My 5 year old is an intense perfectionist. I'm having trouble encouraging her to practice things she's not good at, because as soon as she doesn't do something perfectly, she gets a defeatist attitude about it and gives up. We hear "I'll never be able to do it" quite a lot. And I'm not talking about academic work. I'm talking about things like drawing and coloring. If she wants to draw a flower, she gets so frustrated when her "flower" doesn't look like a real flower that she declares she doesn't want to color anymore. I'm not going to force her to sit down and draw, but I also don't feel right just letting her quit all the time. This happens with everything from learning to tie shoes to doing a puzzle. We try our best to always praise effort over results and talk often about things that Mom and Dad weren't able to do at first, but learned to do with practice.

Any tricks out there for helping a preschooler overcome frustration and try again?

asked 28 Sep '09, 18:30

erin's gravatar image

accept rate: 31%

edited 28 Sep '09, 23:25

Scott's gravatar image

Scott ♦♦

Let her know the goal is to continuously get better, not to be perfect.

To teach this, you could give her a game where the goal is trying hard rather than actually winning (because winning is impossible). A typical computer game for example might be Tetris or something too hard for her to beat (Mario or something), but you could also play some board game of skill where you'll beat her.

Play it with her and praise her intensely when she tries her best and loses. Let her know the goal is to keep working and get a little better at a time.


answered 28 Sep '09, 19:54

epaga's gravatar image

accept rate: 25%

Our 5 year old has similar tendancies from time to time. Like Ratinox suggested a break can be good. We try and take the time to explain why she should not feel so frustrated when we see the symptoms we believe to be related to frustration.

We use ourselves as examples and ask her to tell us the points that she thinks Dad is better at, she enjoys that. Then we ask her to say the things that she thinks I am better at. Then we talk to her about things that she enjoys and things that she is good at, and then we talk about things that she is still learning.

The moodiness swings in from time to time, but has certainly decreased over the last four months or so, which tells me that we have found whats right for us. You may need to try several different approaches before you see any improvement.


answered 28 Sep '09, 20:15

Emi's gravatar image

accept rate: 19%

Our eldest is a bit like this; what we usually do is take a break from the activity for five or ten minutes, go do something else - like read a story - and then come back to it.

We make a point of trying to catch it before she goes into full defeatist mode, and we do make it clear that we're coming back to the activity; it doesn't always work, but over time her frustration threshold seems to have gotten better.


answered 28 Sep '09, 19:03

Ratinox's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

We have a 5 year old daughter who didn't want to do something if she wasn't the best at it or couldn't win. She's gradually cottoned to the idea that she can only be the best at something if she practices it. When she wanted to quit, we would tell her to try again and we would help her to note where she'd improved, even if only slightly.

There's still some lingering issues around this, but generally she'll keep at an activity until she's satisfied.


answered 29 Sep '09, 00:00

bbrown's gravatar image

accept rate: 21%

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Asked: 28 Sep '09, 18:30

Seen: 4,211 times

Last updated: 29 Sep '09, 00:00