As a teacher, students have been the main focus of my career. Of course, their education was the center of attention. Nonetheless, as a teacher you are so much more than an educator. You have to adapt in order to meet their needs, help free them from abuse, take good care of the children of uncaring, unsupportive parents that refuse to involve themselves in their child's life at school. Another problem that I have learned to recognize is the child that is pushed too hard by his parents. How can you tell if you, as parents, are the source of such drama in your child's life? Look for some of these common clues.
- Perfectionism is usually a trait! Perfectionism can be a personality trait, but when a child is pushed too hard, it is a trait that has been developed under tremendous strain. As a result, the level of frustration that arises when the final outcome doesn't meet expectations can be displayed as a violent outburst, verbal abuse towards others or an emotional reaction. A parent can notice it more when his child is reacting to test or assignment results or the ones printed on his report card. Usually, this child will react as the victim of a teacher that is too picky, according to him.
- Depression is a scary sign. Usually, this sign is present in the early teenage years as they have accumulated the pressure of being pushed too hard for years. This type of child will keep to herself and deal with the pressure on her own or will say things such as: "I wish I was dead!" or "It doesn't matter what I do, you will never be satisfied!" When their outbursts come to an end or they spend too much time on their own, isolating themselves from friends and family, then keep a close eye on them as their depression level may reach new heights.
- Emotional outbursts should never be discarded! Some people may take these outbursts lightly, but there is a difference between the reaction of a spoiled child who tries to get out of trouble and a child who is afraid of disappointing results. The last one is usually based on unrealistic expectations. The comments a father may hear are: "Mom is going to kill me! I'm going to be grounded for a week!" It gives you a clue of the high stress level they are put under by a parent or sometimes both.
- Fear is present and you can see physical signs of it. A child that is pushed too hard usually fears the consequences if the expectations or results are not met. She can become pale or flushed depending of her natural reaction to stressful situations, or may develop indigestion and nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath or sweating. A mother may hear comments such as: "If I don't have an A in Science, I'll never get into a good college!"
- Violence can be physical or verbal. When a child is pushed too hard and receives bad marks, you may witness a violent reaction. Your child may throw a chair through the air or tear up his test in tiny pieces. He may also scream at you or siblings and yell obscenities. Often you may get calls from the school's administration. Fights at school may also be caused by this type of pressure as children need a place to let off some steam! Being under such pressure can explain why a child would run away from the classroom, kick a desk, make cruel comments to his friends, etc. As a parent, these behavioral problems are often a huge clue of pushing your child too hard. Always look at the trigger!
- Cheating to reach their goals. When a child is pushed too hard, parents may be called about a situation involving their child cheating during a test. Usually, when a child is using cheating to obtain the desired results it is in order to reach the goals that were set for them by parents. Parents are often surprised to be contacted one day by either a teacher or the administration about a child caught going through the teacher's files in order to find the answer sheets to tests and assignments. All of these situations are a parent's wake up calls.
- Using guilt trips and persuasion. If your child is pushed too hard, you may find out that he has talked to the teacher about it and challenged the grade. A child may even practice a speech based on guilt and tears in order to convince their teacher more effectively. When a parent sees or hears this type of thing, the parent should realize that in order to resort to such tactics, a child may feel under pressure by the parents' own expectations.
A student who challenges the teachers' criteria or corrections is usually a child that is pushed too hard and tries to improve his marks by convincing the teacher that there either was a mistake or an oversight. As a parent, you can ask the teacher for a rubric sheet that discloses all details requested on a project or assignment in order to avoid confusion for your child. Otherwise, take it as a clue that you or your spouse may be pushing your child too hard.
As a teacher, I am always happy to deal with caring, committed and supportive parents, but I must admit that even in the best families, the level of expectations must be realistic. Often, the expectations are unrealistic for the child's age or based on a dream of one or both parents that they themselves never achieved. For example, consider a parent who wants her child to become a doctor, based on her own personal dreams that never came true. Her child, however, hates Mathematics and Science. On top of that, she is scared of blood so she always feels sick during dissections. Don't live your dreams through your children; let them create dreams of their own. Never push your child too hard!