The behaviors, actions and performance of a child are out of a parent’s control-right? I mean you can help prep them for a test, big game or practice manners and socialization, but when it really comes down to it, it’s on them. This is often very hard for the “Pusher Parent” to accept, so they just keep pushing in an effort to try and control their child’s outcomes. As a reminder from my previous blog, a “Pusher Parent” is an extreme term to represent the parent who is more involved in their child’s performance than they are and despite hard work are unable to achieve the “Pusher Parent’s” expectations.
The problem with using this approach to parenting is that for one it’s extreme but it also doesn’t work for many children. As a result of pushing too hard, the relationship between the parent and child becomes strained. The parent’s high expectations aren’t met, and the child is left feeling controlled, unmotivated and loses confidence. The irony of the situation is that in an effort to push and gain control over the child’s performance, the parent can end up having the opposite result. So, the question is, how do you find the grey area in parenting? How do you push without pushing too hard? Well, here are some helpful tips that keep in mind each child has different needs.
Evaluate your current expectations: It’s important to raise your own self-awareness of what you expect of your child. Is it all A’s and B’s on their report card or do you want them to be the star of their team? Are you thinking ahead to their future and what college or job you want them to have? Or is there significant pressure coming at you from the school or other venues to get your child “where they should be”? Think about these things in order to understand where your expectations are coming from. Remember that while you may value close to perfect grades and extracurricular performance, your child may not. No matter how hard it may be to come to grips with having different expectations than your child, it’s important to have some perspective. If your child holds good core values as an individual and is trying their best, isn’t this important to?
Get to know your child: Putting your own expectations aside, what are your child’s strengths/values? What does he/she want to achieve? Where does their passion lye? It’s within these conversations, a parent can learn where the child wants the motivation-not pushing! Just a reminder that we’re referring to children who are already working hard. Be aware, the “Pusher Parent” may be pushing a child who already pushes themselves and this can lead to significant anxiety. As an example, this child may just need a good cheerleader! One critic is more than enough.
Motivate, Don’t Push: Talk to your child about what is helpful motivation and what isn’t. This is a great way to open up communication and it says “I care about what YOU need.” Realistically, a child may say they don’t want any communication, but I can tell you there is always comfort in knowing your there if they need you.
Pointing out your child’s current strengths: It’s so easy to highlight all the negative things in life. Point out their strengths and how those strengths can help them achieve their goals. Ask your child what strengths they see in themselves? It’s important they gain their own self-confidence so they don’t solely rely on it from others.
Acknowledging their hard work: Everybody needs acknowledgement to some degree for their hard work. Sometimes this is motivation to keep going, especially when they hit a bump in the road- AND THEY WILL! Celebrate the success and hard work along the way.
Accept imperfection: It’s more constructive to hear someone tell you it’s okay to get a lower grade than expected and come up with a plan to try and do better (if possible) next time. If imperfection didn’t exist there would not be tutors, help after school and extra practices. When at this step, keep in mind sometimes kids have “off” days and others are not meant to be straight “A” students or star athletes. THIS IS OKAY, your child is more than the sum of their performances.
When it comes to parenting, I think we can all agree, all you can do is your best. The parent of a child with straight “A”s is not necessarily any better than one with “C”s. Your child’s performance does not define you as a person or parent, unless you don’t try at all and we’re not talking about the uninvolved parent here. There are some battles you will not win no matter how hard you try and push. So, why not reevaluate your expectations and make them more realistic while being open to the fact that they might not get met- I mean but isn’t that life though?!