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Perfectionism and Gifted Students: Our Favorite Books

Gifted Resources

Perfectionism is a combination of the desire to be perfect, the fear of imperfection, and the sense that being perfect will bring acceptance as a person.

“Perfectionistic behaviors include such things as over-commitment, super sensitivity to criticism, compulsive attention to detail, and procrastination.

“Perfectionistic thoughts can include, “I’m never good enough”, “I’m only acceptable if I’m perfect”, and, “If I make a mistake, there’s something wrong with me.”

“Perfectionistic feelings include disgust with oneself, anger, anxiety, and shame.

“Perfectionism burdens your life, interferes with creativity, and makes intimate relations difficult. It is never healthy.”

~ Dr. Thomas S. Greenspon

It is not uncommon for highly gifted students to be perfectionists. Below are some of our community’s favorite books related to the topic of perfectionism, listed in alphabetical order.

Being Perfect
Anna Quindlen, author of the bestseller A Short Guide to a Happy Life, wrote this book to let readers know about “the perfection trap,” the price you pay when you become ensnared in it, and the key to setting yourself free. Quindlen believes that when your success looks good to the world but doesn’t feel good in your heart, it isn’t success at all.

Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students: Helping Kids Cope with Explosive Feelings 
Provides a much-needed resource for parents and educators for understanding of why gifted children are so extreme in their behavior and how to manage the highs and lows that accompany emotional intensity. Presented in an easy-to-read, conversational style, this revised and updated second edition contains additional chapters addressing temperament and personality development, as well as expanded role-plays and strategies designed to show parents and teachers how to interact and guide gifted children in a way that teaches them how to recognize, monitor, and adjust their behavior.

How to Take the ACHE Out of Mistakes
Making a mistake can leave anyone feeling sick in the stomach or thinking that the world is going to end. Learning how to cope with mistakes—and how to stop that “ache”—can be one of the hardest parts of growing up. This book takes a closer look at the mistakes kids make—honest and intentional—and offers practical advice on how to bounce back. With a healthy dose of humor, readers learn that embarrassing moments aren’t forever and a sincere apology can go a long way.

Letting Go of Perfect: Overcoming Perfectionism in Kids
Written by Jill L. Adelson, Ph.D. and Hope E. Wilson, Ph.D., this book pinpoints a crippling state of mentality among many kids today—the need to be absolutely perfect—and gives parents and teachers the guidance and support they need to help children break free of the anxieties and behaviors related to perfectionism.

Living With Intensity: Understanding the Sensitivity, Excitability, and the Emotional Development of Gifted Children, Adolescents, and Adults
This book describes the overexcitabilities of gifted students, as well as strategies for dealing with children and adults who experience them. It also provides essential information on Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration. Learn practical methods for nurturing sensitivity, intensity, perfectionism, and much more. Also view the article, Tips for Parents: Living With Intensity – Overexcitabilities in Profoundly Gifted Children.

Moving Past Perfect: How Perfectionism May Be Holding Back Your Kids (and You!) and What You Can Do About It
In this book, author Tom Greenspon explains perfectionism, where it comes from (including influences outside the family), and what to do about it. He describes a healing process for transforming perfectionism into healthy living practices and self-acceptance. If you think your child may be a perfectionist–if you’ve ever wondered if you’re a perfectionist–this book is for you.

Penelope Perfect
This encouraging story told in cheerful rhyme will speak to kids who deal with perfectionism or other forms of anxiety. The book concludes with tips and information to help parents, teachers, counselors, and other adults foster dialogue with children about overcoming perfectionism and coping when things don’t go according to plan.

Perfectionism and Gifted Children
During her 35 year career, Rosemary Callard-Szulgit found perfectionism to be the number one social-emotional trait of gifted children. She has helped hundreds of students recover from its harmful effects. This book provides insight into perfectionism, discussing why so many gifted children are perfectionists, while providing common sense solutions.

Perfectionism: A Practical Guide to Managing “Never Good Enough”
For perfectionists of all types, whether children or adults, this practical guide explains myths about perfectionism and provides a new paradigm with practical steps to turn the negative into positive, build resilience, and develop optimism. Goals, perseverance, mindset, and self-talk are emphasized. The author, Lisa Van Gemert, is an educator and widely-known speaker and was Youth and Education Ambassador for Mensa. She understands perfectionism in herself as well as through her work.

Perfectionism: What’s Bad about Being too Good?
This thought-provoking book by Miriam Adderholdt, Ph.D., and Jan Goldberg explains the differences between healthy ambition and unhealthy perfectionism and gives strategies for recognizing the symptoms. Learn how to: Identify what perfectionism can do to your mind and body, Recognize what perfectionism can do to your relationships, Set reasonable standards for yourself, Take positive risks and more. This book can also provide adults insight into how their behavior and expectations can contribute to perfectionism in the teens they parent and teach.

Smart Parenting for Smart Kids: Nurturing Your Child’s True Potential
This book explains the reasons behind a number of struggles related to perfectionism, effort, and more, and offers parents do-able strategies to help children cope with feelings, embrace learning, and build satisfying relationships. Drawing from research as well as the authors’ clinical experience, it focuses on the essential skills children need to make the most of their abilities and become capable, confident, and caring people.

Social-Emotional Curriculum With Gifted and Talented Students
Written by Joyce VanTassel-Baska, Ed.D., Tracy L. Cross, Ph.D. and F. Richard Olenchak, Ph.D., this book provides a thorough introduction to methods for developing social-emotional curricula for use with gifted and talented learners in the school setting. It covers theories to guide affective curricula, the needs of minority students, models to develop social-emotional curricula, tips for counseling gifted students, and strategies to promote the social-emotional needs of gifted students, along with discussions of suicide prevention among this population, the use of bibliotherapy and discussion groups, and the teacher-counselor connection in affective curricula.

The Gifted Teen Survival Guide
Support gifted teenagers with this one-of-a-kind book full of sage advice to help them understand themselves, relate well with others, and reach their potential in life. Based on surveys of nearly 1,400 gifted teenagers, this updated classic is the ultimate guide to thriving in a world that doesn’t always support or understand high ability. Full of surprising facts, cutting-edge research, revealing quizzes and survey results, step-by-step strategies, inspiring teen quotes and stories, and insightful expert essays, the guide gives readers the tools they need to appreciate their giftedness as an asset and use it to make the most of who they are.

The Survival Guide for Parents of Gifted Kids: How to Understand, Live With, and Stick Up for Your Gifted Child
This book by authors Sally Yahnke Walker and Susan Perry offers up-to-date, authoritative information about giftedness, gifted education, problems, personality traits, and more. You’ll learn what ‘giftedness’ means, how kids are identified as gifted, and what’s good—and bad—about the label. You’ll find out how to keep from raising a ‘nerd,’ how to prevent perfectionism, and how to advocate for your child at school.

Understanding Your Gifted Child From the Inside Out: A Guide to the Social and Emotional Lives of Gifted Kids
This book provides an engaging and encouraging look at raising gifted children today, focusing on the social and emotional aspects of giftedness, highlighting new information on the issues of perfectionism, self-advocacy, underachievement, mindfulness, and the impact of technology on gifted kids’ relationships. The book also features a section on life beyond college, for those readers whose children are no longer children. Features real-life stories about the lives of gifted children and how they and their parents recognize and enjoy the many intellectual talents and social and emotional insights they possess.

What to Do When Good Enough Isn’t Good Enough: The Real Deal on Perfectionism
Perfectionism is an issue many gifted children and adults face. In this book, author Thomas S. Greenspon explains the characteristics of and ideas on how to overcome perfectionism. This guide is tailored especially for preteens and teenagers.

When Gifted Kids Don’t Have All The Answers: How to Meet Their Social and Emotional Needs
In this book, authors Jim Delisle and Judy Galbraith explain what giftedness means, how gifted kids are identified, and how we might improve the identification process. Then they take a close-up look at gifted kids from the inside out—their social and emotional needs. Topics include self-image and self-esteem, perfectionism, multipotential, depression, feelings of “differentness,” and stress. The authors suggest ways to help gifted underachievers and those who are bored in school, and ways to encourage healthy relationships with friends, family and other adults.

Feel free to share your go-to resources in the comments below!


Megan Hutson

Wow! So many great topics that will help my daughter... and myself!

Shawn Morin

“Perfectionistic feelings include disgust with oneself, anger, anxiety, and shame." I see this with several students. My resource is just giving them a voice and listening to them. Student who feel heard and validated will grow emotionally.

Joe McCoy

I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.

Natalie Gonzales

I am excited for these different reading opportunities!

Glenna Loftin

I love the quote from the "Magic School Bus - Ms. Frizzle. She says "Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!".
This is how we learn!!!

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