The Consequences of Pushing a Child Too Hard Academically

Parents want their children to excel emotionally, physically and academically. However, pushing your child to excel academically may have surprising and unexpected repercussions. Many children thrive in a challenging social and academic environment, but not all do. Your child's emotional and mental attitude about school, parents and pressure may be at risk by parents who don't give their children enough time or leeway to be just that -- kids. Strike a balance when it comes to encouraging and challenging your children, but know when it's time to back off or face the risks.


Many children who are pressured into excelling by parents or teachers may gradually withdraw from them and shut down, suggests psychologist Peggy Tsatsoulis. Such children may think they're not important or loved enough by parents unless they're perfect, a standard to which few, if any, children can achieve. If you constantly demand A's from your child, you may be sending the wrong message. Encourage him to do his best, but don't act as if your child didn't work or study hard enough if he gets a B instead of an A.


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A child who is constantly berated for her grades or shamed when she brings home her report card may ultimately begin to feel anger or resentment toward you. You may notice your child engaging in increasingly antisocial behaviors such as refusal to follow rules or guidelines, lying, acting out, verbal outbursts and refusing to do homework.


Stress from parents expecting A's may have a negative effect on school-age children, leading to not only potential behavior problems but also chronic stress. Several signs of stress caused by academic pressure may include, but are not limited to, withdrawal, an increasing desire for solitude, outbursts of anger, depression and physical manifestations such as:

  • stomachaches
  • headaches


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Encouraging your child to maintain constant A's or pressuring him to excel in an academic environment, regardless of his age, may create tension and anxiety in your child or teen. In older children, anxiety to perform academically may lead to eating disorders, excessive anxiety or worry, and behaviors such as:

  • lying
  • cheating
  • burnout
  • according to

Often, children are unable to express their feelings about stress, anxiety or even their performance in school. Such children often continually strive to impress, encourage pride, and receive the rewards of your love and adulation. If they fail, they often feel they've let you down. However, communicate with your child about school, tests and SAT goals and be aware of your child's emotional and mental outlook and health while still encouraging him to do his best.