Stress, School and Perfectionism – A Kid’s Perspective

Teenager with booksA child’s desire to get everything just right may be their downfall. Imagine sitting in front of a blank screened computer, trying to think of the perfect way to start an essay. All the pressure put on kids to succeed, especially in competitive honors classes with teachers that ask for work to be “brilliant, timely and impressive,” can make it hard to get anything done. Kids just get stuck…a lot like writer’s block. Students will tend to worry about making every detail perfect rather than just getting the essay done. It seems the concept of the rough draft has been lost. As a student in Honors Language Arts I have had my fair share of experiences like this.

More recently, I was writing an essay about a novel and I couldn’t think of how to start my essay, which typically is the hardest part. I felt lost, frustrated, stressed, anxious, hopeless, sad. The list goes on and on. I wasn’t satisfied by anything that popped into my mind. Many kids like to jump right into their writing without making an outline, but I think in this case an outline would be very helpful. The key, however, is to create an effective outline. In grade school we are taught that outlines are for laying out the structure of your piece, but when you can’t think of what to say, writing random things that pop into your head and then letting your brain naturally improve upon them is good to get the creative juices flowing. That is the key to good outline writing. And if during your writing process you find a bunch of ideas rushing through your mind that you want to implement later in your essay, write them down.

Many kids don’t do a whole lot of editing, either. They try to get it right immediately without taking the time to make many changes. After you have made your outline and you have some rough inspiration written down on paper, sit down and write something very crude. If you try to do it on the first try rather than making edits you are going to spend a long time trying to get a masterpiece out of thin air. As the philosopher Voltaire said, “The enemy of the good is the perfect”. After all, most teachers give sweet little girl bored under stress with a tired face expressionrough draft due dates for a reason. After you are done with your rough draft you should spend a lot of time improving on the essay. This is a safe bet for meeting the requirements and turning everything in on time. In fact, I am using this strategy to write this post right now. I have created a great metaphor for this concept – building on Voltaire’s saying: “It’s easier to polish a turd than it is to poop diamonds.” It basically means that it is easier to polish something bad than it is to poop something as hard and pointy as cut diamonds. Please excuse the terminology, but I am a teenage boy.

Of course, this solution doesn’t apply to all cases and the best place to start is to always make sure you understand the problem. Stress can come from many places: parents, teachers, other students…it can even come from the stressed student. As a parent, if you want to help, make sure your child doesn’t put too much pressure on him/herself. Also, take steps to make sure you are not putting too much pressure on them to excel. As a child, I know that the stress of school can negatively affect kids mentally, physically, and emotionally. Your child may not get enough sleep because they’re staying up late to finish or “perfect” their work which can affect growth and development.

Signs to look for that school and stress have your child down:

  • They may seem sad or depressed.
  • They may not be as confident as usual.
  • They may be avoiding explaining how much homework they have or procrastinating.
  • They might not be participating in many activities or not taking much interest in a subject that they used to love.

They say “all work and no play makes for a dull person” but where kids are concerned, probably one that’s pretty stressed too, so encourage your child to do more than school work. And if your child is in a bad place the best thing for you to do is to be supportive and positive. Help them as much as possible. But, you know your child best, so do what you think suits them best.

About the Author

Elliott is a thirteen year old 8th grader who lives in the Midwest. He has a wide range of interests from sports such as rugby, soccer and mountain biking to arts, cooking and video games. Elliott is a member of the National Junior Honor Society and was chosen to be a Junior Achievement ambassador. He has taken babysitting classes and looks after a boy with special needs. Elliott hopes to draw from his wide range of interests and many experiences to contribute a kid’s perspective to Pediatric Safety.


One Response to “Stress, School and Perfectionism – A Kid’s Perspective”

  1. Christel says:

    Hi Elliott, another very insightful post and very well written! It’s so easy to forget all the great points you have outlined here so beautifully. Remember , every journey starts with the first step. Good advice for parents (and grandparents), too.

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