Too Much Pressure


Think About This
Do you ever wonder if you’re that parent? You know the one. The imaginary bar determining your success as a parent is always just out of reach. Or maybe you worry about over-parenting. You know you should probably back off a little bit—but you can’t help but always push, expect, and encourage the best from your student. The truth is, parents usually are not satisfied with how they’re parenting—whether that is too much, too little, or a strange combination of both. Adding to an already difficult task, every student is different—so it’s hard to gauge whether we are pushing them to succeed or pushing them to the brink of a breakdown. At some point or another, most of us wonder whether we expect too much or too little.

Research seems to suggest that, knowingly or unknowingly, most of us err on the side of too much pressure.  In the Pew Research article, Parental Pressure on Students , authors Richard Wike and Juliana Horowitz ask:

Have American parents become too pushy about their kids’ education? Many experts seem to think so, judging from several new books by journalists and psychologists that bemoan the growing pressure students feel to do well in school. But at least one group of non-experts — the American public — begs to differ. According to a Pew Global Attitudes survey, most Americans think parents are not pushing their children hard enough.

In other words, while most of us think we aren’t expecting enough out of our students, researchers and experts feel our expectations may be a little too high. So what exactly are we supposed to do? Here are a couple suggestions:

  • Visit tomorrow but live in today. Especially with high school students, it’s easy to let most of our conversations drift toward what happens next. Decisions about classes, study habits, dating, and extra-curriculars lure us towards focusing on the future. Sure, college is coming, but your student isn’t there yet. For them, it can be overwhelming to feel like they have to have all of the answers about what’s next while still juggling the expectations they feel today. That doesn’t mean we should never talk about future goals, but don’t let it take up all of your conversational space. Be present in their present.
  • Believe the best—and say so. Sometimes our students will win in a certain situation and sometimes they’ll lose. Sometimes their choices will make us proud and other times they’ll make us cringe. Most students have a tendency to confuse our feelings about their actions with our feelings about them. So it is important that in every situation, you communicate your belief in your student. Their performance, their behavior, their attitudes don’t diminish their value. They’re significant. Valuable. Worthwhile. Don’t ever miss a chance to tell them so. Consider making an extra effort to communicate that you believe good things about them regardless of how they perform at school or on the athletic field. Try saying something like this, “I wish you hadn’t cheated on your test and there will definitely be some consequences, but I don’t believe this is in your character. I know you’re an honest person and next time I really think you’ll study harder to make the grade.”

Try This
Sometimes what we say and what the other person hears are two different things. Often, it’s hard to know if they could use a little extra encouragement or a little less pressure.  Try asking your student for feedback using . Chances are you and your student will have different answers. That’s okay! Don’t let it discourage you! Use it as a conversation starter. Afterward, consider showing your student how you answered. No need to make it a formal meeting. This doesn’t mean that you have to give in when they say, “I want you to bug me less about my math grade”. It simply shows them that you care what they think and it gives you both a way to get on the same page as you move forward.