Parents want the best for their children. They want their children to be happy and to develop the skills necessary to be successful in life. This desire can lead parents to put pressure on their children and teenagers in ways that aren’t best for their emotional and psychological development. It is very normal and natural to want the best for your child or teenager and to want to do everything possible to prepare her for life. There is healthy pressure and unhealthy pressure. Healthy pressure is supporting and encouraging a child or teenager in ways that are grounded in what is best for the child or teenager. Unhealthy pressure is pushing and coaxing your child into activities that don’t meet your child’s or teenager’s needs, but that meet your needs as a parent.
Parents often have pains and fears from their own childhoods that are unconscious and unhealed. It is so important to stay conscious about the forces that drive you to push or put pressure on your child. When you feel that you are pushing strongly, it is important to step back and ask yourself, “Why am I pushing so hard?” “Why am I so worried?” Just asking the questions can help you step back, pause, and self-reflect. By asking these questions and by being open, it can bring up childhood memories and experiences that have pain or hurt attached to them. Old pain and fears can get in the way of being an effective parent. Parenting can bring up so many fearful questions: “Am I doing enough?” “Is my child working hard enough?” “Does she have enough skills?” “Should he take tougher classes?” “Should she play on the traveling team?" When parents have pains, fears, or unmet needs from their own childhoods that are unconscious and unhealed, they often will push, overcompensate, and/or be over involved in their child’s or teenager’s lives. The more that parents can be aware of the source of their desire to push, the more that they will be able to step back and really see their child or teenager’s needs and do what it best for them.
Children and teenagers so want to loved and affirmed by their parents. If children and teenagers don’t get seen and loved for what pleases them, they might try to do what pleases their parents. They could play an instrument or sport or take a class which they don’t like because they know that their parents will be proud of them and will love and praise them. When children and teenagers focus all their attention looking outward for affirmation and love, they don’t develop the ability to look inward for what pleases them, and they don’t develop the internal resources to take care of themselves and nourish themselves. This can lead to state of feeling empty, lonely, and depressed.
If children and teenagers feel pressure to do certain activities that they don’t want to do, they also might act out in certain ways to express their frustration or tension. They so want to loved and appreciated, but they don’t want to do things that don’t feel good to them. This creates a dilemma inside them. Do I give up what I want in order to get loved?
The task for parents is to really see your children and teenagers for who they are and not what you want them to be. It is so important for parents to keep connecting with their children and teenagers and to help them to figure out what makes them happy and to support them to doing those types of activities. It is also important for parents to praise their children highly for choosing activities that please them and for their participation in those activities.
Parents can avoid putting pressure on their children and teenagers by developing and actively pursuing their own passions. Parents can be role models for your children and teenagers by following their passions and doing what pleases them. Pursuing their passions will also give meaning to their lives and nourish them so that they don’t try to get nourished and uplifted through their children’s or teenager’s activities.
There is such a belief in our society that “more is better”. This belief is based on the fear of not being enough or doing enough. More is not necessarily better in life. It can create an enormous amount of stress. Having your child involved in large amounts of activities and running around to these activities might not be what’s is best for your child or teenager. There is a high rate of burnout for young teenagers in sports. After childhoods filled with lots of pressurized sports, teenagers are often tired of them and quit sports altogether. Ultimately, children and teenagers want to spend unhurried quality time with their parents and connect in heartfelt, warm ways. Being overly busy can keep parents from connecting in this way.
When there is too much pressure on childen and teenagers, and it is overwhelming their nervous systems, it can cause them to develop anxiety disorders which can lead to other dysfunctional behaviors and mental health issues. Sometimes they will act out more in negative ways or sometimes they will turn their anger and pain inward and develop depression. It is important to look for signs of anxiety, anger, depression, or drastic changes in normal behavior or mood and seek professional support.
There are four behaviors that parents can do to lessen unhealthy pressure. First, parents can develop an awareness of any pain or fear from their childhoods that might cause them to push their children or teenagers. Second, they can help support their children in doing what pleases them and finding their gifts and strengths. Third, parents can try not to over schedule their children’s or teenagers’ lives and make time for quality connection with them. Finally, they can pursue a passion of their own. Doing these tasks will create more balance and less unhealthy pressure in their lives of children and teenagers.