“Perfectionists” as Children (Type One)

Three fish from "The Enneagram of Parenting"

One parent reported his son would line up grains of sand in his crib in perfect lines as a baby. He grew up to become a Perfectionist airplane pilot, a good occupation along with dentist, surgeon and other careers where being exact is important. Some Perfectionist children become teachers’ pets for being obedient, turning in assignments on time, and encouraging their peers to do what’s expected of them. When I taught piano lessons, I tried to downplay the importance of getting every note right. Some children applied their own pressure to themselves, though, and I couldn’t convince them that a wrong note here and there was nothing to be ashamed of. I suspect it was most often the Perfectionists who were most likely to burst out in tears when they made mistakes.

Walter One from "Finding the Birthday Cake"

As is often the case in the Enneagram, there are two kinds of Perfectionists: the meticulous one featured in these two cartoons and the kind that pays more attention to principals, ideals, and causes. This second type might grow up to be an ecologist, consumer activist, or minister. Of course, both aspects can be combined in the same person. Perfectionists want to do what is right and usually strive to improve themselves throughout their lives.

In order to reduce the stress of Perfectionist children, parents and teachers do well to encourage creativity and free play. Creativity and having fun get children in touch with their own desires and beauty so they have less time to focus on what they “should” or “ought to” be doing. It helps to schedule in these times, especially for the most serious Perfectionists.

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