As a parent, the desire to see your children succeed is a natural one. There is a difference, however, between encouraging your kids to do their best and placing them under so much pressure that they resort to desperate measures in order to achieve success. Striking that balance can be challenging, but it’s important to help your kids reach their full potential without browbeating them into submission.
Praise Effort Over Accomplishments
When your children are praised for their efforts towards meeting a goal, they learn that the most important aspect of their accomplishments is the effort they expend to reach them. When your teen realizes his work is the key to success and the praise of his parents, he’s more likely to focus on that aspect than the end result.
Make sure your child knows that what you’re looking for in terms of success is honest, concerted effort to do his very best.
Rather than demanding that he be the valedictorian, the quarterback of the football team and first chair in the student orchestra, help him understand that the foundation of success is hard work and strong effort.
Emphasize Integrity, Not Winning at All Costs
When teenagers feel like they’re under an intense amount of pressure to succeed academically or athletically at all costs, they’re more likely to view cheating as a tool of survival, rather than a morally and ethically bankrupt choice.
Talking about the importance of honest effort and making sure that your teenager knows you value that honesty over an achievement reached through questionable practices can help to put these dilemma into perspective for your teenager.
Extracurricular activities can be fulfilling and exciting experiences for your teen that help him learn new skills while exploring his interests and talents. When he’s bogged down by a schedule that’s cram-packed with them, however, desperation can begin to set in.
Work with your teen to determine what activities he’d like to maintain and how they can be scheduled so that he doesn’t feel like he’s being spread too thin by a demanding schedule and placed under too much pressure by coaches, teachers and other authority figures.
Remember, you’re not the only person that can place your teenager under pressure to succeed.
Focus On Your Teenagers’ Needs, Not Your Own
If you’re completely dedicated to your teenage son’s football career or your daughter’s cheerleading prowess, it’s wise to ask yourself why these things are so important to you. If the answer is simply that you want to support your child in an activity she excels in and has a talent for, that’s one thing.
Should a bit of deeper examination reveal that you’re inadvertently living vicariously through your teenager’s success, however, you may want to reevaluate things. In these cases, it’s all too common for a teen to continue something he’d much rather abandon because he feels so much pressure from a parent to be the very best.
If you’re reliving your own glory days through your teen, he’s probably under far more pressure than you realize.
Provide Affirmation and Support
When a demanding schedule is something that your teen has chosen for himself and he’s committed to doing everything he can in terms of reaching his goals, the best thing you can do for him is to offer plenty of support and affirmation. Let your teen know that you’re proud of his efforts, but that his value to you doesn’t lie in how much he accomplishes and your love isn’t contingent upon his success.
Allow Teens to Explore Their Interests
You may have dreams of your son being a professional athlete, but his interests may run more towards the arts or academia. To truly support your kids and help them reach their full potential without stressing them out under the burden of your demands for perfection, allow them to explore the things that interest them and make an effort to show your support.
A teenager who knows he’s loved unconditionally and that the support of those he looks up to most isn’t contingent upon him toeing the proverbial line is generally more secure and less anxious than his over-burdened peers.
It’s not easy to set aside the hopes and dreams you have for your child in favor of allowing him to find his own path, but it’s an important part of growing up and asserting his independence. By supporting his efforts and applauding the hard work he does, you’re effectively helping him reach his potential without adding an unmanageable amount of stress to his plate.