Some years back I was doing some work for a prestigious private school. One weekend party binge was particularly upsetting to the school community. A student whose parents were away for the weekend, had a party at her house. The party got out of control, and hundreds of kids showed up at this house. Not only did they party hearty with alcohol, but these "A" students completely trashed this house, leaving no lampshade unturned. The damage to this beautiful house was beyond belief. How could these well-educated, smart, goal-driven kids do this? When the kids who were caught were asked, here is what they answered: " Our parents expect us to the "best little boys and girls" in the world. They want us to get good grades, be the best athlete or singer or actor or artist, be active in the school, do community service, do it all!" And we do! But guess what, trashing this house was our way of saying "f##k you, we are not perfect!
Your kids feel the pressure of your expectations, and because they love you want to please you. But of course there is a cost. Parents, this is time for a reality check. Ask your successful grade A student why they get the grades. If they say, "because I know it will make you happy", then give them an F, cause that is the wrong answer. If they answer "cause I really love school, and I love what I am learning," give them an "A", cause they deserve it. When your friends ask you,'Hey how is Sally doing?" and you answer by giving them a rundown of Sally's honor roll report card and SAT scores, give yourself an "F". If you answer by saying: "you know she seems really happy, has great friends, loves soccer, and seems to be enjoying her classes," give yourself an "A". Of course we take pride in ourselves when our kids do well, and feel disappointed and maybe even embarrassed when our kids don't do well. But truly, I would rather have a kid who struggles, but has a lot of other good things in their life besides academics that build their confidence and self-esteem, than a kid who feels pressure to strive for the A and diminishes the joys of working hard and achievement to just get the job done.
When the final report cards come in this week. Whether you are elated or if you are disappointed, the question should be the same. "How have our expectations of you impacted this report card?" In the long run, the kids who become successful adults are the ones who have something in their life that motivates them, interests them, and gives them joy. But that shouldn't be you!