How Much Is Enough?

My husband and I, and probably a lot of parents, constantly feel like we are walking the fine line of having super high expectations for our kids and putting too much pressure on them.  It is that old question of how much is too much.  You expect a lot from your kids because you want them to grow and learn life lessons that will help them reach their full potential. However, sometimes those high expectations can feel like extreme pressure on your kids and can cause problems with self-confidence and can lead to anxiety or even rebellion. It is really hard to know when it is too much until it is too late.  You hear all the time these days that kids are under too much pressure.  Some parents are pushing their kids to the limit and forcing them to work hard even when they don’t want to. Those parents are the ones who believe that winning is the only way and expect their kids to be perfect. They may constantly talk about all the negative things about their children and lose sight of the positives. For example, you may put a lot of emphasis on grades with your children and expect them to make straight A’s and take the hardest classes. After all, that is important if you want to get into a good college these days, right?  You can stress this to your kids over and over again and maybe give negative consequences for a performance of less than what you expect of them. You may constantly check their grades and fuss at them when they aren’t up to your standards. This could lead to your child having a lot of anxiety about grades.  They could stay up all hours of the night doing schoolwork and make themselves sick over tests, which is not really your desired effect.  On the other end, it could cause them to rebel against you where they never turn in classwork and never study so that their grades plummet.   Putting too much pressure can cause your child’s mental health to be in danger.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there is also the dilemma of not having enough expectations of your children.  In this day and age, you often hear that parents aren’t putting enough pressure on their kids and that they are just letting them get by with mediocre performance. Those are often the parents that feel you should let kids be kids and figure life out on their own.  They don’t think that winning or being on top is important and, therefore, don’t push their kids to be better. This could cause kids to underperform and not reach their potential at all.  In the grades example, this type of parent may never ask if their kids have homework or make sure that they do it.  There may be no consequence or word spoken if their child fails a test. If you aren’t showing them that they should value things like grades, they are not really going to care if they get A’s or F’s.   They aren’t going to learn the value of working hard to achieve something.  

Whether you are or are not putting pressure on your children about grades, sports, behavior, or whatever else, it is hard to know the right thing to do.  Is either way right or wrong? I really think that you have to find a balance somewhere in the middle.  I do think that having high expectations for your kids is a good thing for the most part.  You just want what is best for them and it gives them something to strive for. Some pressure and expectations are good and are an important part of parenting, but it is also important to remember to let them figure some things out on their own sometimes. Being perfect all the time isn’t realistic and can cause all kinds of problems in the long run.  It really is a fine line between too much and too little, and it truly depends on each individual child. Some children handle pressure better than others.  My own children handle pressure differently.  There were many years that my youngest rebelled against any kind of pressure where my oldest thrived on it.  Now things have sort of shifted.  My oldest now crumbles under a lot of pressure, and my youngest handles pressure in certain situations really well. We are constantly juggling it all, and we are learning every day when to back off and when to press on.  

Thankfully, I think my husband and I balance each other out.  There are things that I think are really important and push hard on, and he doesn’t push as much on those things and vice versa.  We are able to tell each other when we think the other is being too harsh and talk it through.  Do I think we always do it right? No, I certainly don’t.  There have been many occasions when I think we have both failed and maybe pushed too hard, and we saw negative consequences in our kids. Then there are also those times when I don’t think we pushed enough, and our kids didn’t get to where they needed to be.  I’ve said this a million times, but parenting is hard.  There is no handbook on parenting that can possibly cover every situation or personality. It really is trial and error with more times than not ending in error.  I can’t tell you whether you need to put more or less pressure and expectations on your children. That is something I don’t know the answer to because I am still trying to figure it out myself.  All I know is that you have to find the right balance and that the scale is always tipping in one direction or another.  


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