“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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2 Responses to ““Perfectionists” as Children (Type One)”

  1. JB King Says:

    What about encouraging the child to pursue their interests rather than creativity? Creativity can be a great challenge here as the many shades of grey in making something can be contrasted to the black and white sides that exist in other kinds of activities like researching a topic or exploring something. My most creative activities when I was young are generally debatable in terms of someone seeing it this way. For example, strategies in playing games or finding ways to solve problems are creative to me but not necessarily to others that are more used to artistic or athletic pursuits being creative,e.g. see how that musician plays his guitar or how Michael Jordan dunks a basketball. I’m just pointing this out as someone that is definitely a Type One and has been that way all my life.


    • ewagele Says:

      I like your comment. You also point out my own bias in terms of what “creativity” is – my own definition is broad, including not only the arts but also how one goes at life. But you’re right, even doing something repetitive, if one is interested in it, is a good thing, though it might not fit within my definition of creative. Thanks.

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