Why I'm Proud To Be A Pushy Parent

01/07/2011 08:28 | Updated 22 May 2015

I am a pushy mum and proudI am a pushy parent. And proud to be one.

According to recent research children of pushy parents fare better at school than their peers, and parental input in a child's education has a bigger impact on their success at school than either the effort of the child, or the input of the school.

So I bet I'm not the only pushy parent who read that report and felt a little vindicated.

Frankly I'm tired of all the hysteria about how over-parenting is producing a generation of weak-willed children with chips on their shoulders and entitlement issues the size of small countries.

I agree that over-parenting is a genuine problem and I'm a huge believer in giving children boundaries and saying No on a regular basis. But I'm a pushy parent - not a pushover - and there's a world of difference between the two.

I think we've become so consumed by the desire to be 'good' parents - in an age and society in which there are few absolutes, and so no one benchmark against which to evaluate your success as a parent - that we've thrown the baby out with the proverbial bathwater and become overly terrified of getting it wrong.

Newsflash: getting it wrong is about the only thing guaranteed in parenthood. You cannot be a perfect parent - by the very nature of parenting if you are perfect, you've already utterly screwed up. And let's face it, there are far worse things for parents to be than pushy.

The findings of this report are fascinating and the gist is that encouraging your child is a good thing, and that a child is likely to try harder at school if their parents show interest and commitment. But did we really need a study to determine that?

It's a given that pushy parents can take things too far - the reason many parents fear being seen as 'pushy' is surely because of the associations between pushy parents and damaged kids.

I'm a pushy mum and proudBut not every pushy parent uses love and affection as tools with which to browbeat children into high achievement. The sense of pride I feel at my five-year-old landing a speaking part in the school play doesn't mean I am haunted by my own unfulfilled childhood desire to be an actress. There doesn't have to be a correlation between my encouragement of my children's efforts and my inner psyche. I'm just pleased - for him - that he's becoming a confident and outgoing child whose qualities are being recognised by his teachers.

If encouraging him to practise his words at home makes me a pushy parent then so be it. I am confident that he doesn't equate his worth at home with his role in the school play. I feel I am fulfilling my responsibility as a parent by helping him prepare for the play, so that he'll feel as confident and ready as can be when he steps out on stage before a sea of unfamiliar faces. And yes, I want him to experience the thrill of a job well done. I want him to be proud of himself and his achievements, and to know that I am proud of him too, because I'm convinced that self-belief and confidence will boost his resilience and take him far in life.

Father of one Andrew Hill thinks there are two perspectives on the issue of pushy parenting. "You could say the world is filled with pushy parents: all 6 billion of us can name at least one. But on the other hand there are probably no pushy parents on the planet, because no one among us would ever admit to being one. As parents, from our subjective point of view, we would probably all interpret our actions as just those of someone who cares and makes an effort."

But Andrew believes that sports, like language classes and music lessons, can be a reliable litmus test for determining whether you are a pushy parent. "Such things are the result of many different motivations on behalf of parents: wanting our children to grow and develop, and to flourish as well-rounded individuals - which is actually about what we want as much as what we want for them. But sports is dangerous ground. I am willing to concede that many parents have multiple reasons for wanting their children to play sports initially, but often the balance gets shifted to what is best for the parents, not the children. Many 'pushy parents' start off thinking their kids would benefit from some fresh air and exercise, and end up being driven by David Beckham's millions. I could be wrong though, because of course I am not a pushy parent!"

Kerrie Laverty is a mother of four. She wouldn't define herself as a pushy parent either. "But I expected my kids to attend school every day, do their homework every evening, try all the opportunities available for them at school, plus I offered to pay for and collect them from any extra curricular activities that they wanted to do," she says. "I am lucky to have four bright youngsters that breezed through our educational system with no mishaps and a few big achievements. I think they would all say they loved school. My goal was to make their school days happy - by whatever means!"

What this report underlines is that this kind of parental involvement matters - so much so that the researchers recommend parenting classes and other ways of improving parental effort in order to help boost children's achievements.

Shannen Quigg, mum of two, shares my take - she says she's not pushy, just interested in her daughters' ambitions and futures.

And as far as pushy parenting implies showing a keen interest in my children's life, interests and achievements, pushy parent is a label I'm not ashamed to wear.

Are you a pushy parent - and proud of it? Or do you try to be a relaxed parent? Let us know

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