Danger sing - pressure

Parents who put pressure on their children don’t do it with the intention to harm them.

With the advent of Facebook, instant messaging and Twitter we are now constantly alerted to everything everyone else is doing, and more often than not – what they have accomplished.  (We all know those parents who congratulate their children in Facebook status updates for their achievements, when said children don’t even have Facebook accounts). This is inadvertently putting pressure on all of us to achieve and this pressure is filtering down to our children. A recent survey by the UN on children’s well-being in the world revealed a 70% rise in mental health disorders in children since the 1970’s.

The effects of putting children under too much pressure can be devastating.  They may have nightmares or become withdrawn.  Some children put may develop perfectionistic traits or even Obsessive Compulsive tendencies as they put added pressure on themselves to please their parents and others.  Feeling that they are failing to meet your expectations might lead to a low self-esteem and a lack of confidence in their own abilities.  They might feel compelled to cheat on their tests and exams or might rebel completely, turning to drugs and choosing to hang out with under-achieving friends.  Psychologists have known for a long time that children who feel they have no control over their lives, as the children of high pressure parents often do, may severely limit their food intake as that is the only thing they have control over to the extend where they become anorexic.  

Now, don’t get me wrong – setting high expectations for our children isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when children begin to feel overwhelmed and pressurized by these expectations we might need to re-examine our own motives.  Parents who put too much pressure on their children never do it with the intention to harm them.  Sometimes they are simply copying their own parents’ parenting style or they might feel that they want their children to achieve more than they themselves ever did.  Some parents constantly worry that their children will not be able to reach their goals without consistent input from the parents’ side.

Parenting is hard work, it is not always easy to know how to strike the right balance between being empathetic and helpful on the one hand while still encouraging your children to be the best version of themselves on the other. 

The following are signs that you might be putting too much pressure on your children:

  • You make all the decisions and you’re not prepared to compromise or take their reasons for not wanting to do a specific activity into account.
  • Your child is over-scheduled and has very little time for free-play.
  • You always give negative feedback and find fault with your child’s performance.
  • You feel angry or upset when your child doesn’t meet your expectations at school or on the sports field.
  • You and your spouse (partner) constantly argue about the amount of pressure you put on the kids

In next week’s article we’ll take a look at some of the ways in which high-pressure parents can remedy the situation and mend their relationship with their children.