Video: Psychological effects of parental academic pressure on children

by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada

  • Parental high academic expectations of children may be psychologically crippling
  • Added pressure can even lead children to commit the ultimate act of self-destruction

‘Academic failure is not an option’ approach to parenting may be psychologically crippling children well into adulthood and may have some serious implications for a child’s wellbeing. Motivational speaker and Pastor of the St Georges Evangelical Church, Gerard Keens Douglas is cautioning parents with high academic expectations of their children, to be mindful of their reaction if their child is unable to live up to those expectations.

The pastor was prompted to address the issue after personal interactions with parents following the release of the Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment (CPEA) exams results. He says studies have shown that parents’ refusal to accept a less than excellent performance from their children may put added pressure on them to succeed and will ultimately be damaging to a child’s self-esteem if he or she is unable to attain or maintain such stellar performance in school.

Keens Douglas says this added pressure can have a negative impact on a child psychologically and can even lead them to commit the ultimate act of self-destruction. “To meet the expectation of parents may become overwhelming that they may give up, and so parents need to know it can lead to that ultimate end where a child decides to commit suicide. Or it can be silently dealt with by the child leaving them crippled inside, and it will take god-knows-what for that child to bounce out of that state.”

Keens Douglas says most importantly, parents should avoid having their children learn of their embarrassment over his or her performance in school. “I want to say to our parents, do not let your child overhear you complaining that the child didn’t live up to your expectation or you wish they were going to another school or you are ashamed. Do not let that happen but instead, let your child know that it is okay and whatever school you get to go to, we as parents are standing by you; you are going to make it.”

The motivational speaker has some words of advice for students coping with academic underachievement. “To a child, I would say look don’t let failure get to you. Remember you are more than people’s expectations and you have all that is required to succeed so you will survive this never mind what school you are going too.”

Two Stanford University psychology professors Kyla Haimovitz and Carol S Dweck conducted a study on how parents’ reaction to failure affects children and how they view intelligence.

As part of the findings of the study, it was found that parents who have high expectations of their children may not achieve the desired results unless they can have a “positive and constructive reaction to their children’s struggles academically.”

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