In the past 7 months most parents have spent more time supporting their child’s learning then ever before and many have expressed concern as to how they can ensure their child is academically successful.
For some parents there is heightened anxiety about future jobs and resources. This often has lead to unreasonably high expectations for students where the definition of failure has changed from getting a “D” to achieving anything less than an “A” The current culture in many schools and communities, often driven by parental expectations, is one of intense pressure. It is not surprising that some parents believe their child’s success cannot be left to chance. According to Dr. Levine in her book Ready or Not –Preparing Our Kids to Thrive in an Uncertain and Rapidly Changing World,(2020) feeling this pressure to achieve makes parents more vulnerable to “helping” their children too much, sometimes to the point where it would be considered cheating. Unfortunately, not allowing your child to experience failure and the mandatory bumps in life leads to a sense of powerlessness as it robs them from the opportunity to be challenged, feel defeated and recover.
Other parents are less worried about future jobs and are more focused on the impact of academic failure on their child’s self esteem. In their attempt to raise more self-assured and capable children they shield them from any adverse experiences that might harm their developing egos. When parents fall into the trap of solving all their child’s problems they send the message that they don’t trust their child’s abilities to respond to difficulties. As Dr. Susan David points out,” that deprives them from the chance to show up, step up and learn from challenging situations” (2018?).
Over-parenting can result in many unintended consequences that are the opposite of which parents want to achieve. A child may think that their parent’s love is conditional on their ability to meet expectations. When children feel defined by their academic success and are rewarded only for high achievement, they have a hard time expressing and even recognizing what interests they actually enjoy, what matters to them and where they really stand. These children can become dependent on the approval of others. They are also at-risk of developing socially prescribed perfectionism which can lead to feeling of anger (at those they perceive to have unrealistically high expectations), depression (if the standards are not met) or social anxiety (fear of being judged by others (Antony and Swinson, 2009).
There is nothing wrong with having academic success as a goal, but it is worth knowing that studies reveal that although higher grades in school typically lead to the completion of higher levels of education and greater income in adult hood, material wealth is not associated with higher levels of life satisfaction. In fact, most of the research on adult well-being identifies emotional health and social connectedness as a child as most important (Tranter, Carson and Boland, 2019). Keep in mind that success should be defined differently for each child and align with their strengths and areas of need. Parents need to move away from judging their child’s performance alone to praising risk-taking, and perseverance. Children need to endure and learn from their failures and celebrate individual progress as that is how they develop competence and become confident (Levine, 2020).
Allowing your child to be more independent can be easier said then done. In the next post I will discuss how to encourage risk-taking and making mistakes. I welcome any tips from parents/guardians or teachers on this topic.
Antony, M. and Swinson, R. (2009). When Perfect isn’t Good Enough, New Harbinger Publications, California, USA.
David, S. Dr. (2016). Emotional Agility-Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life, Penguin Random House, New York, USA.
Levine, Madeline (2020). Ready or Not-Preparing Our Kids to Thrive in an Uncertain and Rapidly Changing World, Harper Collins Publishers, New York, USA.
Tranter, D., Carson, L. and Boland, T. (2018). The Third Path- A Relationship- Based Approach to Student Well-being and Achievement, Nelson, Canada.