How do I handle it when my perfectionist teen messes up?


Is your teenager beating herself up over a simple mistake? You just can't let it go? Well, let's
talk about that today on Tips on Teens. My name is Kent Toussaint. I'm a licensed marriage and
family therapist, and I specialize in helping kids, teens, and families to live happier lives.
I lead two organizations, Teen Therapy Center and the nonprofit 501c3 organization, Child
and Teen Counseling, both here in Woodland Hills, California. Every Wednesday at noon, I jump
onto Facebook Live to answer your parenting questions. Let's answer today's. Recently, my
15 -year -old daughter got into some trouble at school and wound up getting detention. I don't
even think it was her fault. She was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. She's been really
upset about it. I've been trying to make her feel better. I told her, quote, what's one detention
when it's the first time you've ever been in trouble? End quote. It seems to make no difference,
though. She's still beating herself up any suggestions

on how to make her feel better. Yes. Thank you for your question It sounds like you got a kid right
now who's really struggling with some some shame and whatever Choice she made whatever mistakes
she made She's having a hard time forgiving herself, and I imagine she's really focused on how
she's seen how she's perceived You know her perfection line has ended. She's no longer perfect
she's sullied in some way and what I would recommend you do is you're probably on the right path
already and just keep showing her love and acceptance and recognize that this one little mistake
is one of many she will make throughout her life and Mistakes happen. We all make mistakes. We'll
have setbacks and With the citrus like this logical problems require logical solutions, but
this is not a logical problem This is an emotional problem. So it requires an emotional solution.
So the more you're able to be there for her, hold her hand, put your arm around her shoulder, tell
her you love her, you know, I think

that's gonna help. The logic of, hey, this is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, which
is true. One detention is not a big deal. Most people watching here have had detention when they
were in high school or junior high or middle school. It's not that big of a deal. If there were
a string of detentions all throughout the year, that's a problem. but it doesn't sound like
this is her problem. It may also help, and you have to decide what's gonna work best for your child,
but you sharing similar experiences, how you've overcome them. Well, maybe it was a traffic
ticket. Maybe you got detention. Maybe you got reprimanded at work, whatever it is. You had
a setback. We all have them. And recognize how you grew from that experience and became a wiser,
smarter person. And maybe focusing on your daughter and helping her recognize, is she a smarter
person? and has she learned from this experience? Is she a wiser person? Because that's what
mistakes are, they help our teachers. And the more

we are able to embrace those setbacks and mistakes, the wiser and stronger we become. And I think
if you can help her focus on that and recognize that is part of her growth, maybe she can give herself
some grace and for some forgiveness. Anyways, that's our question for today. Thank you very
much. We love your questions, keep them coming. If you'd like me to answer your question here
on Tips on Teens, email us at tipsonteens at teentherapycenter .com or you can direct messages
right here on Facebook. We love your questions. Again, my name is Kent Toussaint with Teen Therapy
Center and Child and Teen Counseling. And thanks again, guys, and I'll talk to you all next week.
Bye -bye.


We all make mistakes, right? As adults, we know that when we mess up, the more we can embrace mistakes and setbacks, the wiser we become. As the old saying goes, failure is the best teacher. But even though we may recognize failure as an opportunity, we as adults sometimes struggle to let go.

Your perfectionist teen most likely doesn’t have the life experience to put these kinds of life events into context. If your kid is a perfectionist teen, he or she is probably hyper focused on how they are perceived, and now feels permanently sullied in some way. 


Logic isn’t going to work for you in this situation. The more you can be there for your kid, the better. Keep showing your teen love and acceptance, and hopefully she’ll be able to see that this is just one mistake in the many she’s likely to make, and that it’s not going to define her identity for the rest of her life. Emotional problems require emotional solutions, and we talk about it in this Tips on Teens:

“Recently my 15 year old daughter got into some trouble at school and wound up getting detention. I don’t even think it was her fault. She was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. She’s been really upset about it and I’ve been trying to make her feel better. I told her ‘what’s one detention when it’s the first time you’ve ever been in trouble.’ It seems to make no difference though. She’s still beating herself up. Any suggestions on how to make her feel better?”

Clinical Director Kent Toussaint answers your parenting questions every Wednesday at 12:00pm in our weekly segment Tips On Teens on Facebook Live. Have questions about parenting kids and teens? Send them to: We love to hear from you!

Head on over to our Facebook page every Wednesday at 12:00pm to watch LIVE!  Check out our page here –

If you have more questions or would like more information, please contact our Clinical Director, Kent Toussaint at 818.697.8555.