Seeking perfection is often a good thing, striving for the best. However, when it comes to music students in development, striving to do everything perfect can be a hinderance.
More often than not perfectionistic students will reluctant to answer questions, or start tasks unless they are sure they know the right answer.
Such students often become very frustrated if they can’t perform a task up to a certain standard, or get a lower grade. Doing homework becomes a long-lasting process as any imperfection leads to a new start from scratch.
All this becomes a problem as not only do students get frustrated, but it takes time they could spend learning new things instead of starting over and over again on one task. It also affects their learning speed and the ability to solve problems as guessing is not an option for them and trying new activities is also off limits.
An additional danger is that perfectionistic behaviour can progress and develop over time making students who already work very slow work even slower as they grow.
If they refuse to try new things during their young ages, they will surely refuse to try new things as they move forward.
1. Making Mistakes is Not Wrong
To understand your perfectionistic students, you as a teacher have to understand that perfectionism in this form is actually anxiety, fear from failure, fear from making mistakes. This is something a teacher should help the students with. Helping them understand that mistakes and wrong answers are only a part of the learning process, and helping them get over such situations in a more calm and collected manner. Teach them to remind themselves that it is not wrong to make a mistake, it is wrong not to learn from it, not to try harder after you make one. Show your students that you make mistakes, and bring the mistakes you make to the attention of your students.
2. Practice Makes Perfect
Once you help your students understand the fact that mistakes are a part of the learning process, push them to practice working faster, push them to situations where they are inevitably going to make mistakes so that they get used to the process of handling their mistakes and problem solving. Teach them that guessing some answers is also ok as long as you get to the end result faster. Learning to cope with such situations is likely to decrease anxiety levels. Practicing this can be done through games or activities that require snap decisions.
3. Curb the Perfectionism
This should certainly not be misinterpreted. While you are encouraged to urge your students to strive for the best, you should not allow for the perfectionistic behaviour to escalate to the point where the student restarts their work during the lesson, or he/she does the homework over and over again and ends up not finishing it.
Allowing this to go on would mean encouraging their behaviour. On the contrary make your students turn in work or homework, no matter the completion level. While this could cause panic, you should be able to control the situation, by showing that you understand that they are anxious and afraid of doing something wrong or below standard. Tell them to take a break, pause, breathe slowly and deeply for a while and offer to help them solving the issue. Diverting their attention to something else can be helpful before trying the task again by dividing it into smaller stages and praise your student for every step completed. Also, make sure to communicate the timeframe for a task, and once the time is over there is no more working on the task or homework, no matter if it is completed or not.
4. Praise the Effort
If you focus on the grades your child or student is getting, you are doing something very wrong. This will increase the anxiety levels as fear of not bringing the right grades home can have a negative effect. Instead, try paying more attention to the effort your child, if you are the parent, or student, if you are the teacher, put into completing a task. Praise them if they have tried to control their perfectionistic impulses, praise them if they tried to complete the task within the agreed limit, if they refused to start over and tried to guess or problem solve quickly. This will show them that you appreciate the effort they put in.
5. Patience Is a Virtue
This is something every parent/teacher should work by when it comes to perfectionistic students. Understand the nature of the child and don’t perceive them as lazy or stubborn. Some habits or impulses can’t be changed over night so make sure you give it time and do what you can to help the student get over the issues and learn how to perform tasks in a different way.