The consequences of setting the bar too high and pushing your kids to be high achievers
Recently my husband and I sat in a coffee shop and I couldn’t help but hear a conversation. There I was trying so hard to focus on what my husband was trying to tell me; yet my ears were tuned in to hear the conversation at the other table. Now look I wasn’t intentionally eavesdropping because this woman was so loud even though she was quite a distance from us. “My son knows; I don’t accept anything less than 7’s or there will be hell to pay. Second place is just not good enough for me.” Blah Blah Blah
This mom was setting the bar way too high and pushing her kid to be a high achiever. The pressure to excel at all times is enormous. There I was thinking surely this is the 21st Century and to have this kind of high expectations in an already competitive world filled with so much unsolicited pressure is absurd.
If like me, you were born and raised in the 20th Century; you would know that there was minimal social pressure. Hardly any parental involvement when it came to school work and left to our own devices. Yet the expectation was to achieve and dare you not succeed academically. As a consequence, you were threatened and blatantly punished. Even the teachers were hardcore and giving an incorrect answer or not knowing your timetables was the biggest misdemeanour.
Your efforts had to have a successful outcome at all times because there was no reward for failure. Instead of teaching us that instances of failure and mistakes are part of the journey to success; it instilled fear. Fear of not being good enough and not wanting to disappoint. The disappointment that led to the response which would encompass anger, rage, criticism, comparison, tension and the consequences that followed. This affected a person’s mental health and was a knock to one’s self-confidence.
Fast forward to today and the school system has changed drastically over the years, not everyone is placed in the same box and the world is full of possibilities. The biggest attribute being parental involvement.
Parental involvement is so important for fostering continuous learning at home and success at school. However parental involvement should have a positive effect on your child’s development or else the very same mental health issues and fears can derive as back in the day. A few years ago; my husband and I realised that we needed take a step back when it came to piling on the pressure. We are still very much involved when it comes to our kids’ school work and other activities by giving them the necessary support; but without the unrealistic expectations.
What happens if parents become overly invested? When you start setting the bar too high and pushing your kids to be high achievers?
I will tell you what happens – kids become stressed, they become fearful not to disappoint their parents, their achievements are not for themselves but to please their parents, they start resenting school, develop behavioural problems, doing homework becomes a nightmare filled with tears, they become secretive about school activities and when they writing tests, they hide their test results from their parents, they start getting test anxiety, panic attacks, they cheat, and if the pressure becomes too massive to handle; they retreat into a dark hole of depression which can lead to suicide.
So parents here’s the deal, stop setting that bar too high. It’s ok if your kid is more creative and not academically inclined – although we need doctors, engineers and scientists; we also need skilled professionals.
Not everyone thrives in a structured learning environment. Get to know your kid and find what he/she is passionate about and good at. Support and nurture that passion. Don’t impose your own interests and dreams on your kid.
Your kids’ top performance in class and accumulation of accolades can be short-lived if there is no self-drive and self-motivation. Being average does not define your child’s ability to succeed; it’s about effort, hard work and determination.
Stop being a control freak. Push but push in the right direction with support, motivation and guidance; not pressure. Help your kid to set realistic and achievable goals.
Failure isn’t the end of the world and definitely not a bad reflection of your parenting skills. Failure should be seen as a learning curve and to rectify the mistakes.
Communication is key; have open discussions about fears and struggles. Don’t brush off the fact that your kid is struggling because you think he/she is smart and can do better. Perhaps your kid is genuinely struggling and need a tutor who can assist to better explain the subject matter.
Bottom line is; setting the bar too high and pushing kids to be high achievers can have a boomerang effect. Lower that bar, back off and let’s allow our kids to be happy and successful in their own way not ours.