Monday, May 18, 2015

Happy Quirks of Perfectionism in a Young Asynchronous Boy

When my 2 year old son discovered that he wrote one letter of his name backwards, he threw himself on the floor and howled for 30 minutes. It was an unbelievable and uncontrollable temper tantrum. Nothing I did consoled him and I felt just as defeated. But since that first outburst, I have learned that perfectionism comes with happy quirks too.

1. There is a place for everything and everything is in its place. 

My son has always had his own meticulous sense of order. 

2. The passion is intense and obsessive. And long-term.

As Marianne Kuzujanakis states in her must-read post Unstoppable, "It is without question a hunger. A devouring of information and experiences. An unstoppable force of nature."

For my son, this means an obsession with actors and the performance arts. When he was 3 years old , he confided in an immigration officer that his real name was "Michael Jackson".

Since then, his pretend play developed into acting on stage. In the last three years, he has appeared as an Oompa Loompa in Willy Wonka, a Caroler Soloist in Bah Humbug, Charlie and the Pirate Ghost in the Headless Horseman, Noah Claypole in Oliver Twist, Michael Darling in Peter Pan, and in two local Improv and Comedy Sketch shows. When he is not acting in the theatre, he is taking an acting class or studying actors and their work. 

In the recent few years, he has chosen to research on Rowan Atkinson, Matt Smith, Dana Carvey, Roy Rogers, Bruce Lee, and Johnny Depp for his Notables projects.

3. "Test Me, Mama!" 

There is an innate yearning to learn as much as he can on a subject of interest.

My son started reading three letter words when we has 3 years old. Within months, he was reading chapter books on his own. He would often read something and ask, "Test me, Mama!" He wanted to show me that he completely understood something he read by himself. The clip below is my son reading a book aloud at 4 years old.

This desire to be tested has not waned. He has always loved music and recently has enjoyed listening to the Doctor Who soundtrack. Soon enough, he asked me to "test" him on the different tracks. Although the theme music through the years sounded pretty similar to me, he found joy in being able to distinguish one from the other by year and Doctor. Check out the video below at 2:10 when I begin to test him.

4. A Creator of Systems

There is an intrinsic motivation to create something entirely original and new. In the video below, my son created the idea of an alien pet after he was told he could not have a real one. This project included origins, birth, stats, characteristics, etc.

5. Jack of All Trades and Master of a Few.

Perfectionists are excellent at many, many things because of their natural curiosity, interest, and determination. 

6. Perfectionists are not People Pleasers.

The Independent Kid prefers to have control over what he focuses on and how. Any suggestion otherwise brings on an intense struggle and unhappiness. Some days, this Little Rebel can be tough for his homeschool Mama. But there are also some days when I see him shine in ways I never thought he would and I can't help but be so proud of him.

7. Perfectionists stand out in their own ways in different situations.

While there are academic and performing achievements in my son's short history, a singular event stands out in my mind. Two years ago, we were eating out at a restaurant and my son saw a lady in her 60's eating by herself. He wrote her this note and asked a waitress to give it to her anonymously. It says "You look like a movie star in that shirt. From Superman."  

What I've Learned

While perfectionism offers many challenges, we often lose sight of its advantages. Let us remember that by celebrating these happy quirks, we allow our children to accept and delight in one of the fundamental parts of their being.

I am participating in the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum May 2015 Blog Hop: Perfectionism and Other Gifted/2E Quirks.


  1. Good read. I'll add, however, that I've seen a number of hg/pg kids with perfectionists tendencies/issues who are extreme people pleasers.

  2. Love this. BTW, the Skimml video is gorgeous.

  3. I love the Superman note! What a thoughtful guy. My daughter likes to leave a note for the cook any time we eat at a restaurant - she says no one ever sees him/her and they do all the work! "there are also some days when I see him shine in ways I never thought he would and I can't help but be so proud of him."<----I couldn't agree with that statement more!

  4. Yes, we need to celebrate the happy quirks of our children. Important!