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When you were little, what did you dream about becoming? An astronaut? A ballerina? A professional wrestler? Whatever it was, chances are it was something that you felt was important. Something big. That’s the thing about little kids— they dream big because no one has told them that they can’t do something yet. They literally have no limits. But as we grow up we start to see the areas we lack. We’re not the most popular, influential or talented. And eventually we start to wonder if we can ever do or be anything significant. That’s exactly what happened to a guy named Moses. With a tough past and not many real skills, he had no reason to believe that his life would be used do anything extraordinary. But after a few encounters with God, Moses’ perspective changed completely. He found that with God, there is no limit to what you can do.
Think About This:
Do you ever wonder if you’re that parent? You know the one. The imaginary bar determining your success as a parent is always just out of reach. Or maybe you worry about over-parenting. You know you should probably back off a little bit—but you can’t help but always push, expect, encourage the best from your student. The truth is, parents usually are not satisfied with how they’re parenting—whether that is too much, too little, or a strange combination of both. And, every student is different—so it’s hard to gauge whether we are pushing them to succeed or pushing them to the brink of a breakdown. At some point or another, most of us wonder whether we expect too much or too little.
Research seems to suggest that, knowingly or unknowingly, most of us err on the side of too much pressure. In the Pew Research article, Parental Pressure on Students, authors Richard Wike and Juliana Horowitz ask, Have American parents become too pushy about their kids’ education? Many experts seem to think so, judging from several new books by journalists and psychologists that bemoan the growing pressure students feel to do well in school. But at least one group of non-experts — the American public — begs to differ. According to a Pew Global Attitudes survey, most Americans think parents are not pushing their children hard enough.
In other words, while most of us think we aren’t expecting enough out of our students, researchers and experts feel our expectations may be a little too high. So what exactly are we supposed to do?
Visit tomorrow but live in today. Especially with high school students, it’s easy to let most of our conversations drift toward what happens next. Decisions about classes, study habits, dating, and extra-curriculars lure us towards focusing on the future. And sure, college is coming, but our student isn’t there yet. For them, it can be overwhelming to feel like they have to have all of the answers about what’s next while still juggling the expectations they feel today. That doesn’t mean we should never talk about future goals, but don’t let it take up all of your conversational space. Be present in their present.
Believe the best —and say so. Sometimes our students will win in a certain situation and sometimes they’ll lose. Sometimes their choices will make us proud and other times they’ll make us cringe. Most students have a tendency to confuse our feelings about their actions with our feelings about them. But in every situation, communicate your belief in your student. Their performance, their behavior, their attitudes don’t diminish their value. They’re significant. Valuable. Worthwhile. Don’t ever miss a chance to tell them so. Consider making an extra effort to communicate that you believe good things about them regardless of how they perform at school or on the athletic field. Try saying something like this, “I wish you hadn’t cheated on your test and there will definitely be some consequences, but I don’t believe this is in your character. I know you’re an honest person and next time I really think you’ll study harder to make the grade.”
Get connected to a wider community of parents at www.orangeparents.org.
Sometimes what we say and what the other person hears are two different things. Often, it’s hard to know if they could use a little extra encouragement or a little less pressure. Try asking your student for feedback using the tool below. Chances are you and your student will have different answers. That’s okay! Don’t let it discourage you! Use it as a conversation starter. Afterward consider showing your student how you answered. No need to make it a formal meeting. And, this doesn’t mean that you have to give in when they say, “I want you to bug me less about my math grade”. It simply shows them that you care what they think and it gives you both a way to get on the same page as you move forward.
Use the section labeled “For the parent” to gauge where on the scale your parenting falls. Then cut along the dotted line and give the section labeled “For the student” to your student. Don’t ask them to complete it in front of you. Give them space to think about it and place they can leave it for you when they finish.
For the parent:
Draw a circle around the number you believe represents the level of pressure your student feels
Too few expectations Too many expectations
Too little encouragement Too much pressure.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
cut along this line. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
For the student:
Hey, as your parent, I want you to know that I’m doing the best I can to give you just enough encouragement without making you feel a ton of pressure. I want you to give me some feedback on how I’m doing in this area. Just circle a number and leave it _____________________ (location) so I can see how you feel. Be honest. Thanks!
I feel no one expects much of me. I feel too much is expected of me.
I could use some encouragment I can’t handle the pressure
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
If you answer 1-5, what’s one way I can encourage you more?________________________________________________________________________
If you answer 6-10, what’s one way I can help you feel less pressured?____________________________________________________________________