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How Do I Know If I’m Pushing My Child Too Hard?
Home » Parenting Advice » How Do I Know If I’m Pushing My Child Too Hard?

by Boys Town Contributor

tags: Education, Family, Parent-Child Relationships, Parenting Skills, School

How Do I Know If I’m Pushing My Child Too Hard?

As parents, we all want our children to thrive. We want them to do well in school, develop positive friendships, enjoy new and fun experiences, learn and use important social skills, and grow into successful, well-adjusted adults.

As a parent, you are the single most important factor in your children's success. From the moment they are born, your children are learning from you as you teach and model a broad range of skills, traits and behaviors. Whether our children succeed or fail pretty much depends on how we parent them through life.

That's a lot of pressure.

It's no wonder, then, that some parents end up pushing their children too hard in areas like academics, sports, the arts and other activities. Often, this parental pressure can have the opposite effect of what is intended. Push too hard for academic achievement, and a child's grades might begin to slip. Push too hard to be the best player in sports, and a child might quit the team. Push too hard to win the lead in the musical, and a child might lose all interest in dramatic arts.

Signs Your Child May Be Overloaded

When children feel they're getting too much pressure from a parent (and a teacher or coach), they may display certain behaviors. Here are some behaviors that might signal you're pushing your child too hard:

  • Not wanting to go to school
  • Refusing your help with homework and then becoming frustrated
  • Frequently being irritable or moody
  • Complaining of stomachaches, headaches, diarrhea and rashes
  • Having nightmares
  • Ending friendships
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Engaging in self-destructive behaviors like drug or alcohol use
  • Overreacting to minor problems

If you observe one or more of these behaviors, it may be time to sit down with your child and discuss their feelings. Choose a neutral time when everyone is calm and ask your child how everything is going. Talk about homework, sports and other activities they're involved in. Encourage your child to be honest about how they feel and try to gauge their enthusiasm (or lack of enthusiasm) for each activity, without being judgmental. The more you communicate honestly with your child, the more your child will trust and open up to you. This honesty and trust will pay dividends down the road as you work together to resolve any problems that might be occurring because your child is feeling too much pressure to succeed.

If you discover your child is overloaded and wants to cut back on extracurricular activities, it's a good idea to let them. That being said, you may also want to briefly discuss the importance of following through on commitments to others.

Nurturing, Not Pressure, Works Best

It's important to understand that not everyone can be the best at everything. That's why fully and honestly assessing your child's abilities and capabilities in school, sports and other activities can help you determine whether you're pushing too hard or not pushing hard enough. The best approach is to create a nurturing, supportive environment that enables your child to reach their full potential and be as successful as possible.

It's also important to resist the temptation to live vicariously through your children. In other words, if you didn't make the football team or the volleyball team in high school, you shouldn't push your child to make a team just so you can enjoy an achievement you missed out on. Remember that their participation in activities is about them having fun and trying to do their best, and not about you.  

In the end, your child is likely the best judge of what they can and cannot handle. They may need your help to express how they feel, so pay attention, listen and always keep the lines of communication open.

Pushing your child to succeed is not a bad thing. But pushing too hard can be.​