Don't Turn Your Child Into An Over-Achiever!
By Bill Knell
While it may be true anywhere in America, I've noticed that
children who grow up in an urban environment face an unusual amount of pressure to over-achieve. Maybe it's the eclectic
atmosphere, but I also think it's their parents. We've all seen
the two year old who reads at a fifth grade level, the three year old who can recite the Gettysburg Address, the five year old
piano virtuoso or the ten year old fashion designer. They're
cute, talented and may be headed for disappointment later in life.
Parents who live or work in a mostly urban setting feel the heat
to get ahead. You either get ahead or fall behind! While I'm certain that none of them mean their children any harm, it's hard
not to push your child a little harder once you discover they have a knack for early learning. Add that to the fact that it's
almost a necessary survival technique to grow up fast in cities and their suburbs, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Children want to please their parents, be involved in their lives and love to copy what they do. This can make things a bit
complicated if you live in an environment where there is always another hurdle to jump over. It's not just going to school, but
the best school. It's not just being in band, but being the soloist. It's not just being on the honor roll, but getting
accepted into the best college. All these things place enough pressure on any life. Add to that children who are already
thought of as geniuses, prodigies or exceptionally gifted. Automatically expected to get into the best schools, be the
soloist in the band and get accepted by the best college, they're
also supposed to be the shining lights of their peer group.
Most children who are labeled as geniuses, prodigies or exceptionally gifted end up leading very average lives. Most do
not become great leaders, musicians, artists, scholars, giants of business or philosophers. The ones that do, got there on their
own and at a natural pace. The main reason for not pushing your child to learn too much too soon is the same one that explains
why a ten year cannot baby sit, but most sixteen years olds can. The ten year old is not physically, emotionally or mentally ready
for that responsibility. Even if they are to the task and lucky enough to avoid facing any situations they can‘t handle, most
children will resent having been straddled with such a responsibility in later years. They will wonder what kind of
parents would have laid such a heavy burden on the shoulders of a ten year old and taken such a risk?
Despite what we believe we know about a child's intellect and maturity, it's wrong to place goals in front of them that exceed
the norm for their age group. It's wrong for parents to bypass the truth by saying that their child really wanted to accomplish
a certain activity and they were just along for the ride. More likely then not, those parents bought the ticket for them to take
The child who shows interest in a guitar can be helped by offering them guitar lessons. That's different from the parent
who buys a guitar and all but dares the child to learn how to play it. Encouraging kids to pursue interests they already have
should always exist within the limits of the children's age and ability to accept failure as well as success. Once guitar lessons
start, do we insist the child follow through on each exercise and devote time for practice? If they don't, do we punish them? I
believe the correct course is to make any lessons or practice time the child's responsibility. If they fail at that
responsibility, the consequences should be theirs and must be worked out between teacher and pupil without parental
interference. Most music teachers I know offer a greater degree of wrath then any parent could hope to match anyway!
It's impossible to explain to children why an older brother or
sister can enjoy certain freedoms they can't. Children will tell
you they understand your reasons for this, but are unable to
fully comprehend them. We can ensconce the need for young
children to avoid contact with strangers and insist that they
follow certain rules for their own safety, but it's impossible
for kids to mentally grasp all the reasons why. As parents, we
must take on the responsibility to set limits for our child's own
good. Sometimes that means curbing our own enthusiasm and desire
for them to succeed.
Success is something to be measured by each person who pursues
it. It's easy to look at entrepreneurs who start great business
empires from nothing and admire their achievement. Not only have
they realized great wealth for themselves, but may have provided
jobs and opportunities for tens of thousands of others. In our
eyes, they have succeeded. Sometimes we overlook the first grade
teacher who retires after forty years, having touched countless
lives in ways no one can readily measure. That teacher may not
have become wealthy, but might feel that a life spent educating
young people was reward enough. Perhaps that teacher inspired a
student enough to continue on with their education, despite
adversity or hardships? It might just be that student who grows
up to become the discoverer of a cure for Aids or Cancer?
Allow your child to find their own success and appreciation of it.
Bill Knell (firstname.lastname@example.org, http://billknell.tripod.com/life/life.html),
A native New Yorker now living in Arizona, Bill Knell is a
forty-something guy with a wealth of knowledge and experience.
He's written hundreds of articles on a wide variety of subjects.
A popular Speaker, Bill Knell presents seminars on a number of
topics that entertain, train and teach. A popular radio and
television show Guest, you've heard Bill on thousands of
top-rated shows in all formats and seen him on local, national
and international television programs.