Am I Pushing My Kid to Succeed to Make Myself Look Good?
I wrote a story in October that hit a nerve. It was about the pressure we put on kids to succeed and how it’s damaging their mental health.
Most people commiserated; some told me I should stop living my life through my child.
The reason it hurt is because there’s some truth to it.
Our children are a reflection of us. The way they behave in school, or at a dinner table, or perform academically. There’s no denying it. We want them to make us look good.
I replied defensively in a comment that it wasn’t about me. I said we live in the UK where kids take tests at 16 that affect their chances of going to university. I also said my daughter is competitive by nature, and that I never brag about her achievements. (Not true).
Ever since, I’ve been doing some soul searching. The more I think about it, the more I think the critics are right. But perhaps not for the reasons they say.
My daughter isn’t an accessory I show off — or at least not much. But my constant nagging about her studying is probably more about my own insecurities. I am projecting on her my fears that she’s not prepared.
The truth is she’s doing fine despite my nagging. She takes her studies incredibly seriously, particularly for a 13-year-old.
That said, she is only 13 and her study habits need work. That’s where I should focus my comments.
It’s not easy getting the balance right — keeping teenagers organized and on task without driving them mad.
This morning on my dog walk, I got advice from a friend, Dan Northover, a dad at my daughter’s old school.
It’s true kids reflect us, he said, and we’re always comparing them to others, like other kids at their school or to our friends’ kids, or to their cousins. And we shouldn’t do that. At the same time, there is a lot of pressure on them to succeed and it comes early.
“We should probably teach them to compete with themselves to be the best version of themselves. Then we’d all be at peace.”
Here’s the original story: We’re Abusing Our Kids and Telling Ourselves It’s for Their Benefit.