Are You Putting Too Much Pressure on Your Child?

Parents putting pressure on kids
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While having high expectations of your child can be helpful, placing your child under too much pressure could backfire. Kids will likely meet your expectations when those expectations are reasonable. But expecting your child to do more than she can handle, will cause her to give up early. She may begin to show signs of stress, which can include physical symptoms as well as psychological symptoms. Here are five telltale signs you’re putting too much pressure on your child:

1. You Criticize More Than You Praise

Focusing on all the things your child is doing wrong means you’re overlooking all the things he’s doing right. Yet, many parents ignore positive behavior because they don't think kids should be praised for being good—instead they need pressure to become great.

Handing out too much criticism won't motivate your child, however. No one likes constantly hearing about all the things they’re doing wrong. Make a concerted effort to catch your child being good and offer more praise than criticism in all areas of your child’s life.

2. You Micromanage Your Child’s Activities

High-pressure parents are at risk of becoming control freaks. If you hover over your child’s daily activities—like homework, chores, and play—to make sure that he’s doing everything right, you’re likely putting too much pressure on him. While it’s important to be involved in your child’s life, micromanaging his activities could stunt his development.

If you want your child to perform well, allow him to make mistakes and face natural consequences when appropriate. Although it can be hard to watch your child do poorly on a test he didn’t study for or lose out on an opportunity because he didn’t put in the effort, those consequences can be some of life's greatest teachers.

3. You’re Convinced Every Situation Is Life Altering

If you find yourself telling your child that a lot of situations are “do-or-die,” you’re definitely putting too much pressure on him. Saying, “This is your one shot to impress your coach so you can make the all-star team,” or “You need to get an A on this test if you want to be considered for the honor society,” sends the message that kids only have one chance to get it right.

While there are situations in life where that type of outlook is realistic—like when a teenager has an opportunity to interview with a prestigious college—situations where you’ve only got one chance to get it right are not that common.

Yet, for many parents, it becomes a habit to treat each test, competition, or performance like it’s the only one that matters. Try reminding yourself—and your child—that there are many opportunities to shine and the outcome of most events aren’t going to be life-altering.

4. You Draw Comparisons to Other Children

Constantly reminding your child of things like, “Your sister made it to the top round in the spelling bee because she practiced all the time,” or “Did you notice how many points Johnny got today? I think you could probably score more points than he does if you practiced more.” Comparing your child to other kids all the time puts him in constant competition with those around him and doesn’t take into account his individuality.

When kids are put under pressure by being compared to others, it can reduce their willingness to do things where they won’t excel.

They may give up playing soccer if they’re not the fastest runner or they may decline to be on the math team if they’re not the smartest person on the team.

Encourage your child to become better by competing with himself. Talk about the importance of learning and practicing so he can become better today than he was yesterday—regardless of how others around him are performing.

5. You’re Losing Your Cool Often

Putting kids under a lot of pressure means parents often feel the squeeze as well. When kids aren’t meeting parental expectations, it causes parents to grow frustrated fast. If you lose your temper because your child isn’t performing as well as you’d like, you may be putting too much pressure on your child.

Your child might never be a track star and may never be the valedictorian of his class. Putting pressure on him to become things he’s not interested in will only cause more stress for everyone. Find a healthy balance that encourages your child to be his best, without trying to force him to meet unrealistic expectations.

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