REQUEST: when (or after) reading this article, please play “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie

Even at the best schools, most learning is done outside of the classroom. Parents who push their kids to succeed may likely have successful kids. But at what cost?

The pressure that parents put on their children results in the product of a seemingly infinite cycle. A parent puts pressure on their child, and that child grows up to push similar demands onto their children, with the same high expectations. Inadvertently, these parents have created generations of pressure. However, sometimes these practices are not always most beneficial to those under pressure. The pressure one feels from parents is the most influential, yet most stressful, because the impact parents have on their children is greater than any outside force influencing their offspring. It is more beneficial for parents to be encouraging rather than berating. This can be done by parents offering specific advice and strategies to help their children succeed, rather than general statements of “do better”.  

Personally, I believe that pressure lies on a scale, and is different for every child, relationship, and situation. For parents, it is crucial to note that too much parental pressure may negatively affect a child’s performance, rather than improve it. This being said, it is equally as important to observe what behaviors are compatible with each child, because everyone grows differently. Parents and children can then create a plan when issues arise regarding school, extracurricular activities, body image, social interactions, romantic relationships, and their adult futures. 

More recently, mental health has been a global priority. When parents verbally criticize their children or themselves, their children learn in an environment where they believe it is okay to talk negatively to themselves. Children raised in this dynamic may have low self esteem. Additionally, they withdraw from communicating with others and may even revolt as a result of negative attention. This lack of communication can quickly contribute to and/or worsen depression. 

Parental pressure that may increase a child’s stress can be both direct and indirect. Direct pressure involves yelling, arguing, and physical/emotional force. According to a 2015 study by the National Library of Medicine, kids who grew up with parents who yelled excessively or verbally humiliated them are more likely to face obstacles in their adult life such as: depression, anger management issues, physical aggression, delinquency, and difficulty managing relationships. On the other hand, indirect pressure is more subtle but just as essential to avoid.  Indirect pressure can include guilt-tripping and constant reminders of rigid expectations that they must meet. Instead of using these two methods as a constant force of pressure, a more beneficial approach may be to consult with your child to come up with a positive solution that not only resolves the issue, but allows the child to practice independent thinking and an open growth mindset. 

Generally, I would say that pressure is a bad motivator for success. I do not disagree with parents pushing their children, this teaches them to go out of their comfort zone. I also believe that parents shouldn’t reward kids for getting D’s on their essays. I do believe, however, that instead of recreating their childhood experiences, parents should talk with their children. Parents and kids may harmonize by recognizing a shared goal. Reaching a compromise may seem foolish at first, but healthy communication in a family is a success in and of itself. Dreams can be shared, and I believe it is a parents job to positively reinforce goals that will help children achieve their dreams.