What If My Child Fails?
Unfortunately, parents’ anxiety about achievement can backfire on them. This is when they come to see me. The pressure to achieve for the sake of achieving can take the joy out of learning. It can obscure the individuality of the child and hide his or her passion.
I am not talking about parents who expect their children to put their best effort into homework and to study for tests and quizzes. I am also not talking about parents who practice ball handling skills with their kids and cheer them on at the cricket or football game. That is your responsibility as a parent, and it teaches your child responsibility as well.
There is quite a bit of peer pressure among parents to do the best they can for their children. The belief is that if children are very successful that they will be truly happy. It is difficult to resist the pressure that parents feel at the cricket field or for exams. One hears, “We signed Nicky up for individual coaching so that his cricket game will improve. He has to get up at six am on Thursday to meet before school, but he knows it’s important.” Or one might hear, “We don’t feel that the math curriculum is adequate, so Juli is going to extra math classes twice a week.” These are children who are doing fine in school or in sports, but their parents feel the need to “enrich” their lives with extra classes or coaching.
A few parents I know ask, “Where is the fun in this?” If your child truly loves cricket or football and has talent, by all means take her or him to the ground on the weekend. While you are there, make sure that you have fun. If your child does not have the aptitude for sports that require good hand-eye coordination, encourage her or him to try out swimming or track. Sports are very good for exercise, learning to work with a team, and having the experience of pride in accomplishment. It is important to keep them in perspective as one part of life, though Some parents who are very worried about academic achievement find that their children begin to resist the pressure to do better and better.
An anxious parent can forget to praise the B’s and A’s and focus only on the C’s. This decreases motivation and leads to resentment. It is important to accept your child for who he or she is. If he consistently achieves below the level of his ability, you should talk to people at school. Perhaps a learning disability is becoming a factor, and the school should do some testing. Perhaps he was able to do the work in the early grades, but interference from Attention Deficit Disorder is getting in his way in the middle grades. When parents explore these considerations, children feel understood.
In my experience as child psychotherapist , children do well when their parents can accept them for who they are and encourage them to do their best. Children benefit from balance in their lives. They need to go to school and do their work, play sports if they like them, hang out with friends in unstructured setting (like your family room), hang out with you, and have time for solitary pursuits like reading or crafts. They need room to find activities they love, like music or drama. But they need space in their lives to just hang out. Having faith in your child’s ability to be responsible and do well communicates good will toward her or him and increases her/him self-esteem.
I would be very interested to hear others’ opinions on this topic. Do you feel pressure from other parents to involve your children in many activities? Do you get very anxious when your child has difficulty in a subject? Do you think I’m off base? Let me know……