Ambitious and Competitive Parents: Pushing Kids Beyond Their Abilities

Most parents want their kids to be the best that they can be. We want our kids to be successful, to have lots of friends, and to be smart and happy, too. As parents, we often believe that we can guide and steer their lives so they can achieve these things. Even if kids protest about our influence in our lives, many of us reason it out and say that we know what is best for them and they will appreciate it in the long run.

Over my years as a parent, I certainly have been guilty myself of trying to make sure my kids get a fair shake in school, in their social lives, and in sports, too. Yet I’ve also witnessed parents who have gone overboard and have pushed to get their kids into situations where they just don’t fit. Ultimately, being overly ambitious and competitive where kids are concerned can backfire on them. Here are just a few examples:

In School. Most schools in the country today are set up with classes for the average students as well as classes that are more challenging for students at more advanced levels of education. While schools do make mistakes from time to time and overlook a child who really does need to be in these classes, some parents push too hard to get their kids into these classes to the detriment of the child. The fact is that these classes operate at a faster pace and at a higher level, and so they are not suited for every child. Children who get into such classes at the request of a parent and not based on their own abilities often struggle to keep up and get stressed out at the pace of the class. Many stress and struggle not to disappoint their parents, too.

In Sports. Sports is an area of great competitive spirit for parents. Inevitably, some kids will be placed on “lower” teams and some kids will be placed on higher teams. This is very common in junior high and high school years, and some parents fight and campaign to have their kids on higher teams when their skill level is not at the same level as other kids. Such kids inevitably face social pressures from other kids on the team when they cannot compete at the same level as the rest of the team, and the child feels social pressures as well as pressure from the coach and even the other parents and his or her own parents, too.

In Social Circles. Some parents truly just want their kids to be happy and they are content with whichever friends their kids choose for themselves. Others take a far more proactive role in socializing their kids, scheduling “playdates” for their kids well into the tween years when most kids are clearly old enough to schedule their own time with friends. Some parents may limit time with certain friends who they personally find less appealing and encourage time with others, even if their child doesn’t particularly click with those kids. While sometimes this does work out for parents in the way they intend, which is to ensure that their child is in the “popular crowd,” sometimes it does backfire. At some age, kids will ultimately pick and choose their own friends and parents won’t have much to say about it. Further, often parents cannot fully control who is “popular” in a school and who simply tries really hard to be popular and doesn’t succeed.

Ultimately, these are just a few examples of parents trying too hard to help their kids find happiness and success in life. The result, more often than not, is creating a kid who is stressed and unhappy, and who ultimately is not living their own life. Children ultimately will find happiness and success when they live up to their own talents and interests rather than to a preconceived notion or path that their parents have laid out in front of them.

Here are a few other articles written by this author:

Are competitive sports right for your kids?

Is your toddler afraid of the water? Swimming tips that work

The argument for kids playing multiple sports: Considerations beyond your schedule

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