Overachievement isn’t rare among teens. Unfortunately, though, sometimes it’s the parents of those teens that push them into such a state. Understanding the nature of the beast is the key to taming it.
Taming the Overachieving Monster
Seventeen-year-old Chicago senior Kyle S. knows what it’s like to be stressed. An A student, he is involved in his school’s drama club, the school newspaper, and participates in the local Chicago Children’s Choir. In addition to a heavy load of AP and IB courses, Kyle has started applying to college. He hopes that his best will be enough to live up to his parents’ standards for him.
As more and more students strive to be accepted to the nation’s top colleges, even “safeties” have gotten increasingly more difficult to get into, and kids feel an enormous amount of pressure. “You begin to question yourself…if this girl was written up in Time magazine but didn’t get in to a prestigious college, I need to do more,” Kyle says.
Parents may start out grooming a soccer star or a violin virtuoso, but the ultimate prize for the overachiever’s family is the “right” bumper sticker for the family car, indicating their “family’s” acceptance to a competitive college.
“I just want my parents to let me deal with things on my own,” says Newark high school senior, Charlotte A. “I feel personally stressed when my parents are on my back about getting my work done.”
Kristen M., a 17-year-old New Jersey senior, says, “There is more pressure to be the best-of-the-best now. Adults need to help kids find realistic goals instead of pushing them beyond their limits.”
It’s natural to want your child to succeed, but what, exactly, qualifies as achievement? Too many of today’s parents define it as a 2400 on the SATs*, a schedule full of AP classes, and extracurricular activities that take up every afternoon of the school week. Parents often dismiss the reality of the hours of homework this kind of academic load entails.
Does being class president, captain of the track team, and sole organizer of the school’s clothing drive add up to a top college acceptance? No. All it guarantees is stress.
It’s all too easy for parents to get over-involved in managing their high schooler’s life. “The general tendency is to want to live through your child-the only form of time travel I know,” says Michael Schwartzman, Ph.D., a psychoanalyst who works with adolescents in New York City and Larchmont, NY, and the author of The Anxious Parent. “There’s a lot of potential for parents to overstep their boundaries.”
“Forget the name-brands, forget the reputations in your area and social circles, and for goodness sake, throw the college rankings in the trash,” says Alexandra Robbins, best-selling author of The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids.
LET YOUR TEENS DEFINE SUCCESS THEIR OWN WAY
“I feel like being the best comes from the standards that I set for myself,” Kyle says. “I don’t want anyone else to control how I perceive my success.”
And Schwartman agrees: “Success is when a child feels good about both his choices and the outcomes.”
Parents can be too quick to impose their way of doing things. However, it may be more helpful to let teens find out for themselves. It’s not the grades they get, or the accolades they win, but rather, how satisfied they are with their performance and the rewards they get from doing their best.
Kyle’s mother, Mindy, says, “We try to convey to our sons that academics are not their whole life; they should make time for friends, and pursue their own interests. What we ask is, ‘Given the gifts you have, have you applied them as best as you can?'”
Read more at Parenting Teens Online.
One of the most important things you can do is tune into your teen. If he or she seems stressed, learn more about whether it’s your own behaviors that may be stressing them out or if something else in life is becoming a problem. It can make a real difference just to show your teen that you care.
Overachievement and Your Teen
Article: Overachievement and Your Teen
Author: Callie Schweitzer
Source: Parenting Teens Online