For his birthday, my sister-in-law and brother gave Jake a number of easy-reader books, some featuring his new favourite character, Finn McMissile.  Jake picked them up and read them to me, only needing help on a few of the words.  What a smart little boy, I thought. 

He is a smart boy.  He can read and spell things phonetically and he has exceptional aptitude for numbers and patterns.  He has an incredible imagination, he builds interesting Lego structures and he can make up elaborate stories and scenarios.  He is very bright.

But he doesn’t think so.

He has trouble with his printing and his fine motor skills – his printing is very neat and accurate, but it is difficult for him and takes a great deal of effort.  He has seen occupational therapists and he has a tutor; he has hyper flexible joints and so pencil control is difficult.  I don’t know if you have had a child in Grade One, but the curriculum is very heavy on printing, colouring, and drawing

The first couple weeks of school have been fine; I’ve expected Jake to be more tired than he is.  I’ve expected him to have difficulty adjusting to the new routines, but he hasn’t.  But it’s coming out in different ways, I’m finding, it’s coming out as anxiety about doing well at school.  He seems to feel that if he cannot do something perfectly, the very first time, then he is not good at that thing and he never will be.

It’s very frustrating.  Even more frustrating is that I am kind of the same way.  I was a very anxious child; I needed to be perfect at everything I did, I bit my nails to the quick for two decades, I had problems sleeping,  I was constantly worried that some disaster would befall – maybe the house would burn down while I was in bed, maybe ferocious animals would escape from the zoo and eat me alive, maybe every one of my friends would move away and I would have no one to talk to.

I also remember erasing all my work and starting over because it didn’t look quite right.  I remember that feeling and I think about Jake feeling that way and it makes me feel ill.

When our children struggle in the same exact way we struggled, we have the tendency to forget important points: that struggles are character building, that struggles make us who we are, that struggles are part of life.  What I need to do is allow Jake to struggle – with help and support, of course, always with encouragement – but what I want to do is erase his struggles altogether. 


  1. It’s almost eerie – I just yesterday emailed Eve’s teacher because Eve burst into tears trying to finish her reading book and when I looked at it it was clearly much too difficult for her. I told the teacher that I’ve tried to ease my kids’ anxiety and perfectionism but I’m afraid it’s genetic. Angus used to be much worse, but it gets much better with age (and constant reassurance):).

  2. Whew that’s hard…
    I too was and still am a perfectionist. I think the best thing to do is keep giving him positive affirmations on his work and helping to build his self esteem.
    Poor guy. ((hugs))

  3. That’s such a hard thing to watch – our oldest is the same way. It is getting better, though, with lots of reassurance and encouragement.

    Hope Grade 1 turns around soon.

  4. One of the hardest things about parenting is that we see our “faults” emerging in our kids. My eldest is so much like me it freaks me out. Well, it freaks me out and pisses me off, because he’s so stubborn (much like me). Today we had an argument that there is a silent -Q in the middle of the word carpet. I was — I would like to state for the record — not a member of “Team Carqpet.”

  5. I can be harder on number one, because I see myself in him, and the struggles he will have later and then I realize I am just like my dad, who was hard on me because I was just like him. But it is a very hard cycle to break.

  6. Oh, I am feeling your pain so much right now.

  7. My boy, Ivan, is the same way. He seeks perfection. Craig, my husband, and I make sure we make mistakes around him and shrug it off. He notices these things and I hope they are helping out. One time we purposefully forgot to add an ingredient to a cake and it turned out flat. We shrugged it off, tried to eat it and then had a good laugh when it tasted weird.

  8. That is rough. It sounds a little like dyspraxia…but really I have no idea what I’m talking about. What I do know is that I agree with Nan. It’s so hard to see our “faults” in our kids. I think it’s one of the reasons I have such a tough time with my older kid. He’s me! Only small! But still unwielding.

  9. While I appreciate my struggles made me stronger and a better worker/student, I hope my child doesn’t have to struggle quite so hard. And be good at math.


  10. My boys both struggle with fine motor issues. They are both triple jointed and can make their fingers contort in such crazy ways. My oldest is 14 now. When he was little he never wanted to color or write. He was a busy little guy, we didn’t think much of it. Then came the year before school and we tried to get him more interested in coloring and writing. He wanted nothing to do with it and so began our very, very long struggle. It was such a surprise to me to learn that my son didn’t want to do things if he couldn’t do them right or perfect the first time. In his head he had a vision of what he wanted to see on the paper, but with the low muscle tone he couldn’t make it so he wouldn’t do anything. When the teacher told me what seemed to be the issue I called my mom. I said, “Mom he just won’t do anything unless it is perfect the first time.” My mother burst out laughing, not because she was cruel, but because she dealt with the very same thing with me.

    It has been a long road to 14 with my oldest. He has ADHD and is super bright. That along with fine motor issues is a recipe for disaster. He has so much in his head because he is bright and has ADHD that to get his hands to produce what he wants to communicate is tough for him, but has gotten much better. My youngest has the same issues, less the ADHD(thank god). He gets so frustrated with himself. He is more slow, steady and meticulous. I have met more OT’s, PT’s, and specialists through the years than I can count.

    I write this to first of all let you know that I know your struggle too. The one piece of advice I have for you is fight for and embrace the integration of technology into your son’s day at school. At least here where I am, that has been an up hill battle. Thankfully computers are much more commonplace in the class room now and educators seem to now understand that you can’t just give a kid computer and they will be able to type and everything will be fine. With instruction and practice they do great.

    BTW, I have no recall of being such a perfectionist. My big concern was that we would run out of gas in the car and be lost. My mom always reminds me of how much ‘fun’ that would make Sunday drives.

    Not all kids fit in the same box and our educators sometimes need a gentle reminder of that.

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