Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Bottom Line

We had our meeting this morning with Teagan and her 1st grade teacher.

It went very well.

I believe that I will always be the parent who believes my child, who comes to the aid of my child, who stand up for my child.  It can sometimes be difficult to think in that place because my child plays games that play on that trust.

I'm not saying she's a devious little 6 year old who is plotting out ways to destroy her parent.  That will come in about 6 or 7 years, I think.

But she was playing an attention game. 

The anxiety is there and it is real.  But it is not specifically related to anything going on at school.

She likes her school, her teachers, her friends, her activities.

She is doing extremely well in her school work.  She knows classroom procedures inside and out.  She is a leader in the classroom because she knows all of those rules and she encourages others to follow them.

She still wants clear expectations, she still wants to do everything right and perfect.  If she doesn't do it right and perfect, then she throws in the towel for the day.

Now Jeff and I have to figure out how we manage this side of her personality.  Jeff is being very vocal about realizing that she "gets this from him."  But he doesn't seem to have much to input as to how to make it better, how to best serve her, parent her, and help her.

My daughter is a perfectionist. 

I've said before that one of the best examples I can give of her personality is that we don't have funny stories to share about things she said as a kid.  She never utters a "darndest thing."  Because she isn't going to talk about something if she doesn't think she's got it exactly right.  We didn't fully realize that until Zach came along and he says funny, off the cuff stuff all the time (like telling us the moon is made out of Buzz Lightyear's butt).  If she isn't sure it's right, she's not going to say it, communicate it, act on it.

Another example is something we are seeing in her homework and her teacher has seen in her schoolwork.  She does a fantastic job when she knows exactly what the expectation is and there are specific problems or questions to work through.  When the assignments rely more on your own creativity, she struggles.  Show her a picture of a beach, ask her to write something about it- she struggles.  She doesn't know what she's supposed to write.  She has a weekly poetry homework where she reads a poem and then is supposed to draw something about that poem.  She wants us to tell her what to draw, how to draw it and has to really be encouraged to just draw what she wants to draw.

She's concerned she's going to do it wrong and she'd rather just not do it at all.  It's that level of caution that we have seen in her since birth.  

As parents, we have a lot of learning to do in order to best help her personality grow and also to help her avoid the pitfalls of perfection.  She could easily go down a road of being a bully again or end up with an eating disorder or take the drive for perfection in the complete opposite direction and go to full on failure. 

Now she knows that home and school are all on the same page.  Now she knows that she can be the same at school as she is at home.  Now she knows that we will talk to her teacher and her teacher will talk to us anytime there is a concern. 

She feels more delicate and fragile to me than she ever has before.



Call Me Cate said...

I'm glad you were able to speak with the teacher so at least you know WHAT is going on, even if you aren't yet sure how to address it exactly. I have a feeling my husband was a bit like Teagan at that age. He's still a perfectionist. He still struggles with those out-of-the-box thinking assignments. He always gives complete and correct answers, or none at all (if you ask about the weather tomorrow, he can't say "cold" - he has to say a high of 43 and a 10% chance of precipitation because there is a low coming in from Canada and....).

None of those traits are necessarily bad, but I can see where they would make her struggle with those free-thinking assignments. I hope you'll find some ways to make progress soon but I'm just really happy to see that you're aware and trying.

kbiermom said...

How about giving her examples that show her that there is more than one right way to do something? Does your school display students' art on the walls? Have her pick out her three favorite pieces of art that are from the same assignment. Have her describe what is the same and different about them. She may begin to see that, even though the three are different, she still likes all of them -- so all of them are "right." Or she may find particular elements of style she tends to gravitate toward, and use that in her own art.

On the poetry assignments, maybe she needs help breaking it down. Have her write some words from the poem on pieces of paper, and draw a picture of that idea on the other side of the paper. Then have her arrange her pictures on a sheet of paper -- she can move them around, and experiment with composition -- and then draw on the sheet of paper when she feels that it's just right.

Alison said...

Love that photo--the thumbnail really caught my eye.

I can identify with the perfectionism; I'm only now realizing how my own has and does hold me back in various ways. One thing that helps me get out of it is to ask myself "so what?" So what if I do things out of order? So what if we're late? So I'll have to think about it a little harder. So they'll wait for us, or we'll just catch up. The world will not end!

It helps me see that nobody else will even notice the "problems" I'm hung up on. Maybe she's different than me, but if I realize the only one judging me is ME, I can sometimes relax.

Thinking about my own frustrations, I almost feel a bit sorry for Teagan having to deal with this trait all her life--but the fact is her Mommy is going to help her see it in herself, so she can use it to her advantage.

Well, now I'm jealous. :D

mimbles said...

*hugs* I feel for you, this is a hard road. But you'll get there. Teagan is super lucky to have you and Jeff and being able to identify the underlying cause of her issues puts you way ahead of the game.

I see a number of similarities between Teagan and my David, it's exhausting but it does get better as they get older and more self-aware.

Garret said...

I too love the photo! You take the bestest photos.

Liz's Mom said...

This is a comment that refers back to the blog article about the art teacher's bulletin board at the elementary school and to an article about mean children going to the moon (I think it was the moon.) Do you remember when Teagan was so mean and you finally figured out that it related to a book a teacher had read in school. The incident pointed out that Teagan couldn't articulate that influence. The art bulletin board might be a subtle clue. She may not realize that those are teacher drawings on the board. She might suppose they are student drawings. If she makes a mistake, her drawing might end up there on the no no board. A stretch--yes, as an adult; not so much if you are 6.