The Dangers of Putting Too Much Pressure on Kids

Don't put your child under too much pressure to succeed.

ImagesBazaar / Riser / Getty Images

Many parents want to help their children be the best they can be. However, some, parents put their children under too much pressure to perform. Being under such intense pressure can have serious consequences for kids.

Overview

A 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 64% of Americans say parents do not put enough pressure on children to do well in school. Children might be less likely to perform at their best if they don't get enough pressure from their parents.

However, some kids might be under too much pressure. Adults have also expressed concerns that kids today "can't be kids anymore" because they are pressured and expected to constantly perform well—such as getting into the most prestigious schools or getting the best scholarships.

School isn’t the only place where parents put pressure on kids. Parents might also put lofty expectations on their kids to perform well in sports, music, theater, or other activities.

"High-pressure parents" might insist that their kids practice constantly and perform well in competitions.

Parents have different opinions and approaches to encouraging their kids. While high expectations can be healthy, placing constant pressure on children can be harmful. When kids feel like each homework assignment is going to make or break their future or that each soccer game could determine if they get a college scholarship, that pressure can have negative consequences.

When It's Harmful

Kids who feel that they are under enormous pressure to do well from parents and adults can experience consequences in multiple areas of their life, from their mental health to their sleep. Here are just a few of the consequences of putting kids under too much pressure to perform.

  • Higher rates of mental illness. Kids who feel like they’re under constant pressure can experience constant anxiety. High amounts of stress can also place children at a greater risk of developing depression or other mental health conditions.
  • Higher risk of injuries. Athletes who feel a lot of pressure might continue to participate in sports despite injuries. Ignoring pain or returning to a sport before an injury has healed could lead to permanent damage.
  • Increased likelihood of cheating. When the focus is on achievement rather than learning, kids are more likely to cheat. Whether it’s a young child catching a glimpse of a classmate's answer on a test, or a college student paying someone to write a term paper, cheating is common among kids who feel pressure to perform well.
  • Refusing to participate. When kids feel the goal is to always “be the best,” they’re not likely to participate when they aren’t likely to shine. A child who isn’t the fastest runner might quit playing soccer and a child who isn’t the best singer in the group might stop performing with the choir. Unfortunately, that means kids won’t take opportunities to sharpen their skills.
  • Self-esteem problems. Pushing kids to excel can damage their self-esteem. The constant stress to perform interferes with children’s identity formation and causes them to feel like they’re not good enough—or even that they will never be good enough.
  • Sleep deprivation. Kids who feel constant pressure to do well in school might stay up late studying and struggle to get enough sleep.

What You Can Do

There are some things that you can do as a parent to help your child without placing too much pressure on them.

  • Encourage your child to do their best. Focus on the process, rather than the end result.
  • If you find yourself placing too much pressure on your child, ask yourself why their performance, test score, or success matters to you.
  • Talk to your child about the sport/assignment/performance they are working on. Set aside your feelings to make room for your child to express theirs. Giving your child the space to be seen and heard will encourage them rather than make them feel they have disappointed you.
Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Pew Research Center. Americans say kids need more pressure in school, Chinese say less.


  2. Rogers MA, Theule J, Ryan BA, Adams GR, Keating L. Parental Involvement and Children's School Achievement: Evidence for Mediating ProcessesCanadian Journal of School Psychology. 2009;24(1):34-57.