How to Teach Your Kid They Don’t Have to Be Perfect at Everything

Michelle Woo:

As children, we are at the mercy of our caregivers. When they are happy, they take better care of us (as a rule) and we feel safer. When they are not happy, we often feel as though there is a rupture in the relationship, either because the parent is more distant and less responsive, or maybe has a lower stress threshold, so things that normally the parent might find funny or endearing, the parent might react angrily to.

This is very scary to children because it is not following the normal patterns. The child experiences the parent’s response—both positive and negative—as a direct response to the child’s behavior. The child is not taking into consideration context or the parent’s mood outside of the relationship. This creates a sense of uncertainty. The child may think, “Last time I threw a pillow we had a pillow fight and Mommy was laughing. This time when I threw the pillow I got spoken to harshly. I wonder what I did wrong when I threw the pillow this time.” So this is laying the foundation for how magical thinking can create perfectionistic tendencies.
Tell me more about “magical thinking.”

Magical thinking is developmentally normal for small children and is at its peak between the ages of 2 to 7. It is the core of superstitions, like believing that you will bring yourself bad luck if you break a mirror.