Don’t Push It When You Encourage Them

By Claire Lerner, L.C.S.W.-C

Some children need encouragement to do their best and aim high; There are students who settles on average when they are capable of much more.

But some parents take it too far. The pressure is on their children, who are pushed to pursue an ideal. These parents believe that it is necessary to push their sons and daughters toward a vision of success. Students must be driven to be the best if they are to compete in today’s world … or so the logic goes.

I read a book two years ago, fix this line of thinking, called No more push parenting. An excerpt, “to introduce the seven Hypes,” can be read here (and an excerpt from the excerpt follows):

  • Unfortunately, many of today’s parents, many of us go on this whole parenting thing full tilt. Of reasons, some good and some misunderstood that we will examine, we feel that our child’s ultimate success is entirely up to us, and that the goal is to win, or to get our kids to win. This is not news to you. You’ve read articles about test prepping for the best colleges that rivals astronaut training; bar mitzvahs that require financial and emotional fortitude of a Broadway producer; and athletic competition so tough that it actually has been fatal for at least one of the parents.
  • Why are we so competitive when it comes to our children? Why are we convinced, that it is so important for them to have a dazzling CV? To have a “passion“? To stand out in some way from the crowd? What is it that makes intelligent, sensible parents prep your child for an IQ test, or rent a sixty dollar an hour trainer for their beginning in a Little League, or run a half hour after a busy working day to bring a small child to an art class, when everyone can be happier at home enjoying dinner or bath time?
  • What I have learned from countless parents is that almost nobody wants to push, but most feel they must. They have come to believe in a timid and anxious way that they as parents or more crucially their children will fall short in the relentless competition in everyday life, if they do not keep pushing.

For some families, however, pressure, acceleration, push is not without consequences.

Much more recently, I took a used book with an intriguing title, The 7 worst things good parents do, by psychologists John c. Friel and Linda d. Friel (parents of three adult children). They warn of the consequences of pushing the kids in too much.

One of the things on their list of the worst things good parents do is to “push your child into too many activities” (Chapter 5).

A very bright psychologist raised her hand during the question-and-answer period of a professional seminar to ask:

‘ But what about all the advice, schools and colleges gives us, that our children do not want to get into the best universities, unless they have umpteen zillion extracurricular activities on their Résumés?” (Friel and Friel 50).

Friels’ Answer?

It consists of two parts, they said.

Part 1: A Duke University senior told them, “universities looking for depth. Two outside results done with depth will go as far, if not longer, than the umpteen million scattered activities, there was obviously done to beef up one’s application” (Friel and Friel 50).

Part 2: Their (the Friels ‘) workload is filled with young professionals whose parents pressured them to Excel and achieve during high school and college to go to the best and be the best. These parents were motivated by the fear that their children would be miserable if they were anything but best on best. Unfortunately, their fears became reality — their children is really lousy, but not from not to be best; rather, their children are miserable because of trying to be the best to the exclusion of everything else that is more important in life (Friel and Friel 50, 51).

To illustrate, the cited studies found in emotional intelligence: why it can matter more than IQ (Daniel Goleman) were conducted at Harvard in the 1940s.

Harvard study showed that men with the highest grades less happy, less aligned, less productive and had lower salaries and status in middle age than College peers that had lower grades in college (Friel and Friel 51).

The authors tell parents who wonder whether the children’s activities and college admissions, “you can push your kids until they fall, and then push them much more, but the only thing you will produce is miserable adults, there may be a moderate success in their careers, if they are lucky” (Friel and Friel 51).

Parents who drive their children in this way, these authors argue, will produce:

  1. children who are driven to fill the void left by neglected emotionally; or,
  2. children who are indifferent to subsequent much at all, because they are so lonely, hurt and angry about being neglected (Friel and Friel 51).

They propose to evaluate your child’s current state. He or she may be fine, but if your child gets sick on a regular basis (this may include emotional disorders such as depression, addiction and getting stuck in destructive relationships), has no social life and social skills, have no time at all to be with family, is rounded emotionally, then it’s time for a change (Friel and Friel 52).

Some ideas to reduce pressure and push included lowering academic standards for a child who is stressed out by grades. A child who feels pressured to go to a top University may want to know that a State University, community college or Vocational school can be an equally good option-or even a better fit overall for their personality, interests, abilities, goals and health (Friel and Friel 52).

They recommend reading the book emotional intelligence by Daniel Goleman (I haven’t read it yet), and “you will discover that there is much more success, life and happiness than getting straight as in school or go to an Ivy League University” (Friel and Friel 52-53).

We must be convinced that stand firm and resist the relentless competition of everyday life … to slow down and embrace a different concept of success, who refuse to compromise the faith, friends and family.

Let us be slow enough to maintain our deepest values.

And Let’s help each other stay strong when the voices are loudest.