Parenting: High expectations vs. high pressure

by | Apr 30, 2021

While high expectations can help people to reach their full potential, expectations can spill over into pressure when they are inflexible, unrealistic, or inadequately supported.

Pushing kids, not being empathetic to their struggles, not being supportive, and to make winning or being the best the be-all and end-all… that’s not what having high expectations is about’.

High expectations push people to achieve THEIR best, pressure pushes them to be THE best.

While high expectations help kids to feel confident and capable, pressure can make kids feel unable to live up to expectations.

And while high expectations can be motivating and encouraging, pressure can lead to avoidance, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

And the reality is: kids put enough pressure on themselves! No child actively wants to do badly at school, to disappoint their parents, or to ‘fail’ at something they’ve tried to excel in.

Useful tips to up the expectations and lower the pressure on your child :

1. Adopt a Growth Mindset.

I’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, a Growth mindset is key to success! It involves focussing on the value of the process that goes into things, rather than the outcome.

With a Growth mindset, you will have high expectations of the effort that goes into study and learning, while a Fixed mindset may put high pressure on getting good grades.

Support a Growth mindset in your children by emphasizing the importance of hard work — as the key to good grades, and also as something of value in and of itself.

2. Make expectations clear, realistic, and reasonable.

Many kids become overwhelmed by pressure because they don’t know exactly what is expected of them. Their parents want them to do well at school. But what does this mean? To get good grades? To top the class? Or to acquire knowledge and skills?

Set achievable expectations for your kids and make sure they know exactly what they are, and how you expect them to achieve them. This again places the focus on the processes, rather than outcomes.

Clear high expectation: ‘I expect you to study for at least one hour a day.’ Unclear high pressure: ‘I expect you to get an A+’

3. Aim for personal bests and fulfilled potential. 

Not every child can get into the top sporting team. Nor can every student get into the most competitive college.

But they can still play sport, improve, and even excel in it, and they can still find a pathway to their desired degree.

It is reasonable and beneficial to expect fulfilled potential. But putting high pressure on numbers and ranks is unproductive, and often detrimental.

4. Let them make mistakes!

Kids might seek out help with their assignments when they’re feeling stressed. They might ask for a sick day so they can skip a test.

But it’s important to remember: Kids are expected to be competent enough to independently fulfill all of their school-set obligations. 

By helping them too much, you can send the message that your expectations are low and that they can’t meet those set by their teacher.

And even if they do struggle, ‘failure’, in its many forms, is an inevitable part of life.

By understanding that from a young age, kids grow to be motivated by their mistakes, to discover where they went wrong, and to strive to fix them in the future – on their own.

5. Offer support and encouragement through the process.

Let your kids know that you have faith in their ability, that you believe they are confident and capable.

And most importantly — hard work is what’s needed to get good results.

Offer them whatever emotional and practical support you can, and that they may need, in order to achieve their goals.

This could be offering them a sympathetic ear when they’re feeling stressed, or listening to them go over what they learned in school over dinner. However, it’s important to be restrained with both reassurance and praise in the face of disappointment.

All in all, the best emotional and practical support you can offer your child is during the process, not after the outcome.

And one of the best ways you can support your child, boost their confidence, and increase their motivation, is to have high expectations.

Weil College Advising

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