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