Push Your Kids Academically -- But Not Too Much

We all know them.

The parents who explode if the kid gets a "B."  Maybe we're even them, sometimes.

But a new study has found -- unsurprisingly -- that parents who push their kids too hard inhibit their ability to learn, according to newswise.com.

When parents have high hopes for their children’s academic achievement, the children tend to do better in school, unless those hopes are unrealistic, in which case the children may not perform well in school, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

“Our research revealed both positive and negative aspects of parents’ aspiration for their children’s academic performance. Although parental aspiration can help improve children’s academic performance, excessive parental aspiration can be poisonous,” says lead author Kou Murayama, PhD, of the University of Reading.

When aspirations exceeded expectations, the achievement of the children in the study decreased proportionately, the study found.

Now, I'm guilty of this.  A mediocre student myself, I get mad if my straight-A son gets a "B."  But now I'm listening to this.  (Even though my husband still remembers all the SAT scores of the kids who did better than he, and we're talking a man who will collect Medicare next year.)

“Much of the previous literature conveyed a simple, straightforward message to parents – aim high for your children and they will achieve more,” says Murayama.

In fact, getting parents to have higher hopes for their children has often been a goal of programs designed to improve academic performance in schools. This study suggests that the focus of such educational programs should not be on blindly increasing parental aspiration but on giving parents the information they need to develop realistic expectations.

“Unrealistically high aspiration may hinder academic performance. Simply raising aspiration cannot be an effective solution to improve success in education,” he notes.

So should we stop pushing our kids?  I suppose the answer is yes.  Push, with certain limits, seems the best bet.  But relax about those "B's." Are you listening, Debbie?


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