Source: Andriyko Podilnky / Unsplash
Most parents ask their children to be successful in some way – athletic, academic, or artistic. Unintentionally, however, you may be putting your child in a pressure cooker.
Some parents push easily, and many more strongly, but almost always on their behalf, to want the best for their children. Parents unintentionally go off course and put pressure in the wrong places, in the wrong way, and at the wrong time. If you are not guilty yourself, think of parents giving directions from the sidelines or telling a child that it is super important to do a perfect job, get a good grade on a “big” exam, or do flawlessly. Parents’ pressures often get caught up in their own dreams.
Wanting the best starts early
The journalist Keith Gessen, a rabid ice hockey enthusiast and father, wanted his little son Raffi to follow his athletic role model. He started persuading Raffi to kick a ball and skate since he was two years old. During Gessen’s entire life, from childhood to high school and long after, hockey was his “refuge and consolation”.
Gessen rated Raffi’s early exuberance and “the desire to crash against things” as “the behavior of a person who wanted to learn sport”. Between the ages of two and six, there were signs that Raffi might be interested in soccer, inline skating, or ice hockey, but it was fleeting glimpses.
This hockey fanatic dad came to the realization that cheering on your son on the hockey rink may never happen. He wisely states that “Children are their own people, yes, but they are also so much at the mercy of our grace – our moods, our insecurities, even our dreams.” nullifies the intended result.
My own son got turned off by his father’s pressure to love tennis and retired his racket at the age of 15. He said “no” to the intensity and dream his father had for him. Unfortunately, he was good and might even have enjoyed the game if he hadn’t been urged to take lessons, practice, and join the high school tennis team.
Parental pressure can have serious consequences, well beyond giving up an activity or getting a poor test grade. Psychologists Chris Thurber and Hendrie Weisinger write in their book The Unlikely Art of Parental Pressure: A Positive Approach to Pushing Your Child to Be Their Best Self: “Across the world, loving parents have inadvertently made their children miserable by making opportunities scarce described competition as tough and perfection as vital … The result is a cohort of young people who are anxious, depressed and unmotivated – just the opposite of what parents intended. “
Many children love or excel at what they focus their time and energy on, but increasing numbers of students seek counseling and an increasing number are considering or committing suicide. These facts should be enough to convince all parents to dampen the benevolent but harmful pressures that the parents see as “helpful”. You can push a child, but there are positive steps to avoiding all types of pushback and persistent ill effects.
The fine art of supporting your children
Children don’t need a shelf full of sports trophies or an elite college to be successful in life. It is an art to support children; that means turning parental pressure into parental support.
You may not be the offensive sports parent on the sidelines or the parent demanding academic excellence. Even so, most of us stumbled in the printing department. Weisinger and Thurber provide hundreds of examples of how parents can be supportive while encouraging their children to do their best.
Here are some of their pointers when a child is performing under pressure of any kind. They will keep you from deviating from your goal of being supportive:
Avoid high-stakes comments that focus on importance that can affect performance, such as: B. “This is the most important test of your life” or “Your whole future depends on how you play”.
Instead, say, “This could be a cool opportunity to show off your stuff” or “Remember, it’s a concert like any other.”
Saying, “Do you think you’ve studied enough?” “Are you sure you’ve rehearsed your lines enough?” Will only add to a child or teenager’s insecurity.
Instead, say, “You learned a lot for this final exam” or (days in advance), “The more you practice, the more ready you will feel.”
Focusing on reputation and responsibility can undermine a child’s performance. That includes saying things like, “Make us proud child. I want to post about it ”or“ It’s entirely up to you. Everyone is counting on you. “
Instead, say, “We’re 100 percent behind you, kid. You have that “or” you know how to bring the heat up. Give your best.”
And after a performance, stick to “praising your child’s participation and dedication regardless of the result”.
Did you ask?
Have you asked your child what they want? It probably isn’t the ice hockey player Gessen hoped to be, the tennis lover my husband dreamed of, or the world-class pianist or scientist you might want to be yourself.
“Just be sure that you adapt your expectations of your child to their interests, abilities and personality, not yours,” advise Thurber and Weisinger. “Supportive parents also have high expectations, but they want their children to be their best, not the best.”