How Far Should Parents Push Children to Succeed?

This article looks at the idea of parents pushing children too hard to achieve success. It questions the motives behind parents feeling the need to push their child to succeed.

The question of how far should parents push their children to succeed rests on two issues. The first is to figure out how to measure success. The other is to determine whose success is going to be achieved. Once these concerns have been resolved, the answer regarding how far to push children should be relatively easy to deduce.

Success is sometimes measured by earnings.

As a parent if your goal is have your children earn enough money that the government wants them to return it out of guilt, the pathway to success is clearly marked. It may involve some things that you do not want for your child. It is common for people who chase wealth as the only measure of success to never quite find enough of it to make them happy. Achieving great wealth can mean that you have to disregard friendships and other relationships if they get in the way. It can also mean long days and health problems at an early age from overwork and stress.

Fame is often used to judge success.

Fame is reached by two roads. The first one is long and slow. Most parents who want this for their child would not be content with pathway. It requires a person to do something well for many years until the recognition comes. It may never come. The other road comes from pushing and shoving through the crowd to get your name up in lights. This way can make a lot of enemies who will make sure that if you falter, you will fall. Often, people who achieve fame in this way are not ready for it when it comes. Fame can wreak havoc in a young life.

Parents often view sports prowess as proof of success.

Long hours of practice can ruin the child’s social development and harm their young bodies. The problem with sports is that only a very few of the best players ever make it big. Even those who make it to the big leagues in their sport are usually destined to have short careers or be a background player to the stars. The sacrifices for heading in this direction can easily outweigh the rewards. Very few young people play competitive sports. As the level gets higher from little leagues to junior high to high school to college the numbers get smaller and smaller.

High levels of education and a professional career are the earmarks of succeeding for many parents.

Education is a great thing. It is not everything. In reality, most young people invest time beyond a bachelors degree without pausing their educational journey because they are nudged strongly by their parents. Even if the parent does not do direct pushing, the child often feels pushed by expectations. This is not always a bad thing, but the motivation of the parents needs to be right.

Whose success is being pushed?

Parents push their children to succeed too many times to see their own missed opportunities fulfilled. Circumstances may have prevented a person from reaching for their childhood dream. Now that they have children of their own, the parent sees this as a second chance. Another negative possibility is that the parent views the child’s success or failure as a personal achievement. The child is pushed to succeed so that the parent can ride the child’s star upward. This is not normal parental pride at a child that has done well in life. It is a specific push that has a measure of succeed or else attached to it.

The word push implies a poor reason to want success for the child.

Parents should view themselves more as enablers to the child. Rather than push the child, parents should concentrate on opening doors to give the child options in life. Success should be measured in the child’s ability to choose a path that leads to personal happiness or at least a chance of it. It should also include the child being able to become a self-supporting member of society with an opportunity to grow as a person and in other ways if desired.

Parents should limit the amount of pushing of their child to achieve success.

When the parent makes the child believe that the parent has been let down if a certain level of success is not reached, the pushing has gone too far. High expectations are one thing. Making the child think that parental approval will only be given when certain goals are met is another. Encourage your children to do their best not your unrealistic dreams. It is, afterall, their life not yours.

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Published in: Family


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  1. No wonder we have so many under achievers. Everyone is happy to provide an excuse for their kids to not shy away from their fears. Nothing good in life is worth having unless you work for it. Kids today need a push to attain certain goals. The new ideas in schools that promote success for all will not support a competitive global world

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  3. Ok coming from a kid who is feeling this I completely agree. My parents seem to never express approval unless a goal, set by them, has been achieved.

    I wish they would read this because they are clearly the types of parents expressed in the article; they just don’t ever seem to know when to stop pushing me. It has gotten to the point that they want me to achieve so much in my life that I no longer enjoy myself, or for that matter do anything for my self any more. Everything is centered around completing the next task they have given me.

    The problem with parents excessively pushing is their children, once out of their control, never know what to do with themselves. Because before they left their parent’s control everything they did was dictated to them. They were never able to develope decision making skills or ever think about where they wanted to go in life.

    This isn’t to say that pushing isn’t helpful, it can serve the purpose of poiniting in the right direction, but the parents should always make sure it is more of guidance rather than a necessity to have their child succeed in life.

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