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The Effects of Pushing Academics Too Hard

By Peggy Tsatsoulis


Parents want what is best for their children. They want their children to be happy, smart, and successful. Educational level and school performance serves as the measuring stick. Parents believe if a student excels in school, s/he will excel in life. Striking a balance between accepting a child's performance and pushing a child to reach a higher level can be very difficult. However, pushing too hard will impact your child negatively.

In my tenure as a psychologist and coach, I have heard countless middle school students say: "What's wrong with a B, they expect me to make straight A's", "I hate being the example", "They just want me to get into an IV league college- I'm only in 6th grade I don't want to think about college yet", "They just want to brag to their friends". At times, parents can lose sight of how hard they push their kids. In addition, they can be negligent in realizing the negative impact pushing may have on their child's self esteem. Pushing too hard can be internalized as - You're not good enough. This message can translate into a number of different behaviors. For example, I have worked with children who have shut down and given up on academics completely because the pressure is too great. In their minds, not trying and being a failure is a lot better than trying and being a failure. I also have seen students resort to lying and cheating just to make the grade. These students know it is wrong to cheat or copy their friend's homework; however, the praise and parent satisfaction for bringing home a good report far outweighs the guilt and consequences for getting caught.

It is common knowledge that children would rather stay in their comfort zones rather than take risks, especially academically. It is important for parents to set high standards for their children. So how can a parent maintain a balance between setting "high standards" and putting undue pressure on their child?

1. Self Reflect.

a) Figure out the reasons why it is important for you to push your child. Be honest and frank with yourself. The reasons may not be pretty at times, but by accepting the ugly, you can let go and make changes.

b) Determine where your child is academically and where you want them to be. Then reflect on whether these expectations are realistic, too demanding, or not demanding enough.

2. Practice acceptance.

Know your child and adjust your expectations. For example, B's may be acceptable in reading because, as the parent, you know reading has not been easy for your child since first grade.

3. Make it a point to speak with your kids regularly.

Kids will open up when you least expect it, so always be ready for a conversation. Most often, parents have the best conversations with their children in the car on the way to or from an event (i.e. soccer practice). Ask them two basic questions: 1)what do you need from me, how can I support you in your school work? 2) do you feel I put too much pressure on you? Most often they will give you honest feedback and tell you what they need.

4. Pay attention.

Notice any changes in your child's behavior. Pay attention to eating and sleeping habits, the kinds of friends they hang out with, as well as the consistency in their grades.

5. Speak with your child's teachers and/or counselor.

Always make it a point to speak with your child's teachers. I recommend a check in phone call twice a year. Ask the teacher how you can be supportive to the academic process? Ask the teacher how much help s/he expects for you to give your child on homework. Furthermore, a good counselor is a parent's best resource. Counselors have tools and tips to help you be a support system to your child.

6. Relax and Know - that everything will work out.

By taking a balanced and supportive stance in your child's academic life, you will ensure that your child will grow and learn successfully.



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Peggy Tsatsoulis, MA CAGS - is a highly sought after Professional Life Coach and Certified Psychologist with over ten years of experience. She has been dedicated to working with individuals to improve the quality of their lives, and her focus has been on bringing out the best in others. For more information and resources, or to sign up for a free e-course and/or consultation please visit http://www.simplycoaching.net



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