Very Self-Demanding Children: How to Help Them?

Very self-demanding children learn to be that way. Therefore, it's good to review what kind of message we give them as parents and as a society.
Very Self-Demanding Children: How to Help Them?

Last update: 24 March, 2022

“He’s like a little executive,” said a mother during a consultation regarding her son. What she meant to say was that her son was very self-demanding and bore excessive responsibility. Of course, all this also caused him frustration, discomfort, and even fights at school when he had to work with his classmates.

“It’s very difficult to play with her. Almost everything ends in anger and disappointment. She can’t even enjoy it,” said another mother, trying to explain that her daughter couldn’t stand losing.

These are some situations described by the family members and teachers of self-demanding children. In these cases, there’s a common denominator: Low tolerance for frustration. Let’s see what it is and how you can help these little ones to live a happier and more satisfying life.

Characteristics of very self-demanding boys and girls

These little ones have a fundamental trait in common, which is that they live their lives focused on achieving their goals and they don’t accept any other result than that of excellence.

As the psychologist Alvaro Bilbao points out, self-demand must be differentiated from perfectionism. The former doesn’t necessarily imply the desire for something to be perfect. What it refers to is that the person demands more of themself than their possibilities and resources allow and takes themself to a limit that’s not good for them. Perfectionism, on the other hand, goes hand in hand with order and puts a lot of emphasis on being meticulous and detailed.

Some of the signs to help you identify self-demanding children are the following:

  • They get angry when something goes wrong
  • They’re very critical of themselves
  • They don’t like mistakes in any task. It doesn’t matter if it’s something they just learned, if it’s a simple task or an enormously complex one: If they don’t get it right, they’re disappointed.
  • In many cases, they stop trying new things for fear of not getting the result they want.
  • They have no tolerance for frustration.
A boy that's frustrated with his homework.
Self-demanding children don’t set healthy goals for themselves, but rather objectives that exceed their real possibilities of fulfilling them.

How to help self-demanding boys and girls?

Next, we’ll give you some keys to support self-demanding boys and girls. Take note and put them into practice!

Validate their emotions

This is achieved by listening and empathy towards them. For a perfectionist child, sometimes it’s not enough to say “don’t worry, next time it will go better”. Instead, it’s a good idea to let them express themself and tell you how they feel.

Also, you can tell them your own experience and how you solved them. This way, the frustration will become something that’s more familiar or palpable because it happens to all people.

Help them regulate

Self-demanding boys and girls are stubborn and won’t stop until they get what they want. Most of the time, this becomes a source of stress. As they still don’t know how to handle it, it’s important that you help them by suggesting small breaks to facilitate rest, leisure, and eating.

When you do it, it’s also important that you point these breaks out, so they can identify them as a key part of the process and internalize them in their routine.

Set limits

This point is closely related to the previous one, as limits help kids to be realistic with their objectives and with the resources that are available to them. In general, this is exactly where these children fail.

It’s good to encourage the little ones to improve themselves, but you also need to point out to them the coherence between real possibilities and the ideal they have in their mind.

Show them that there are nuances

When talking with children about an experience, it’s important to point out that life isn’t a matter of polar extremes: Complete success or utter failure.

In the real world, there are many intermediate forms in which there are also good and bad things from which we can learn and enjoy.

Naturalize mistakes

It’s also necessary to show one’s own imperfections, play down those goals that weren’t met, and talk with a bit of humor about one’s shortcomings.

Teach them to speak positively about themselves

Some children refer to themselves as “worthless” or “dumb” when they feel like they’re failing at something. This isn’t good or healthy for anyone and it’s best for them to put aside that habit.

Also, it’s important to reinforce their self-esteem, point out that they’re loved beyond their achievements, and above all, that they shouldn’t strive to please anyone.

One child helping another on the athletics track thanks to healthy competition.
Self-compassion is critical when it comes to building strong self-esteem. And we must instill it in children by setting the right example.

Be a good example

Parents’ actions speak louder than their words. So we also have to analyze how we treat ourselves and what image we offer our children. Sometimes, we discover that we’re the main promoters of excessive demand and responsibility.

Self-demand and never giving up are messages that society gives us

It’s true that being very self-demanding is a learned behavior in children. If they’re not influenced by their parents, they may receive some similar messages in the different settings in which they work.

Whether in the club, at school, or on social media, a model of success is proclaimed all the time. A model that promises that those who don’t give up and who work themselves to the bone will receive great rewards, be recognized, and be valued.

And who isn’t tempted to “give everything and more” if the prize is the admiration and the approval of others? Undoubtedly, this has a significant impact on boys and girls because, during their development, everything revolves around gaining the approval of their role models.

For all of these reasons, today we see how anxiety, depression, psychosomatic illnesses, and stress manifest themselves at increasingly younger ages. This scenario should serve as an alert to review what we transmit to children and consider starting to incorporate other experiences into their daily lives, such as frustration. In short, offer our children an education in emotional intelligence.

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