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My son is in tears over art assignments, what to do?


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Last night, I dealt with a battle that has become a recurring story in our house. My 3rd grade son, who is highly intelligent, is also a major perfectionist.... its a major problem for him. Expressing himself in any way that is beyond a black and white "correct" answer is extremely painful. That translates to constant difficulty with fictional or opinion-based writing and art. Conversely, he is brilliant with math and logic.

 

I am trying to figure out how to handle the silly little art assignments that are given to him in his traditional school. Last night is an example. In class, the teacher asked the kids to choose a character in history, create a paper bag puppet and draw the character on it, and prepare an oral biography for the "puppet" to speak in class.

 

I knew from the start this would likely be a major crisis assignment for my son. He did ok with the research (thankfully), but it was the puppet that brought him to tears. He was literally on the ground in tears, hiding under furniture, etc. multiple times trying to create the perfect face, cut out the clothing just right, etc. etc. He cut out the hair at least 8 times before he was willing to compromise on how it looked enough to let me guide him a bit (and after a break at guitar lessons which thankfully reset him some). Its heartbreaking to watch. He can completely "spin out" over something so simple like this. On top of it, he's very literal - he states "the teacher told me every part of the bag must be colored - even the skin." and he's trying to do the assignment just as he's been told.

 

When these struggles happen, I ask myself, what is he learning here? Even his little sister was asking "why is this bothering you so much?" and I just know he has his own little internal brain battle going on that none of us understand.

 

But are these struggles good for him? Indeed he came out overcoming it and indeed compelted the puppet - He had to make compromises of his perfectionist goals of how the puppet should look and dealt with slightly messy lines, coloring etc. which is ultimately the result of the fact he is only 8 (my husband said once - his brain is a Ferrari in a Volkswagen body - so true!). So he did learn something.

 

But sometimes I just feel like these petty assignments aren't teaching him what is really important. And in turn they are also causing him so much frustration, angst and self-disappointment. They are simple little assignments that work for average kids. But he's basically smarter (according to his IQ) than likely every kid at the school and what he is getting from this is completely different. For him, the struggle isn't memorization of the biographical facts, he's got those down. And he's decent at speaking in front of class. His entire learning is all about getting himself past his own obstacles in his mind to allow himself to create the art.

 

Is this really the best thing for him to deal with these issues in a traditional classroom teaching environment? I consider it his own learning challenge... but its not labeled a "learning disability" and we don't have a good way to deal with it other than one step at a time. And I just wonder if its fair to put him in these situations.  The teacher understands his challenges. She'd probably be willing to let him skip the puppet. But he wants to be "normal" and do what the other kids do. So he isn't willing to do something different.

 

Really lost on how to move forward as the petty assignments continue in a traditional classroom environment. I don't want to pull him out of school because he loves his school and I think its good for him socially. But I feel like I am condemning him to torture sometimes with these kinds of assignments and don't know how to help him be happy, challenged & grow amidst his unique challenges & opportunities.

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FWIW, "I" would find that assignment annoying beyond repair.  I never understood the point of such things.  I guess it is a way to reach out to various learning styles, but it would be nice if a teacher would allow some sort of alternative. 

 

I would too.  All of the activities that are added to "make it fun" or "increase participation" strike me as "make work" projects and a waste of time. 

 

What he's learning is to be satisfied with less than his best.

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Hi!

 

I find I often have the same opinion of these annoying assignments - what's the point? I think. But then, my daughter who doesn't have the same challenges does just fine with them so I have to be reminded that these assignments work for most other kids.

 

So -- I tried that exact suggestion with my son - just print out something, trace something, whatever. He said "No, the teacher told us we have to *draw* it ourselves and also that *every* part of the bag must be colored." I run into this frequently - he 1) takes what she says way too literally & 2) wants to do the assignment the way the rest of the kids do. After all, they all present their puppets in class to each other, so he knows and the others do too if he's done something different. And he doesn't want to be different, I think. He wants to feel as capable as they are. Which adds to his pressure I am sure.

 

I've spoken many times with his teacher and I know shes willing to work with us, I am sure if I spoke with her she would've been fine with the modification to the assignment for him. But sometimes my son doesn't want a modification and sometimes it adds a delay that can create other problems with turning in things, keeping up with schoolwork.

 

I hear my own narrative and I know what my gut is telling me, that traditional school may not be possible for much longer. At least I know that's what I am thinking. But I would love to hear "success stories" if anyone has experienced something similar and knows a path to help your child get through these issues and stay in traditional school. I have bought him some "worry" books recommended to me - to help with anxiety. We may start working with a psychologist too. But I also know that part of his issues stem from his high intelligence and really hope for help that helps build upon his strengths not just focuses on his faults.

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What he's learning is to be satisfied with less than his best.

 Oh, you are so right. Then what do I do? I am reading the same message in "Genius Denied" - that our smart kids are being taught to "be average." I really want him to love learning and pursue what he is great at while working on overcoming challenges. But you are so right about this. It scares me deeply. What do I do!?!

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I have a perfectionist.  We try to focus on effort vs. outcome.  When he struggles with our co-op art assignments, I try to get him to focus on the fact that the teacher is looking for him to demonstrate some understanding of the technique, movement, artist, etc. via the project, vs. expecting a masterpiece.  I try to get him to understand *that* is the focus, not the end product in and of itself.  I am probably not articulating that well :/  

 

Have you read the book Mindset?  I found some of the language in there helpful for talking to him at a neutral time.  I have not read it yet, but there has also been some research in the last year or so about fostering "grit" in kids. They had a few researchers on talking about how we can encourage grit in our kids.

 

I totally understand where you are coming from.  My son is doing much better at age 10 than he was 2-3 years ago, if that helps any.  But it is definitely something we work on. 

 

 

 

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Well since it's a school assignment I guess you have to somehow get through it. What if you found a picture of the person, printed it out, and let him glue it on the bag? Instant perfect puppet. Would that be allowed?

 

FWIW, "I" would find that assignment annoying beyond repair. I never understood the point of such things. I guess it is a way to reach out to various learning styles, but it would be nice if a teacher would allow some sort of alternative.

Yes, it becomes the parent's homework (and time and hassle and worry). Hated these assignments when DS was in elementary. If the child is not capable of doing the project on his own, the project should not be assigned.

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I was just thinking well this should go away soon right.  He must be like 6.  But duh I just read what you typed again and you say 3rd grade?  Oy.  I still think that hopefully this sort of things isn't going to be typical moving forward.

 

But really, if it goes away, does it go away because the child has learned to not try?  To do a poor job and be satisfied?  To conform to the rest of the class? Is that the goal?

 

 

 

 

 

 I really want him to love learning and pursue what he is great at while working on overcoming challenges

 

 

 

But I'm a homeschooler so sure I can recommend it to you.   :laugh:

 

You have to pick the appropriate challenges.  And that is easier when you homeschool.

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I teach art classes, and see these melt-downs all the time. Know that your kid isn't unusual.

 

The best thing I've found to fight perfectionism is a good dose of modern art. Take out some books from the library that describe the life of Miro, Mondrian, etc. and read all about how their art wasn't perfect according to the standards of their day, yet is now worth millions.

 

Also, make sure to constantly remind him that art is subjective. One person's heap of trash is another persons exhibit at MOMA. Perfect isn't important, but the process of creating is.

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My DD is also a perfectionist, she almost never draws because the pictures don't look anything like what she has in her head. We've been trying the "praise effort over results" thing for quite awhile, and that seems to work for some things but still not for skills she really is weak on. It's so hard...But my new strategy has been to make mistakes in doing various things myself, draw messy pictures, cut sloppily, make mistakes in reading (that she corrects me on), etc. It seems to be helping her be a little less hard on herself. (Little story, she was overly upset with herself a couple of days ago when she dropped and broke a glass, so a few hours later I dropped and broke a glass myself just to show her it happens to everyone, lol. I'm foreseeing a lot of broken dishes in the next few weeks.)

 

If the teacher really is accommodating, can you ask her to be a little less specific when assigning meaningless projects? Why would she tell kids to color in all the skin???? Who the heck cares???? Why not foster creativity rather than perfectionism by telling the class they can create their puppets in any way they wish? In the meantime, I'd probably be coloring in the darned thing myself. I know grit is important in many school and non-school situations, but teaching perseverance with mindless things like coloring in the lines seems pretty pointless to me.

 

(Sidenote, I'd be really interested in titles to those worry books you mentioned!)

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I also wanted to come back to add that I am of the mindset that it is okay to only put in the *necessary* effort into *some* projects.  I think kids should strive for excellence in many things, but I also think that it is important to find a balance.  I was a type A student overall, but in my college major I was surrounded by the extreme of the extreme of type A personalities. I think there is some value in knowing when it is okay to do enough, kwim?  Most of us can't and maybe shouldn't give 100% to every aspect of our lives.  Is that terrible to say?  I was kind of thankful that I sometimes knew where to cut back on the effort to preserve myself so I could put forth the effort where it mattered.  For a kid who is a perfectionist, I think maybe it is a valuable skill to learn when it is okay to put in enough effort to get by.  For my son, that sometimes means explaining to him what the purpose of a project is.  While you were painting, were you thinking about the artist's technique?  Great.  That was the goal, kwim? 

 

Believe me, I want excellence from my kids in many things.  I talk to them a lot about effort, etc.  But I do think there is value for some kids in teaching them when to dial back and recognize what is *enough.*  Honestly, in college, the workforce, etc. I think there are times it is actually quite advantageous to do *enough* vs. striving for perfection and absolute excellence.  It is an important skill IMO to know when excellence is necessary vs. when it is okay to put in enough effort to get by.

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My dd has similar struggles, she's 6.  She is also highly sensitive and has sensory issues.  What has worked for us is giving her a certain number of tries at something.  For example, we discuss how many times she can try to draw Wilber from Charlottes Web before she has to choose her best work from all her attempts.  Sometimes it is three times or four times, as long as she knows how many tries she gets before she starts.  Also, we can talk a bit about what she thinks another six year could produce.  Does it match what she is expecting of herself?  I help her set realistic exceptions before she even starts.  Then we talk about what she likes and doesn't like about each of them.  That did not go smoothly the first couple of times, but she has made progress in this area and now will even say "I know it doesn't have to be perfect."  I believe it is okay for some work to be "good enough" and for our children to accept that as well.  We do the same concept with how many times she can put her shoes or clothes on before she has to leave them that way and see how she "feels" in 10 minutes.  I think there are benefits in allowing perfectionist children to struggle a bit and find contentment in the less-than-perfect.  

 

Another "exercise" I do with all of my children to help them enjoy the artist process more is give them art pencils with no erasers or even a sharpie marker.  We turn "mistakes" into "happy accidents."  "You didn't mean to draw that line there?  Okay, what can we turn that into?"  Thier drawings turn out very different than what they had planned, but they start to embrace the process more.  Or give them a funny line or shape and have them start there by tuning it into something else.  I also draw right along with them and proclaim my "oops" (as pp said) and let me see what I can turn my mistake into.  

 

Also, I will add that he will probably will always be more of a concrete thinker than an abstract thinker, but he is still young and has time to develop his abstract thinking and as he does, projects like that may become less frustrating naturally.  

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 I think there are benefits in allowing perfectionist children to struggle a bit and find contentment in the less-than-perfect.  

 

 

 

 

Two of you mentioend this important point and that's where I have landed as well - that there is some  learning going on to learn how to be flexible and accept compromise. These are important life skills. rimk3 - you have so many great recommendations I want you to come to my house and help my son! Well, ok, I will put some of your ideas to work.

 

I have emphasized the growth vs fixed mindset but some of you mentioned the importance of making mistakes in front of him which I like as well.

 

What I am realizing is that so many of you have been here before and there is so much value from learning from all of you hardworking parents! My son is the oldest of 3 and perhaps there is more effort needed than I realized with all of this. I am a highly conscientious parent-- but I think I need to be EVEN MORE to help him thru this all! 

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I might point out that the lesson isn't in puppet making skills, but in *whatever*.  The puppet is an enhancement of the lesson.  If he isn't enhanced by the enhancement, point out that it is, in fact, OKAY, to do less than your best.  He'll be prioritizing assigments soon enough w/the amount of homework kids receive.  You don't want the puppet to seem more important than it really is ;).

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They are important life skills for sure.  We can help them learn these skills gently and that is sometimes easier to do at home when we are able to adapt and pace the process.  But it can be done gently in a traditional school setting with a conscientious and caring teacher as well. 

 

One more exercise I do with my 8yr old son.  I poke a pencil through a piece of paper and then he holds the pencil and the paper covers his hand so he cannot see what he drawing.  We choose an object and he draws never looking at the actual drawing, only the object he is drawing.  The drawing will look funny and we usually laugh pretty hard.  He is then forced to focus on the process of seeing the object and the feeling of drawing without worrying about the product.  You have also put the limitation on him and threrfore he is free to make a mistake.

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(Sidenote, I'd be really interested in titles to those worry books you mentioned!)

 

 

This series is really good and has a little something for lots of troubled kids (these are picture books to read to your kids/they read themselves)

http://tinyurl.com/ls5v3oz

 

 

I can't vouch for this yet but it looked good & was recommended - I have bought it and waiting for the right time to get it out:

What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming Anxiety (What to Do Guides for Kids)

http://tinyurl.com/lpjo27x

 

This is a great book for parents to read:

Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students

http://tinyurl.com/ogcw266

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I'm sorry, but in a situation like this, I have trouble believing that any real positive learning is happening.  I know everyone is trying to help the OP look on the bright side and find a silver lining.  And obviously those are genuinely all good things to learn...  But do kids learn them best by having to spend hours crying and screaming about them, having breakdown after breakdown?  I have an anxious kid and if he was going through this, I don't think I'd be able to stand it.

 

To me, the school is trying to teach lessons about history, lessons about research, etc.  But is this the best way for this child to learn those academic and content skills?  Nope, clearly not.  They also are trying to let the kids be creative, let them be expressive, let them learn small motor skills and work on projects, but is this kid doing any of that?  Not really and any of it that he is doing is being overshadowed by the repeated drama.  Is he learning how to get over his perfectionism by doing this stuff?  I don't know, but honestly, when my kid is flipping out anxiety-wise day after day, we have to stop and regroup, we can't just keep going through it because he's not learning.  I think the way you get better is with baby steps and small exposures, but if this sort of assignment is common, it sounds like he's being tossed in the deep end repeatedly.  I don't think you learn to swim better by being repeatedly tossed in, I think you learn to panic every time you see water.

 

It's a school assignment, so you obviously have to figure out a way to handle it and I think you've gotten good advice from many people here.  Certainly many of these things are tricks we've used.  And I'll second whoever recommended the What to Do When You Worry Too Much book - that whole series is good.  And assuming there are lots of reasons he's in school and has to be, this is probably callous advice, but I can't help but think that the only thing I would want to do would be to take him out of that situation and build his confidence back up and find different ways for him to express himself than through this sort of pop assignment.

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I'm sorry, but in a situation like this, I have trouble believing that any real positive learning is happening.  I know everyone is trying to help the OP look on the bright side and find a silver lining.  And obviously those are genuinely all good things to learn...  But do kids learn them best by having to spend hours crying and screaming about them, having breakdown after breakdown?  I have an anxious kid and if he was going through this, I don't think I'd be able to stand it.

 

To me, the school is trying to teach lessons about history, lessons about research, etc.  But is this the best way for this child to learn those academic and content skills?  Nope, clearly not.  They also are trying to let the kids be creative, let them be expressive, let them learn small motor skills and work on projects, but is this kid doing any of that?  Not really and any of it that he is doing is being overshadowed by the repeated drama.  Is he learning how to get over his perfectionism by doing this stuff?  I don't know, but honestly, when my kid is flipping out anxiety-wise day after day, we have to stop and regroup, we can't just keep going through it because he's not learning.  I think the way you get better is with baby steps and small exposures, but if this sort of assignment is common, it sounds like he's being tossed in the deep end repeatedly.  I don't think you learn to swim better by being repeatedly tossed in, I think you learn to panic every time you see water.

 

It's a school assignment, so you obviously have to figure out a way to handle it and I think you've gotten good advice from many people here.  Certainly many of these things are tricks we've used.  And I'll second whoever recommended the What to Do When You Worry Too Much book - that whole series is good.  And assuming there are lots of reasons he's in school and has to be, this is probably callous advice, but I can't help but think that the only thing I would want to do would be to take him out of that situation and build his confidence back up and find different ways for him to express himself than through this sort of pop assignment.

 

I agree 100% with the bolded.  I also agree that not much learning was happening in the specific situation OP posted about as well.  Hopefully OP can find some gentle ways to help him at home that will build his confidence and provide some enjoyment in the process so that he is able to better cope when these type of assignments come up at school in the future.  I don't believe it is callouse advise, just honest.  

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...build upon his strengths not just focuses on his faults.

 

This is so important to me.  Our children will never be perfect. They will never be "even" in all areas. They will never even be "normal" in all areas.  They will always have faults.  I feel that my job as a parent is to help my child mitigate the faults to an acceptable level (she may never be the life of the party, but she'll enjoy going, etc.). But, that said, it's equally important to hone her strengths.  

 

Why focus on the bad when you can focus on the good?  Kid is a perfectionist? Awesome!!! I know a supervisory chemist at a drug manufacturer who fired one of her team because the chemist made two (minor) mistakes in two months.  Your child would be awesome at a job like that.  Etc. Hone that perfectionism, as long as it doesn't make him miserable. Teach him to be super careful where it matters. Encourage them to think about ways that getting it right matters (balancing bank accounts. ;) )  Give praise for appropriate use of perfectionism. And so on. 

 

Something to think about: the concept of perfectly average. Maybe, just maybe, it's perfect to be average at something. :)  Maybe, just maybe, you don't always want to be the best in the class at everything. Maybe, just maybe, you turn in average work on purpose.

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Your son sounds a lot like my brother - now a 27 yr old with a Masters in Mechanical Engineering.  We were reminiscing about homeschool co-op recently. He recounted how he HATED the art classes; he still feels a little frustrated when he thinks of them.  

 

Life gives perfectionists many opportunities to learn when excellence is required and when "good enough" needs to be sufficient.  In my personal opinion, making little kids deal with this issue in pseudo-educational situations (paper bag puppets) is counter-productive. 

 

I guess I'm a rebel, but I probably would have told the teacher we'd be passing on this assignment...Oh, wait. I did that a few times. Now we're homeschooling. :)

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That's why I refuse to do crafts with my little kids--we do ART, which comes from INSIDE the child and has no right or wrong (though there are teachable techniques in how to use the materials).

 

Just wondering--some of your post, OP, sets off a few warning bells for me. The rigidity, the low frustration level, the literal interpretation--is your little guy on the spectrum, perhaps?

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I have a gifted kid with perfectionist issues, particularly related to art. One thing that has been useful are true art classes. He says he hates going, but he receives very specific instruction on how to create a particular project. The end result usually looks amazing, far beyond what he could do on his own. This pleases him and helps him understand that even though art isn't something he was born good at (like math or logic), he can become better at it with work. (Ed Emberly's books have been good for that, too.) Sometimes his work still upsets him, but it's becoming less common.

 

Piano lessons teach a similar lesson. He does have natural talent in music, but the piano takes a lot of work. Mistakes happen.

 

My kid has also always been taught at the appropriate level, through acceleration at school and later homeschool. He can't always get all the answers right, and I make sure it stays that way. He's learning that getting 94% of his vocabulary quiz correct is great with me, and he should be satisfied, too. 100% is great, but when it happens all the time, not so much.

 

Others have spoken directly to your concerns about school assignments. I thought I would just share some things that have helped us with perfectionism. Good luck!

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I would suggest that you start teaching your son how to "play the game of school". He sounds pretty bright, so you can probably explain to him that some/many kids find research daunting, so the teacher assigned the puppet bit for a some light relief, to make the project more appealing to those children for whom the research is really hard work. Because the teacher is setting an assignment for a whole class, it is her job to make it suitable for as many students as possible, but not every assignment will suit your son individually. So he needs to become a detective and figure out what the teacher is trying to do with each piece of work. In the example you give, it's likely that learning about a famous person and putting together a short biography are the key points, so it's appropriate to spend time on that, and not spend excessive time and effort on the paper bag drawing. 

 

If this and other suggestions aren't helping, I'd advise you to consider looking into any other possibilities for you boy's education. Whether he is on the spectrum, gifted (or both), or something else altogether, it doesn't sound like his learning needs are being met in this setting. A certain amount of struggle and frustration may be character building, but what you described sounds like an unhealthy level of stress, for you as well as him.

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You mentioned they don't consider him to have LDs.  Has he had proper evals?  There's a lot that can happen that is not an LD.  My rule of thumb is that when it's affecting life enough that you come on the board and put it in front of 10 million strangers, it's pretty much time to get some evals and DO something about it. 

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I also wanted to come back to add that I am of the mindset that it is okay to only put in the *necessary* effort into *some* projects. I think kids should strive for excellence in many things, but I also think that it is important to find a balance. I was a type A student overall, but in my college major I was surrounded by the extreme of the extreme of type A personalities. I think there is some value in knowing when it is okay to do enough, kwim? Most of us can't and maybe shouldn't give 100% to every aspect of our lives. Is that terrible to say? I was kind of thankful that I sometimes knew where to cut back on the effort to preserve myself so I could put forth the effort where it mattered. For a kid who is a perfectionist, I think maybe it is a valuable skill to learn when it is okay to put in enough effort to get by. For my son, that sometimes means explaining to him what the purpose of a project is. While you were painting, were you thinking about the artist's technique? Great. That was the goal, kwim?

 

Believe me, I want excellence from my kids in many things. I talk to them a lot about effort, etc. But I do think there is value for some kids in teaching them when to dial back and recognize what is *enough.* Honestly, in college, the workforce, etc. I think there are times it is actually quite advantageous to do *enough* vs. striving for perfection and absolute excellence. It is an important skill IMO to know when excellence is necessary vs. when it is okay to put in enough effort to get by.

I agree with this.

 

My dh is a perfectionist and struggles with this A LOT at his job. He simply doesn't have enough hours in the day to do every single thing to perfection and he has a really hard time letting things...ANY things....go. His boss, who is a wonderful lady, is constantly trying to help him work on this skill...knowing how to pick and choose where to put in the effort, and where to just get things done and move on. I think that it is a valuable, and necessary life skill.

 

DS is also a major perfectionist and sounds a lot like the the OP's son. Although he is only 6. I am constantly working with him on this. We homeschool, so I can avoid certain assignments, but it still comes up. For example, handwriting has been a nightmare for us because he wanted it to look perfect from day 1. He still gets really upset if he accidently writes a letter backwards or forgets to put a space between words or something.

 

I will second a suggestion someone already made to model making mistakes. Ds loves to correct me when I am reading. I have got to remind myself to try that more often in other areas.

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I would also recommend reading Mindset. Dweck explains how well-meaning praise backfires and produces individuals who are afraid to fail and therefore, don't develop their talents and interests.

 

http://mindsetonline.com/whatisit/about/index.html

http://nymag.com/news/features/27840/

 

I haven't read this author yet, John Gottman, but you might find some suggestions to help you learn to respond to and coach your son when he's feeling anxious.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Raising-Emotionally-Intelligent-Child-Parenting/dp/0684838656/ref=la_B002H0RGXA_1_1/186-6194539-5523326?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1400347585&sr=1-1

 

If your son tends to be anxious, it is likely the amygdala in his brain is overactive. It is not too difficult to change that in kids or old geezers but it does take commitment. Chapter 11 of Richard Davidson's book The Emotional Life of Your Brain explains how to do it. Dan Goleman also has books and guided CDs explaining how to do this and why it's important. Both are neuroscientists who have studied these areas extensively.

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This series is really good and has a little something for lots of troubled kids (these are picture books to read to your kids/they read themselves)

http://tinyurl.com/ls5v3oz

 

 

I can't vouch for this yet but it looked good & was recommended - I have bought it and waiting for the right time to get it out: What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming Anxiety (What to Do Guides for Kids)

http://tinyurl.com/lpjo27x

 

This is a great book for parents to read: Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students

http://tinyurl.com/ogcw266

My almost 6 year old is an anxious worrier. We bought the What To Do When You Worry Too Much book and I can't say it changed our lives, but did help her express what she was feeling. In that way, it was a big help.
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  • 2 weeks later...

 

 

Just wondering--some of your post, OP, sets off a few warning bells for me. The rigidity, the low frustration level, the literal interpretation--is your little guy on the spectrum, perhaps?

 

 

We wondered that too.... but we've had him very thoroughly tested. What we have learned is that he's extremely gifted, beyond what we thought possible in our child. All tests have come back that he isn't on the spectrum or nor does he have an LD. But what I've learned is that it is a spectrum and there are levels of certain things in many of us. Clearly he has some in him - not enough to be on anyone's radar in testing but I have learned a lot from reading about autism and aspergers solutions because of my awareness of his tendencies that match up here.

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I have a 2e Aspie with hit and miss fine motor problems (can NOT cut, but he can knit), problems with getting worked up about directions ("but she said I have to..."), etc. His best handwriting varies in quality from one day to the next. His best cutting with scissors ranges from appalling to him to "well, it still looks mostly like a circle, so good enough." I disagree that having him stop short of perfection is teaching him to aim for being mediocre--what's in his head is not mediocre, and not having the physical skills to reproduce that is not setting him up for mediocrity. It's showing him that there are limits (unfortunately in this case, the limits are totally unrelated to whether or not he's learning how to speak in public, so the frustration serves no purpose). What if he had carefully planted a garden, and it rained so much that the seeds rotted in the ground (this really happens sometimes)? Was his garden mediocre, or was the garden fine, and the yield mediocre because the weather was limited and less than ideal?

 

We are homeschooling largely because I'm tired of everyone trying to tell me what is or is not a meaningful learning experience for my child when they don't see the meltdowns at home. I do make him do things that bring up perfectionism, anxiety, and difficulty, but when it's not in front of a whole class, and he's not trying to match what the teacher said and then some, it all goes much better. We can ratchet the dose down and take our medicine more effectively. My son is very willing to put himself out there and try stuff if the environment is low stakes and open. We see him do a lot of things outside his comfort zone that are creative, require fine motor skills, etc. It's not an all or nothing thing, but it can be difficult to accomplish. I think you've gotten some great suggestions to help you find a way to do that.

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