All parents want their kids to shine academically. After all, a good education opens many doors to success later in life.
So, with only good intentions in their hearts and minds, many parents push their children in various ways in the hope they will achieve academic success.
They take their kids to multiple enrichment classes starting from a very young age, they berate them for not getting good enough grades, sometimes they even do their children’s homework and school projects for them.
In a nutshell, the academic expectations set for such children are very high, perhaps even unrealistic.
But, by doing this, are parents unintentionally setting their kids up to fail academically? Apparently, it may be the case, according to the results of a new study published by the American Psychological Association.
“Poisonous parental aspirations”
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The results of this research showed both positive and negative results of very high parental expectations on children’s academic performance.
The longitudinal study conducted between 2002-2007, involved 3,530 secondary school students (49.7 percent female) and their parents in Bavaria, Germany.
The study assessed student math achievement as well as parental aspiration (how much they want their child to earn a particular grade) and expectation (how much they believe their child can achieve a certain grade) on a yearly annual basis.
What lead researcher Kou Murayama and colleagues found was that high parental aspiration led to more academic achievement, but only when it did not overly exceed realistic expectation.
The children’s achievement decreased proportionately when aspiration exceeded expectation.
Murayama, said that “although parental aspiration can improve children’s academic performance, excessive parental aspiration can be poisonous.”
That’s right. Poisonous.
Mistakes parents make that negatively affect their kids’ grades
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Mark Papadas, a children’s empowerment expert, describes the most common ways parents may actually be harming their kids’ academic performance, even though they think they are helping them.
1. You set the bar way too high
You hear about child prodigies in the news ever so often, and while achieving such soaring academic heights is possible for a few, it’s just not fair to expect this from every child.
Papadas suggests that you should work together with the classroom to set “realistic incremental growth goals for your kids”, instead of setting them unrealistic expectations.
He points out that “a motivated student with an involved parent(s) can (and will) maximize your child’s efforts in school.”
2. You are not clear about your expectations
When given the chance, people usually live up to expectations. But, when kids are not told about what is expected of them, they obviously can’t figure out how to do well in school, says Papadas. For this, proper communication is needed.
To do this, have a chat (not a lecture) with your kids about what you expect from them both now and in the future. This will encourage them to work hard to make that happen.
3. You think your children should want the same things that you do
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Papadas explains that many parents project their own hopes and dreams onto their children. It may happen in two ways: either you want them to be exactly like you, or you want them to do what you couldn’t.
Both of these can be terribly damaging to your child’s academic success.
This is because while you might be happy with what you have achieved in life, your kid may want something quite different. Or, your child may be great at what you’re terrible at.
If you really want to be a good role model for your kids and you truly enjoy doing what you do, rest assured your child will be naturally curious. The advice is to let your kids do what comes to them naturally and provide them with opportunities and encouragement to explore.
However, keep in mind that if they don’t want to follow in your footsteps, there are plenty of other avenues for them to consider. Papadas recommends that you stop pushing them hard towards something they don’t like.
4. You let grades define their success
Papadas explains that “subjective aspirations are expectations that the student has no control over.” In an ideal world, all kids would get straight As — but as we know, this doesn’t happen.
Sometimes, it’s not because your child is not ‘trying’ hard enough but it could be because of ‘that’ teacher who just doesn’t give out good grades easily. Your child can’t do much about that teacher, right?
As parents, try to avoid setting subjective expectations for your kids, says Papadas. He says what would work better is to have measurable expectations, with a “degree of flexibility to account for effort and outside forces beyond their control.”
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