It's that time of year where exams pressure hits hard and everybody will be talking about how much pressure our children are under and, while I understand this thought process and have no doubt that countless teenagers are feeling a tremendous amount of pressure at the moment, I am not sure the answer is to take the pressure off.
In some recent research I did on 400 young girls, exam stress came in as the fourth most worried-about topic after they way they look, friends and the opposite sex. So is all this stress and pressure about achievement coming from the parents rather than the teens themselves?
Maybe the reasons our young people are so stressed has less to do with the pressure to succeed then we think they do. And maybe taking the pressure off their achievement goal is not the answer.
Achievement is important!
Research shows that those children who don't meet their predicted grades at school often lower their expectations later on in life. Research by The University of California also shows us that the biggest impact on achievement later on in life is expectations from the parents early in a child's life. If you have high expectations of your child they are more likely to have high expectations of themselves. Now I am not saying that we push achievement at the sake of our child's sanity, of course I'm not, what I am saying is that perhaps we might need to rethink how we talk to our children about achievement.
And girls have a much more challenging time of this than boys. Research also suggests that because of the way girls and boys are when they are younger, that girls often think intelligence is fixed and can't be changed, whereas boys believe that they can influence their results.
Most experts agree that to achieve later in life, we need more of a growth mindset. So saying things like, "Well you did your best..." when we know that is not the case may not always be the best thing to say to your children, in particular your daughter.
When we let a child lower their expectations because of stress we give them a powerful indicator that they are not capable of achieving what they want. Lower expectations are never the answer. Instead, we should stretch our children while also making sure that the environments and structures around them support them more.
Our children don't have a stress and pressure problem, but problems around unclear objectives and not taking breaks.
So we should never take the pressure off, we should work with young people to help them get clear about their objectives and make sure they are taking the breaks and have the healthy habits they need to succeed.
What are your thoughts?