The dangers of pressuring children too much

Being a parent is both a tremendous joy and a sometimes overwhelming responsibility. The opportunity to speak to a young life and to see that young person grow into a mature adult is often beyond what words are able to communicate. Every parent has hopes and desires for his or her children and works to see these become reality.

One of the deepest fears of a parent is that a child fails to live up to the potential that lies deep within. Parents very often feel the need to push their children in order to ensure that these young people achieve what they are capable of becoming. Unfortunately the stress and pressure that a parent feels in the desire to see a child succeed in life can lead that parent to push his or her child too hard.

What are some indicators that a parent is pushing too hard and what negative consequences can result when he or she does push too hard:

Understanding the challenge

Pushing children toward success is a complicated process. Because each child has a unique personality and that child’s relationship with a parent is also unique, the interaction that exists will contain many layers that affect how  hard a parent should push that child. A parent needs to understand the child’s personality and gain awareness of how that child reacts to pressure. Some children are naturally self-starters, while others tend toward laziness and need a heavier hand. The same pressure that motivates a slacker may discourage a child with a different nature.

When it comes to parenting one approach does not fit all. Children must be dealt with as individuals and must be treated uniquely. Parenting and pushing children to succeed requires a clear grasp of the child’s temperament and how he or she reacts to being pressured. Finding the right approach is more art than science and the parent as the more mature person must be willing to take the time to understand the child and treat him or her appropriately. 

Living vicariously through the child

Some parents are discouraged because their lives have not turned out as they would have expected when they were young. Such parents often focus much time and effort on their early success in life and can become bothered and enraged when such early success is compared to current reality. Children can at times be seen by such people as a second chance to have the success that they failed to achieve. The danger of this approach is that the child is forced to carry not only his or her own expectations, but the expectations of the parent as well. Such a parent may pressure the child to engage in the same activity in which the parent excelled even when this activity is not a passion of a child.

Children have a natural desire to please their parents and a child in such a situation may follow the desire of the parent, but in doing so will often become frustrated and disengaged. The relationship between the child and the parent will often become strained and the child will look for any reason to stop engaging in the activity and will in some cases enter into illegal or immoral activity as a way of escaping the pressure of the situation. 

Expecting the child to carry on a family legacy

A number of families have a legacy of engaging in a particular occupation or activity. In many cases this is seen as an expectation that is handed down by one generation to the next. In the best of cases this can be a positive experience in which each generation can recognize the positive impact on society that those in the past have had and this can create a sense of pride in the children. Unfortunately the negative side of a legacy can carry with it an expectation that the child must carry on the legacy without giving any thought to the feelings, desires, and expectations of the child.

A child should never feel that he or she is letting down the family by choosing to be the person that he or she desires to be. Each child should be given the opportunity to explore the world and create his or her own path. Having a family legacy should always be a positive element and undue pressure should never be placed on a child to carry on such a legacy. Every family at some point must let go of the past and focus on the future. Children are the future and must be given the freedom to find their own unique place in it. 

Looking at the child as a source of income

Some children exhibit extraordinary abilities at a young age. Often the child finds great joy in mastering an activity at an early age, but this can often be ruined when parents seek to turn this skill into money without consideration of the feelings of the child. Children have a natural joy and curiosity about the world that can become damaged when they are forced to grow up too quickly. There is a natural maturation of a child’s physical, emotional, and psychological make-up and when children are put in advanced situations at too early an age this can do serious and sometimes permanent damage.

The fact that a child is unusually proficient in a particular activity does not necessarily mean that the child is ready for adult situations. A parent should never force a child to grow up too quickly merely due to monetary considerations. Children are their own unique individuals and are not the property of a parent. They are given to the parents to look after and the focus should always be on allowing the child to grow up in the most natural way possible which will give the child the best chance to succeed in life. 

Allowing the child to have a unique personality

Every child comes in to the world with a particular genetic structure and so he or she interacts in the world differently. Parents often expect that because they see the world in a certain way or approach a project in a certain way that their children will do so as well. While parents can set a good example for their children, they must not expect them to be clones of them. Children need to find their own way and go about their business in a way that seems right to them. Parents can guide but pushing too hard will often lead to frustration and rebellion.

A parent who is a strong personality must allow a more easy-going child to approach the world in his or her own unique way without demanding that such a child do things in a particular manner. A general approach to life can be communicated but it is up to the child to put that into practice in a way that he or she is comfortable with. Much of the parenting process is in giving the child what is necessary to get ahead in the world and then stepping back to allow the child to mature in an appropriate manner. 

Stepping back and trusting

A parent who pushes a child too hard often does so out of fear of failing as a parent. Most parents have heard horror stories of children of others who have fallen into ruin. But parents must understand that each child is unique and ultimately is responsible for his or her choices as the age of maturity is reached. The parent has the responsibility to care for the child and to give him or her the best opportunity for success, but ultimately the child is responsible for taking advantage of those opportunities.

Pushing too hard can feel like the right decision at the time, but in the long-term it can do severe damage and ruin the relationship with the child. A parent must trust that he or she has done the best for the child and then release the child to become a functioning adult. Easing off the pressure will maintain the relationship with the child and create a safe environment in which the child can make good decisions and succeed in life.