“Remember to smile, honey.” “You are going to win!” “Don’t disappoint your mommy and daddy.”
You may have heard these words spoken to children during sports competitions or, more specifically, beauty pageants. While some may call it friendly competition; others are asking themselves, “Are you pushing your child too far?” This is a parenting question we should all ask ourselves. While we want to encourage our children to do their best, we don't want to push them to a point that can turn into resentment.
Here are some more examples of how putting too much pressure on your children can do more harm than good: “Whenever I take Tammy to her dance class, she screams and cries all the way there. I have to struggle just to get her inside the room. She goes off into a tantrum and refuses to participate.” “What happened, Ronny?, why did you drop the ball? It was an easy grounder; what’s wrong with you? From now on, you are going to practice every day after school!” Why are parents putting so much pressure on children?
In Tammy’s case, her mom probably wanted to be a dancer and missed her chance. In Ronny’s case, his dad sees his son’s inability to perform as an embarrassment or an affront against him. Parents who push their children too far do so for their own selfish reasons. Instead of encouraging a child to excel in a sport or recreation they are particularly good at; some parents choose for them, and because the child wants to please – will succumb to the parent’s wishes.
Certainly it may start out as friendly competition; but when a parent refuses to acknowledge the child may not have the skills or acumen to continue to participate, the line is crossed and the pushing and cajoling begins. Who decided that children must accomplish the impossible before they reach the age of maturity? Moreover, why is the obvious damage to the child’s psychological state being overlooked?
Competition, in most cases, can be healthy. It improves a child’s self-esteem and builds confidence. However, when parents push a child to perform that which they are neither capable nor interested; a recipe for disaster ensues. Children must be allowed to play and act as children. It is vital to their emotional and psychological growth. To relegate them to a higher standard of excellence before they are sufficiently prepared is a recipe for disaster.