with kids who weren’t mine. And if I could be that influential with kids who were not my children, imagine the amount of influence we can have on our children when they sit at the table with us. Amanda, can we talk a little bit about being highly self-critical?
Amanda Capps: 00:21:48.194
I mean, I feel like I’m the poster child for that. And it’s interesting too, because I’ve actually had that come up in employee reviews before. Why aren’t you more positive about your– and I have to sit there and I think about it. And to me, that signals like, it sounds prideful. I mean, I don’t want to– I don’t want to take more credit than is due. And yet, there is something really satisfying about a job well done and being recognized for really putting in the effort. And so I think sometimes as parents, we have the child that’s the number one worker or that really is thorough or does a really good job. And then we have pig pen from Charlie Brown, and we’re constantly on their case about missing the trash can, and landing outside of the trash can and not taking the time or the effort to pick it up and put it where it belongs or close all over the room or just whatever the deal is. And I think we have to look at the processes smarter. I think a lot of times as parents, we may think our child is just being lazy or they’re procrastinating on purpose or they’re just sloppy and they don’t care. Oh, contraire, kids care very much. Kids are never inherently lazy. And I think we need to say that out loud because if I had a dollar for every time I have heard a mother say, my child is just lazy. They’re just not motivated. I beg to differ. They’re very, very motivated. They’re very, very not lazy. They just don’t know how to begin. They may feel very overwhelmed. They may feel inadequate. And that’s coming across as avoidant behavior or or they may talk very critically about themselves if they’re an external dialoguer. They may say things like I’m stupid. I just can’t. I can’t do this. You’ll pick it up if they’re an internal. If they’re an internal dialoguer that’s almost more dangerous because it’s going on on the inside and you really don’t have a real good finger on the pulse of what that internal dialogue sounds like. But I can literally recall conversations or situations where I messed up. I said something out of place. I said something awkward. I laughed at it in an opportune moment. I can literally sit here and internally pull up a dozen instances at the drop of a hat, but it would be incredibly difficult for me if you said, “Amanda, think of three positive things that have happened in the last week. Think of three things on your body that you like about yourself.” I mean, so I think we really need to start going, “Wait a minute, what’s happening to the whole person versus what’s just happening academically?”
Gretchen Roe: 00:25:19.747
Great. And I think one of the ways that we can start doing that– when we were researching, you and I, over the last year, it was like, “Create an environment where your child feels accepted. But if your child doesn’t accept themselves, you can create a positive environment, but that’s really hard. So it’s up to us to be the most ardent observer of our children.” And sometimes when we interact with them, and they respond emotionally– or I think one of the things that came out in a lot of the literature that we were reading is they respond defensively, it’s because they’re already feeling hypercritical of themselves. And now they’re responding defensively, so it’s almost like adding fuel to the fire. So how do we as parents intentionally change that process? And I have to tell you, it starts with ourselves. And one of the things that’s really important is if you can catch yourself in your negativity, and then identify that to your children, then it’s easier for them to learn to catch themselves.
Gretchen Roe: 00:26:40.340
And I’ll give you an example. I recently had to visit a medical doctor and then the doctor said– the doctor’s medical assistant said something about my weight, and I was very flip about it. I have to tell you, internally, it hurt. But externally, it was easier for me to crack wise on it than it was to accept the fact that it hurt. But then I said something about two weeks later, just being flip in front of one of my children. And she said, “Why are you talking that way? Why are you receiving that? Don’t receive that.” And I thought, for a hot minute, I was ready to pop back at her and then I was thinking, “Oh, wait, you taught her not to speak negatively of herself and now she’s coming back after you for it. You should be grateful.” So I think it makes a difference for us as parents to be able to model mistakes in front of our children. The whole gallon of milk hits the floor and explodes, how do you react? I mean, I know how I reacted and it probably wasn’t really terrific. So being able for us to take a step back and say, “When the milk explodes well, guess we’re not having cereal today,” is a huge change and that makes a tremendous amount of difference. So when we see kids who appear lazy or appear unmotivated, what’s the underlying cause there? Is it a fear of doing it wrong so you don’t want to do it at all? And I don’t know the answer, but the reason that we’re having this conversation today is because we want to be a consciousness-raising for the parents out there who have said, “Please have a conversation about this.” So that’s what we’re doing today. Amanda, what about creating that accepting environment? I know that you have this challenge in your household because you have kids who learn in wildly different ways. So how do you foster that accepting environment?
Amanda Capps: 00:28:57.367
I think you have to create opportunities for them to be successful. You have to look for ways to set your kids up for success. Versus there are certain kids that if you try to have them follow the norm, they’re going to fall flat every single time and that becomes a trend. And then that becomes a tape inside internally and then it’s very, very difficult to overcome. It’s also really important to cultivate an atmosphere of acceptance.
Amanda Capps: 00:29:42.763
Acceptance for yourself and acceptance for others because even as bad as or as challenging as learning differences and things like that are, there are children and families who are battling much, much worse and so to be sensitive and to be aware of that. I love the thing I see going around on Facebook all the time where it talks about, raise the children who are the includers. The ones who are come join us, come sit with me, come do– and when you notice things like that, I think one of the biggest things that changed for me in a scope of perfectionism was actually losing a spouse. Because when you have a catastrophic loss in your life, it immediately tells you just how much control you do not have over anything.
Gretchen Roe: 00:30:48.027
And that can be a really profound lesson and a really good place to explore and to have those conversations and to have those hard looks at ourselves. And say, “Wow, this was absolutely not in the plan. This is not something I would have chosen. But this is the reality.” And so how do we move forward gracefully in this process? And then walking alongside, children in those processes. I mean, it’s a really great opportunity again to have those transparent conversations.
Amanda Capps: 00:31:29.043
I’m really sad right now. I’m really struggling right now. I’m really feeling this or that. And then name those emotions so that kids and boys especially, I think, get a lot of flak today for having any sort of empathy, any sort of grief emotions. Boys are supposed to be tough, boys are supposed to be strong. Well, they do that a lot to girls, too. I mean, I got a lot of, “Oh, you’re so strong. Oh– and I was like, “I don’t feel strong. I don’t want to be strong. I don’t feel like I have much of a choice here. And so I think looking at ways where we can tell our kids, “Hey, I know you don’t feel like you have a lot of options. I know you don’t feel like you have a lot of choices right here. But if you’ll just take a step back and kind of look full picture, there’s often a lot more choices than you think.”
Gretchen Roe: 00:32:29.740
Right. Right. And so we’re halfway through right now. So I want to lighten this just a little bit. And you gave me this today, Amanda, I had to look it up. Believe it or not, when we invest the time to create these, particularly if it’s someone who is a colleague here at Demme Learning, we’ll invest 8, 10 hours in preparation to present this content to you. But I saw this on Facebook last week. And Amanda sent it to me this morning. And I think it’s worth sharing. And it says, “Every dead body on Mount Everest was once a highly motivated person, so maybe calm down.” So I think we have to be able to treat our own foibles with levity because if we are serious and intentional all the time, we’re no fun. And we have to be able to laugh. And I say this when I speak at homeschooling conferences, “Laughter is a bomb to the spirit and it brings joy.” And so if we can laugh at our own foibles, then it becomes easier for our children to laugh at theirs. And that makes a tremendous amount of difference. Amanda, we had so many wonderful questions that I want to turn my attention to those now. And I’m going to lob some of these to you because I know you have great answers for these. And I think the first one that caught my attention is the observation that it was a needed topic. And what about co-ops? How do you choose the right one and not be too choosy? And so this comes down to observation, I think. So can we talk a little bit about what we might see in a co-op environment?
Amanda Capps: 00:34:22.138
Absolutely. And I think, again, yes, you hit the nail on the head. I mean, we have to be observant. I mean, if everybody in co-op is not a hair out of place and they’re reciting poetry and learning German, and they’re five, it’s probably not going to be the best fit for your kid. So your options are start your own or find a group that’s a little more laid back, or find a group that specializing in children with learning differences if that is the journey in the path that you’re on. Again, it comes down to choices and options. And typically, there are a lot more out there than we’re maybe initially are aware of. Even though these are digital leashes, it’s what it feels like sometimes, they do offer a lot of information and resources. And there are groups, so you can get out there and you can ask questions. And you can do your research. And you can find like-minded homeschoolers to connect with. And that’s what I would use to create your tribe and find moms that are farther in the journey than you are and where you want to be and then ask them to mentor you. I mean, the worst they can say is, “I’m so sorry. I’m too busy.” But I would hazard to guess that more often than not you would find somebody that would be willing to carve out some time for you.
Gretchen Roe: 00:35:59.551
Yeah. And I think that again here is the key here. And it’s important for us to look at the observational environment and I think we laughingly said at the very beginning every kid is different. There are some co-op environments that work for some children and don’t work for others and as parents, we really need to be sensitive to that. Not to expect every child to react the same way in an environment because I think it makes a tremendous amount of difference. We had several parents– so I’m going to compile this 15 or 20 parents who made this observation into one question, which is how do we deal with the meltdowns that come with perfectionism?
Amanda Capps: 00:36:53.638
Oh, man. Well, first, we have to see how we’re handling our own. That’s going to be
Gretchen Roe: 00:37:02.741
because I have never done that.
Amanda Capps: 00:37:05.690
Gretchen Roe: 00:37:07.375
Okay. So I’ll just make an appointment for the confessional because, man, if I had a quarter for every time.
Amanda Capps: 00:37:16.144
And so I think, again, here’s an opportunity. I mean, maybe we react badly. Maybe we, as a parent, have a total meltdown about something that just is not going our way or it’s not fulfilling the vision that we had initially. And so I think it’s completely okay to say, “Hey, I don’t like the way this turned out. I’m disappointed. This isn’t what I had in mind. This isn’t what I envisioned.” And then move on. Try if you can to add some positivity. Find something. Something positive that you like. Something that you can maybe put some focus on for a brief time and then walk away. Move on. Let it go. That is probably one of the biggest things that I struggle with and I know my son who tends to be more perfectionistic and struggles with a lot of anxiety because of it, we tend to ruminate. We overthink it. We think it every way comes. We’re still thinking about it at 3 o’clock in the morning when we should be sleeping. It’s a habit. And so if you want different outcomes, if you want to stop the thought processes, then you’ve got to– you’ve got to do it. You’ve got to change the way that you’re handling or reacting to or having that. And so again, if a kiddo is having a meltdown, I think it’s a great opportunity to again help them classify what they’re feeling. What are you upset about? What about this–
Gretchen Roe: 00:39:01.839
You can’t necessarily stop the meltdown. though?
Amanda Capps: 00:39:05.669
Gretchen Roe: 00:39:06.402
I think it’s important for us to understand that there comes a point in time where you just have to sit with them and let them have the meltdown. Often, we inadvertently exacerbate the meltdown or extend its scope because as parents were like, “Man, I got stuff to get done today. I don’t have time for you to do this. Suck it up buttercup. Let’s move on.” And that doesn’t help. It doesn’t help us make that happen. But as you’ve said, help them learn to quantify their own feelings. Maybe the meltdown is because they didn’t sleep well and they didn’t read the directions and now you’ve told them they haven’t done it right. And so we have to start to become detectives to sort of unpack what causes the drama there’s a root cause of the drama.
Amanda Capps: 00:40:07.929
100%. And we need to be co-regulators, not co-escalators.
Gretchen Roe: 00:40:14.412
Yes. Yes. Very good point. Can you explain that a little bit in a little bit more depth?
Amanda Capps: 00:40:19.646
Absolutely. So I have a group of wives and husbands with ADD and ADHD. It’s a support group. And often I’m finding articles and things that I’m sharing into that group, and I came across this article that was talking about the difference between being a co-regulator or a co-escalator. And so when you co-regulate with somebody, you’re getting on their level, you’re identifying what they’re feeling, and you’re helping them if they don’t have the ability or the skills to regulate. You’re helping them by co-regulating with them.
Amanda Capps: 00:40:59.686
Now, on the flip side of that, if you have somebody freaking out, and they are not regulated and you are a co-escalator, then that can cause a lot of problems because then neither one of you are focused on regulation and being able to be– and here’s the deal. As a parent, I have more of a responsibility, because I’m an adult, to be able to stay in a regulated space, to not take the reaction personally, to detach from maybe what’s happening, whether something got broken or a job wasn’t done thoroughly or just whatever the situation may be. And so that may take me taking a step back, taking 5 or 10 or 20 deep breaths. And sometimes I’ll do that with my boys, especially my toddlers, because they’ll be so upset, they can’t even articulate. They’re so wound up. They’re so upset, and so sometimes I’ll tell them, “Let’s count and breathe, and you can’t cry and count and breathe at the same time.” It just resets what’s happening in their bodies, and then I can say, “Okay, now that you’re calm, what’s the problem, what happened? Why did you freak out?” “Well, he took my [battleship?] that I just spent two hours building, and he threw it at the wall, and it went into a million pieces. And I’m so angry, and I’m so frustrated.” I’m like, “I can understand that. I would be angry and frustrated too. You worked really hard on that, didn’t you?” “Yes.”
Amanda Capps: 00:42:45.996
I mean acknowledge, recognize that the emotions and the feelings that they’re feeling are valid for the situation. Now, sometimes, it’s not, and then that becomes a character conversation, and you can talk about appropriate reactions and all of that stuff. But I’m just saying, none of this dialog, none of these conversations can happen if they are full on whale, throwing themselves on the floor and having an utter meltdown. I mean, it’s not. You cannot be effective until we get everybody calmed down, we co-regulate, and we look for ways to not add gasoline to an already blazing fire.
Gretchen Roe: 00:43:31.221
Right. And one of the things that parents said, and several parents said this, is how tiring this is.
Amanda Capps: 00:43:38.501
Gretchen Roe: 00:43:39.359
And I think we have to acknowledge this is really exhausting, so we have to school our own resources. And Amanda, you talk about this often, about not being able to give out in an empty cup. So how is the mom in the equation or the dad in the equation– how do we marshal our energies to be that co regulator? What are the things we need to look out for for ourselves so that we don’t become the co-escalator?
Amanda Capps: 00:44:15.087
I think we have to look at where we’re coming from, what our perspective and expectations are. I think it’s really important to make sure that based on the environment and the situation that we’re responding appropriately, I will say, when I was a young mother with only two or three children, it was much easier to have these expectations of maybe the way family pictures were going to go or the way a birthday event was going to go and that I had planned. And I had given so much attention to detail and it was so easy to get sucked into this little thing went wrong and so now the whole thing is wrong and I can find nothing to appreciate or be joyful about in this experience. And I think that, as he so often does, the Lord went, oh, Amanda, let’s try this approach with eight kids. Let’s see how that works for you. And so you realize, I mean, at this point, it’s like, do they all have shoes? I don’t even care if they match. Do we have on clean clothes? Did we run a comb through the hair? Did we get the teeth brushed? I mean, you just stop putting the same level of expectations on yourself and others because you realize what it takes in the background to make something successful. And so there’s so much more of a window and an opportunity for grace. And I think that needs to happen as well. If you didn’t grow up in a home where you saw your parents practice self care, that you maybe lived in an environment where things were volatile, there were eggshells to walk around on, you recognize certain cues and certain triggers in your body. And you know when you’re getting overwhelmed and you’re getting stressed out. That’s the clue, not to ignore it and not to live in denial and not to shove it under the rug. That’s where your body and your environment is telling you, “Hey, you need to stop, you need to pause, you need to take some time.” Whether that’s going out on a walk by yourself for 15 or 20 minutes, whether that is telling your husband and your kids, “I am going to lock myself in the bathroom, I’m going to run a hot bath, I am going to soak in it for 30 minutes, and unless someone is literally bleeding or dying, I don’t want to be interrupted. And it’s not an unreasonable request for me to ask for this time.” And that’s where you really have to get is in the place in your mind where you’re not feeling guilty for asking for the ability to recharge. Whether that’s catching coffee with a friend and literally just blah it all out. Like this is the week I’ve had and I’m losing my mind and I just don’t even know which end is up. But a lot of times just having that conversation and just getting it out there is such a relief and a decompression that then it’s like, okay, I can enter back into the fray. I’m equipped. I’m refreshed. And 9 times out of 10, your friend is going to go, “Oh my gosh, me too.” And then they’re going to go through their things and you’re going to be like, “Oh, I get it. Oh, oh, I so understand.” And it’s that relationship. It’s that relatability that is just huge. And honestly, that’s what all people are looking for. We’re looking for validation. We’re looking for a relationship. We’re looking for affirmation. We’re looking for words of affirmation. I mean, there’s a reason it’s a love language. It’s not everybody’s love language. But again, here’s another great opportunity. Look at what everybody’s love languages are in your family. What are the little ways the day to today stuff that can bless them in the way that they feel loved and make sure you understand that that could be very different than the way you receive it? And if you’re constantly trying to give the way you receive and it’s not received, then they’re not getting it. And we need to change what we’re doing.
Gretchen Roe: 00:48:55.481
Right. One of the things that we often have conversations with is parents who don’t who have children who don’t want to show their work mathematically or children who don’t want to redo a math problem when it’s wrong. And I think this gives us the opportunity here to talk about modeling grace, and I want to circle back to one of the quotes that we found in our research. And I think this is really the opportunity to give a parent the entree or the inroad to have this conversation about perfectionism, maybe in and of themselves, and then what they see with their children and it said, when the product is a reflection of you, rather than just something that you did, it means you’re internalizing the outcome and finding your worth in the product instead of the process. Holy cow, that’s huge. And for us to be able to have that conversation with kids, “Hey, you didn’t do it wrong, but you got an incorrect answer and let’s collaborate to get a correct answer.” I think it starts with us showing ourselves grace, but then being graceful to our children to say, “Hey, you know, this didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to.” I remember my youngest daughter was told she had to find a hobby that required failure. And this was the advice of a therapist. After having been through a very difficult period in her life, as a young adult and the therapist said, “I want you to find a hobby that you will fail at.” And the interesting thing is she has cultivated this hobby into a little sideline business. She’s a hobby baker. You’ve seen her work. But for as many beautiful cakes as she creates, there are some stinkers along the way. And she has had to learn it’s been interesting to watch this evolutionary process of a child perfectionist who now is an adult can say, “Well, man, that didn’t turn out the way I wanted it. I guess I’ll have to try again.” And isn’t that the phrase we want our kids to be able to say, it’s not the product, it’s the process. And that really is where we need to put some emphasis. Amanda, we’re almost at the top of the hour, but I want to talk a little bit about growth mindset. And this is something we talk a lot about here at the company. So can you maybe illustrate for our parents what we’re talking about with regard to growth mindset versus a fixed mindset?
Amanda Capps: 00:52:03.428
So I think a growth mindset and building lifelong learners, which is one of our Demme Learning values. You really go hand in hand. You can’t really have one without the other. And that fixed mindset is exactly that. It’s rigid. You don’t see the options. It has a very negative– you have a very negative or narrow approach.
Gretchen Roe: 00:52:30.584
This is the way a perfectionist will think. There’s only one way to do it; the right way.
Amanda Capps: 00:52:37.929
My way, preferably, I mean, if we’re being real. And yeah, and so I think– again, a meme comes to mind where you’ve got two people standing across from each other, and there’s a nine, if you look at it one way, or it’s a six, if you look at it the other way. And it’s not that either person is wrong because one person is really seeing a six, and one person is really seeing a nine. But it’s the fact that it’s not wrong, just different. It’s a different perspective. And I think that has been fascinating to me as an adult and having grown up in a family myself, the oldest of five kids. When we get together, and we recount memories, it’s like, “Wait a minute, what? That’s what you remember? That’s your perspective of what happened? Well, wow. I didn’t process it that way.” So again, but you never know that if you don’t have the discussion, if you don’t have the talk, if you don’t talk it through your internal, their internal. And never the twain shall meet if you’re staying inside, which is why our husbands always get so happy about, “Well, I can’t read your mind.” How many times have you heard that from a spouse that is frustrated because they don’t know what’s going on inside of you unless you let them in? And children are very much the same way. I mean, they need to be invited in. They need to be invited to dialog.
Amanda Capps: 00:54:18.719
And so going ahead and setting up an environment where that is a safe and effective tool is really critical. And then, as far as lifelong learning and growth mindset, I mean, we should always look at problems, challenges, and mistakes as an opportunity to learn and to correct whatever it is that we’re not doing correctly in the process because, okay, if it’s just staying a process, then we don’t have to put any emotion or ownership on that, right? It’s just a process. And one of the things that you said that I think is just huge is modeling. One of the biggest tools that we have as parents, and I think a lot of times, the reason kids are struggling with perfectionism or they’re struggling with making mistakes or failing is we’re missing that piece in our educating of our kids. We are–
Gretchen Roe: 00:55:25.708
[crosstalk] unmet expectation.
Amanda Capps: 00:55:28.280
Yeah, we’re really not modeling. And modeling is where they are seeing– we know that that is essential to the learning process.
Gretchen Roe: 00:55:41.424
Right. I think one of the most valuable experiences I’ve had in the last 10 years was to take up taekwondo because I was awful at it for a really long time. And being able to be alongside my child with something that they were better at than I was a really interesting experience and it allowed us to both create that growth mindset opportunity. So before we end, I want to circle back to– I know the parents who ask about participating here had said to us, “Well, how on earth do I–? what do I do with the constancy of meltdowns of perfectionism?” And in the moment, nothing. I would suggest to you that you sit down with your child, put your arm around them, say, “I love you. I’m here for you. And I’ll just sit with you until this is over.” But when it’s over, then it’s the opportunity to revisit their emotions, revisit how they got there, maybe revisit what their thoughts were in the process because they may be thinking they had the meltdown because they think they disappointed you. And for us as parents to say, “Oh, no, it’s never that outcome. It’s always the process and how much we love them and we support them and we’re there for them,” I think is a huge game changer. We’re almost at the top of the hour, Amanda. So what would be your closing thoughts to parents?
Amanda Capps: 00:57:35.431
Oh, well, I mean, to be honest, one of the biggest things that has helped me in my relationships and with my own perfectionist tendencies is a good therapist. Having someone who is knowledgeable and qualified to walk you through your own processes, identify those triggers or those pitfalls of negativity or just self-destructive thoughts because we all have them at times. There is not a person on the planet who is just happy-go-lucky and never has that experience. I mean there will be something in your life, some experience, some situation that you are like, “Oh, that was crushing. Wow, oh.” And I think the real beauty is if you get to the place where you can go, “That’s more about them than it is about me,” that’s where real growth happens. And that’s where we want to encourage our kids and hopefully help them or guide them to getting to that place.
Gretchen Roe: 00:58:55.286
So as we said at the beginning of the program, we don’t have all the answers. But we want to be intentional for you to think through the process. Probably, this session will have a greater extent of show notes than we typically publish because we want to give you some resources, some places to go to get some good information. And so look for that when the recording arrives to you. And if you’ve stumbled onto this recording, take a little bit of time to view the show notes. If you’re listening to us on the podcast, go to the blog, DemmeLearning.com/Blog, and read the show notes because I think you’ll find value in that content. This is Gretchen Rowe for The Demme Learning Show. Thanks so much for joining us today. You can access those show notes and watch the recording at DemmeLearning.com/Show or on our YouTube channel. Be sure to rate review, follow, or subscribe wherever you may be hearing this, especially if you liked the content. Thanks for joining us today, everyone. Have a wonderful afternoon.
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I shall enjoy the richness of today as my life is weaving an intricate, necessary pattern that is uniquely mine.Francis Marion
The definition that best fits the data is that perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, live perfectly, work perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.Brené Brown
Some root causes of perfectionism:
- A fear of judgment or disapproval from others
- Early childhood experiences, such as having parents with unrealistically high expectations
- Poor self-esteem
- Feelings of inadequacy
- A need for control
- Tying self-worth to achievements
- Having a mental health condition associated with perfectionist tendencies, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
We found this five-minute video clip from Dr. Russell Barkley, preeminent ADHD researcher, to be particularly helpful in understanding: You are the shepherd; you don’t get to design the sheep.
And this insightful TedMed talk about perfectionism: Our Dangerous Obsession with Perfectionism is Getting Worse
Remember, when the product is a reflection of YOU, rather than just something that you DID, it means you are internalizing the outcome and finding your worth in the product instead of the process.
We spoke of growth mindset, and this will help you understand how to share this concept with your children: How to Nurture a Growth Mindset in Kids: 8 Best Activities
And last, but not least, from our own blog: Help Your Homeschool Child Let Go of Perfectionism and Overcome Writer’s Block
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