Parents. They can be annoying. They can be supportive. Sometimes they can even be “cool”. But one thing almost all parents are good at is having expectations. Unfortunately, some parents don’t set their expectations high enough, resulting in lower levels of motivation in their children. Some parents manage to expect just enough from their kids to help them feel supported and still get grades they’re proud of. The biggest problem, though, is when parents expect too much—when they stress out their kids, setting the bar at a nearly unreachable level. While the goal of this is usually to get their kid to do well, it generally has the opposite effect.
Numerous researchers have studied the effects of parental pressure. While these studies are all slightly different in experimental design, they all come to about the same conclusion: parents should be putting some pressure on students, but too much pressure contributes to overall poorer academic performance.
Some pressure is helpful; one way to put necessary pressure on students without going overboard is to focus on the process—to focus more on hard work than on whether or not it pays off. This is shown to boost “academic self-concept, self-esteem, task orientation, and academic achievement.”
The problem comes when parents expect too much. Some parents expect that kids will do not just the best they can do, but the best out of their peers, or that they will, for instance, get all A’s. This puts unfair pressure on them, which is shown to cause an increase in anxiety. Anxiety, in turn, actually decreases academic performance. Additionally, high parental pressure decreases perceived competence and independence, increases academic burnout, and lowers self-esteem. All of these factors contribute to a higher likelihood of developing depression, and can even lead to substance abuse, running away from home, and suicide.
Just seeing the statistics feels very concerning, but where does our school actually stand? To answer this question, I sent out a form through Schoology in December to figure out how students at CHS feel about pressure from their parents. The sample size turned out to be 131 students, or about 10% of the school. So, let’s bring up the results, and the survey says…
Well, that’s not great.
The vast majority of people have indicated that their parents are pressuring them quite a bit, with 20% of respondents saying that they felt a 7 out of 7 on the scale, which was labeled with “I need to get A+’s….” The average was 5.1 out of 7.
But just this information alone doesn’t give the full picture. Maybe these parents are just pressuring their kids in a way where the kids are fine with it. Well, that’s where the open-ended question comes in. I asked in general what people thought about parental pressure, and out of 50 respondents, almost all of them agreed that parental pressure was a bad thing, but more importantly, around a quarter mentioned something involving their own experiences with parental pressure and how it was bad, causing loss of motivation, anxiety, stress, and/or depression.
This is a serious problem that occurs in our school, and one which affects many students. It’s not just the kind of thing that parents do that’s slightly annoying but that you get over—this is causing real harm, and many studies can attest to it.
Sadly, parents can be hard to change. They can get stuck in their ways, refusing to accept real facts and real science. I don’t expect to change this any time soon, but maybe you can use these sources and facts and actually see the real science that has been done in this topic to possibly get your parents to cool off a little bit. Personally, I’m lucky to be self-motivated—the only thing my parents pressure me to do is go to sleep—but seeing those around me struggle has given me a strong opinion on this topic. I feel that parents should focus on getting students to find their own motivation instead of trying to make their motivation for them.
Referenceshttps://bit.ly/3GPYusC https://ojep.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/2016NS.pdf https://bit.ly/33iNjel https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1231577.pdf