Top 3 Tips to Help Your Teen Strive for Progress NOT Perfection

Does your teen’s strive for perfection ramp up their stress which in turn stresses you out? When I first started teaching in the classroom, I remember speaking to a mom about the pressure her son was under to be perfect at everything. I wrongly assumed it was coming from home, but I soon learned that it was self-inflicted. Neither one of us knew how to get the child to relax and give himself a break. After twenty years in the classroom and becoming a health coach, I now have a much clearer understanding of what lies at the root of perfectionism and how to help teens strive for progress, not perfection.

The underlying fear of a perfectionist is that they are not good enough. They are constantly looking to control their surrounding or work and make them better. While this can lead to great results, it can also lead to unhealthy habits like staying up late and not getting enough sleep, handing in work late because it wasn’t good enough, or spending hours redoing something and skipping socializing with friends, exercising or eating properly. All of these unhealthy habits increase stress and keep your teen stuck in The Chronic Stress Loop. That’s why I am sharing my top 3 tools to help your perfectionist teen break out of the Chronic Stress Loop, so they can relax and be happy and healthy in school and beyond.

Positive Mindset

Teens have thousands of thoughts a day and up to 80% of those thoughts are negative. These thoughts occur in their subconscious and control up to 95% of their actions. This is why it is really important for teens to quiet the panicked voice in their head that is continually telling them why they are not good enough.

Mirror Technique

This technique helps your teen remember to think more positively all day long. As your teen goes about their day, every time they look in a mirror, encourage them to repeat a positive affirmation. Looking into their own eyes increases the power of the affirmation.

  • I strive for progress, and I release the need to be perfect.
  • There are many excellent solutions, and I am confident that mine is one of them.
  • I have done enough, I am enough and I will be successful.
  • I am awesome, and I am enough exactly how I am right now.

Think Up

The Think Up App* is a great tool that allows your teen to search a directory of positive affirmations in categories like self-confidence, gratitude and overcoming anxiety and stress and pick around 15-20 to add to their favorites. Then they record their personal affirmations and choose background music. In addition, they can set a timer so the mantas automatically shut off. This way listening to the positive affirmations becomes a way for your teen to destress at the end of the day or really anytime they need a relaxing break.

In addition, listening to positive affirmations through the Think Up App* is a great practice to quiet the panicked voice and begin to replace the negative thoughts in your teen’s subconscious mind with positive thoughts.

Set Time Limits

Step 1: In order to help your teen resist the urge to continually makes changes to get something perfect, have your teen decide, before they begin, how long the assignment or task should take. For example, the time should be different depending on if it is a test versus a quiz or a journal entry versus a paper.

Step 2: When they sit down to complete the assignment or task, they should set a timer for the amount of time that seems reasonable before their perfectionist habits take over. If it is a long task, it is best to block out a couple chunks of time.

Step 3: When the timer goes off, they stop immediately. They must get up and walk away. It is really important that your teen commits to stopping at the exact moment the timer goes off. This eliminates any opportunity for their subconscious mind to convince them they need to keep on working.

Step 4: Have your teen pick something that they automatically do once the timer goes off. Perhaps they can go drink a glass of water or do 50 Jumping Jacks. As long as it is a healthy habit, it doesn’t really matter what activity they pick. The important factor is that they are doing something else.

Step 5: Once they have had this break, then they can evaluate if they actually need to continue. Perhaps they need to write a conclusion or maybe there are five terms they still don’t know. When I taught perfectionist, this was often not the case. They already knew all the terms and they had already read their paper over several times. However, if they really do need to do more work, then they should again decide how much time they need before they begin working again.

Most perfectionist teens are stuck in The Chronic Stress Loop, and they need help to break out of this unhealthy pattern. These teens put so much pressure on themselves, but they see this as a good thing and are very resistant to making any changes. If this sounds like your teen, then grab a copy of my free Stress Less Guide for tips on helping your teen understand the value in decreasing their stress, so they create more ease in their life and be happier and healthier in school and beyond.

*The ThinkUp App is free. However, the link above is an affiliate link, so if your teen chooses to make a purchase within the App, I receive a referral commission without any additional cost to you.

Originally published at