I was wondering when you began to notice DC #1 struggling with perfectionism – like how old ze was and how it manifested. I have a bright 3 year old who gets so incredibly upset if any little thing is not “right” – food, toys, clothes, the order things are done in, etc. But maybe that’s totally normal 3-year-old “threenager” behavior…
Honestly? DC1 has ALWAYS been a bit of a perfectionist. Like at 3 months zie crawled a little bit but hated it so much and it was so hard that zie refused tummy time angrily unless it was on daddy’s tummy after (crawling did not happen until much later, and then it happened perfectly and almost instantaneously). I mean everything has been like that with DC1, something phenomenal happens but happens poorly and then months pass without it happening again and then suddenly DC1 is doing it perfectly without any apparent struggle.
DC2 isn’t like that. We see DC2 learning and growing. The process isn’t hidden from us.
But, DC2 is also 3 and is totally being a “threenager” as you say. With the everything needing to be the way it’s ‘sposed to be or zie lectures us about things being ‘propriate like one of hir preschool teachers must do. 3 year olds are just OCD by nature. I would not worry about that kind of perfectionism at all. Most likely you’ll be telling hir to clean up thoughtless messes and reminding about putting underwear on before the pants again in no time.
Note also that you can use this (temporary) rigid adherence to structure to your advantage by say, instituting bedtime routines and asking, “What comes next?” DC1 also responded well to the tyranny of the clock at this age, “It is 3pm, time to go!” we would say.
And we’re also seeing DC2 getting the other kind of perfectionism where zie doesn’t like us to see hir struggle with learning (for example, zie will refuse to sound words out when zie hits a hard word and sometimes says zie hates books rather than read with us). We suspect zie is picking it up at daycare. DC1’s perfectionism has waxed and waned– a lot seems to have to do with specific teachers at preschool and school, but we’re not sure what they’re doing wrong or right.
Perfectionism does seem to increase when the work they’re doing at school is too easy. When they don’t get challenges. When they’re praised for being smart and not encouraged to make mistakes during the learning process.
But if it’s just fussiness about things being in the “right” order… DC1 grew out of that too soon and really I think DC2 has just recently grown out of that, like in the past week (in fact, DH and DC2 are currently having a conversation about DC2 not ‘preciating DH stepping on hir stuff that was lying in the hallway and DH not appreciating hir leaving things on the floor in the hallway to be stepped on). (Update: I take it back, DC2 is still a rules-monger.)
Age 4-6 are LOVELY, and then age 7 is kind of obnoxious (or so has been our experience and so I have been told by others). We’re enjoying 8 and 9!
Good luck and don’t worry too much about threes. Here’s some more tips (do read the comments in that linked post as they’ve got a lot of great suggestions as well).