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Interview with a psychologist

«A grades only!»: what does the perfectionist syndrome consist of and can it be dangerous?

A child with the perfect student syndrome is a dream for many parents. They are serious, responsible and they make their parents happy with good grades and other achievements. But is everything as harmless as it seems?

You will learn about these matters in this article. We will talk about how the A-grade student’s syndrome manifests itself in children and adults, what is its danger, and whether it is possible to act against it.

Contents:

What is the A-grade student syndrome?

Features

The syndrome (or the complex) of the A-grade student – is a psychological term. It refers to the psychological characteristics of a person in which a person seeks to achieve high results and earn the opportunity to be praised by others. That involves doing everything perfectly. A child expects such a recognition of their effort from their parents and teachers, an adult – from their loved ones and superiors at work.

If there is a risk of getting a lower grade, the A-grade student refuses to carry out the task due to the fear of failure or defeat.

The perfect student syndrome should not be confused with perfectionism in general, as these are not exactly two same things. For perfectionists, a perfect result is of utmost importance, whereas for A-grade students it is important for this result to be highly appreciated by other people. In this case, the quality of the task can be far from ideal. The main goal is to create the appearance of “perfection”.

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Each of us, looking back, can note that they have committed a huge number of different kinds of mistakes. But all of them have had two motivations – our unbreakable will to succeed and our unshakable self-confidence. The A-grade student syndrome made us believe that it is very important to develop these two qualities in ourselves. And even when we are haunted by failure, we persist in the belief that we merely are lacking faith in ourselves. For a lot of us, it takes decades of failure to realize that it is not based on a lack of faith in ourselves, but on its… excess.

The main factors

The following characteristics can be attributed to an A-grade student:

  • the constant expectation of praise and approval from others;
  • striving to turn in perfectly executed tasks;
  • complicated attitude towards criticism;
  • fear of failure in performing any task, especially the ones in which there is no prior experience;
  • hyper responsibility;
  • jealousy of other people’s successes.

The triggers of the syndrome

The A-grade student syndrome is formed in the child in the preschool age, and its first manifestations can be visible at the primary school age.

Two groups of issues that trigger the development of this syndrome are the following:

Parental mistakes:

Unfulfilled expectations

“Since my childhood, I always dreamed of becoming a ballerina. However, my parents could not afford to pay for dance classes. Therefore, this career has remained a dream. But now I can send my daughter to a ballet school. She will go to classes, train hard, and make my dream come true”.

Vanity

“My son should be better than other children. He must get A’s and make his school proud of him. Indeed, in our family, we are all professors. Our son should not be different from us”.

Ambitions

“I want to be proud of my child in the eyes of my friends and relatives. That is why it is so important for me that they please me with excellent grades and sports achievements. It will send a message to everyone around me of what a wonderful mother I am”.

The perfectionist syndrome in the mother and the father

“I am used to doing everything perfectly: from quarterly reports to cleaning my room. I want my child to do the same. I learned to perform any task perfectly. I will strive for this, even if I have to go into conflict with them”.

Cease to have an over-controlling approach and stop restricting your child, while continuing to ensure their complete safety and harmonious development. Always know where they are at any given moment and where they were during the day, get in touch with them instantly if this is necessary and listen to what is happening around them by using the Find My Kids app.

Special personality traits

“As a child, I was a timid, insecure boy. I have remained the same person in my adulthood. I am constantly thinking that I am doing something wrong, I constantly double-check the work done, I try to make it perfect. When someone makes a comment or a remark about me, it is very unpleasant for me, even if these are fair. I just want to start crying and to run away”.

Good and bad sides of the A-grade students

This syndrome may both help and be an obstacle to the life of the person.

Let’s start with the advantages of doing everything perfectly:

Responsibility

A-grade students rarely miss deadlines, take sick leaves, or are late for work. A serious attitude towards any activity is their priority.

Meticulous approach

People with excellence syndrome are not the ones to miss the slightest mistake. They can be entrusted with any painstaking work.

Good reputation

One can always rely on an A-grade student and be sure that they will not let down.

Determination

“Only forward, towards the victory!”- this is the motto of A-grade students. However, this only occurs under the condition that they have enough knowledge, skills, and abilities. Otherwise, these people have a fear of failure, and they refuse to take on a new task.

The following factors may be considered as the disadvantages of the A-grade student syndrome:

Sensitive attitude towards criticism

When an A-grade student receives criticism, the world seems to collapse in their eyes. They do not even listen to the comment, they rather immediately begin the process of self-humiliation by telling themselves: “I knew that I would do everything badly! Now everyone will think of how worthless and inept I am!”

Lowered self-esteem

Such people almost tend to diminish their own successes and to think of themselves in a negative way.

Dependency on the opinion of others

An A-grade student can never assess the quality of their own work independently, they require confirmation from other people.

Constant anxiety

“Did I fill out the report correctly? Maybe I made a mistake? Oh no, maybe it wasn’t right in the last column…” – such thoughts torment the A-grade student’s mind day and night, leading to a state of panic.

Read an article about Мaternal fears: how to stop being worried about your child and to become a good mother.

How to recognize this syndrome in children and adults?

The A-grade student syndrome can be discovered in the child according to the following factors:

  1. Strong worry about any grade below A.
  2. Easy sacrifice of fun and socializing with friends in order to do homework or to prepare for a test.
  3. Striving for high grades and positive comments from teachers.
  4. Sensitivity to the successes of other children, speaking badly of them in this event.
  5. Refusing to perform tasks if there is a risk of a situation of failure.

The following factors suggest that an adult has got the A-grade syndrome:

  1. Taking on extra work on the weekends, drafting reports on behalf of sick employees to win the approval of their superiors. Sacrificing personal life and free time for work.
  2. Trying to perform every task perfectly, whether it is cleaning the apartment or planning a project out.
  3. Getting upset at the slightest mistake or failure.
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Losing is much more rewarding and interesting than winning. Not being an “excellent student” is a serious skill that will come in handy in life. This is due to the fact that victories are a by-product of the experience we get from the process trials and errors. Success, in principle, only confirms what we already know and can do. Mistakes, defeats, losses contain a huge potential of new knowledge, skills and self-understanding. Therefore, it’s important for a person to learn to use their failures as stepping stones on the path to accepting and understanding themselves.

What is the danger of it?

One may wonder what could the danger of this syndrome be? The A-grade student adopts a responsible approach to each task, strives to perform it in the best possible way and earn the approval of their work.

But this is only the case at first sight.

A person with the perfect student syndrome is in a constant state of emotional stress and anxiety. This has got a negative effect on both their physical and mental health.

From the health perspective, A-grade students experience the following issues:

  • frequent colds;
  • exhaustion, asthenia;
  • psycho-somatic manifestations (headaches, dizziness, high blood pressure and others);
  • sleep disorders;
  • digestive issues.

On the psychological level, the following issues emerge:

  • emotional strain, nervous breakdowns;
  • the emergence of phobias and fears, such as the fear of public speaking and of meeting new people;
  • neuroses and depression.

As we can see, the A-grade student syndrome is not as harmless as it seems. If you notice these manifestations in yourself or in a child, be sure to seek help from a specialist.

How to help your child to get rid of the A-grade student syndrome?

What should parents do in order to assist their child:

1. Lower your expectations towards your child

Perhaps you are going too far by having your son or daughter to get excellent marks in all subjects, to have their room perfectly clean to win first places in competitions and olympiads.

Be more interested in your child’s school life, in what is important to them, rather than the grades in their diary.

Read the article on 30 questions on how to engage in a conversation with your child instead of the boring “How was your day?”

2. Praise the child for the outcome and not the grade

“Well done for completing the test without any mistakes”, “You were great, you ran the hundred meters race faster than many other children”.

3. Do not concentrate too much on the child’s bad grades

Remember that A’s do not guarantee a further successful and happy life. However, in cases of chronic academic failure, be sure to find out the reason for them.

4. Teach your child to get over the issues and to deal with defeats in a calm fashion

Anyone can make a mistake. The world will not collapse, and the loved ones of the child will not stop loving them because of this mistake.

5. It is unacceptable to compare your child with other children

Better compare the child with themselves: “You recited the poem so well! Much better than last time”.

6. Do not transfer your own unfulfilled dreams to your child

Let them live their life!

7. Teach your son or daughter not to envy, but rather to be happy for the successes of others

8. Do not motivate the child to be willing to win at all costs

9. Do not overburden the child with extracurricular activities and other tasks

Let the child choose what they enjoy by themselves and to concentrate their efforts on a particular area.

The A-grade student in adults: tips of a psychologist

The psychology of the excellent student’s syndrome is such that the desire to do everything perfectly and thereby earn praise and approval, is brought by a person into their adulthood from their childhood. The only difference is that the adult now needs to get an “A” not from mom and dad, but from their partner or boss.

More often this applies to women. A girl with an A-grade student syndrome seeks to do favors at work, to keep the house clean and tidy, and to become a perfect wife for her husband – all at the same time.

Naturally, it is extremely difficult to succeed in all areas of life. Therefore, a person sacrifices their rest and personal time in order, for instance, to bake their signature cake or to file the annual report instead of a sick employee.

Tasks continue to pile up, and the “excellent student” falls into a vicious circle of stress and anxiety.

So, is it possible to fight the excellent student’s syndrome in adults? Yes, it is. But only if the person understands the need for change. Otherwise, they will continue to live in their usual “struggle for the A grade”.

Below are tips of the psychologists:

Understand that everything stems from childhood

The desire to earn praise is no exception to that rule. We will seek a pat on the shoulder and a word on how smart we are. It is important for an adult to learn to praise and encourage themselves, instead of waiting for the approval from others.

Remember: the attitude of others will not change if we do not bring every task to a state of perfection. After all, we are not at all loved and appreciated due to that.

Work on your self-esteem

Independently or with the help of a psychologist. It is important for A-grade students to learn to follow their own values without the constant fear of making mistakes.

Learn to rest

Learn to relax and “disconnect” from problems at work and household chores. The time to “reset” is important for the brain, otherwise it will not be able to function normally.

Compare yourself only to yourself

What have you learned over the past year? What skills and abilities have you acquired? What new things have you learned?

Do not try to do everything perfectly

If such a desire has arisen, draw the line in your mind and ask yourself: do I really need it or is the excellent student’s syndrome taking over me again?

Do not fear to try new things and to experiment

It is important to realize that any action stems from the experience that helps a person gain confidence in themselves and to have faith in their strength. Mistakes are inevitable when a person starts something from scratch.

Listen to yourself in the first place

To your wants and needs.

Change your attitude towards criticism

Do not become negative right away, analyze first. It is possible that there are quite a few benefits in criticism.

Do not attribute the thoughts that people do not have

Few people really expect “perfection” and “goodness” from you. Everyone may be wrong, and people understand this.

Stop scolding yourself for every little mistake

Give yourself the right to make mistakes. Use the “alternative” principle: “Yes, I didn’t have time to submit the report on time, but I did it efficiently and without errors”, “Yes, I scratched the car today, but I avoided a serious accident”.

The A-grade student syndrome can both help and hinder a person from achieving success. If you feel that the pursuit of excellence is affecting the quality of your life in a negative way or that of your child, then it’s time to get rid of it!

More articles from experts on raising children:

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