Raising the bar


     Some parents only want the best for their children. It’s their responsibility to raise their children well enough to secure them a comfortable place in the future, after all. Their concerns over their children doing well is valid, but not when their expectations suffocate accomplishments and personal growth.

     It’s not fair for teens–and even students in middle and elementary school–to carry the baggage of high expectations, particularly from their parents about academic achievement. It’s common sense that standardized testing and tests in general are not an accurate reflection of what students are capable of. Memorization does not amount to intelligence. 

     Researchers in a study done by Arizona State University asked over 500 middle school students to rank what their parents valued the most in them. The students who said their parents valued academic achievements (over things like kindness to others) did not have the highest grades out of the group and had elevated stress levels–which rose the more critical a parent was of their downfalls.

     The fact parents are valuing academic success, and are even pressing for it early on is disheartening. Some parents think having high expectations for their children motivates them, but they’re failing to realize that there’s observable negative effects from those expectations.. Hours spent studying to appease parents doesn’t leave room for valuable socialization, or time for hobbies children are passionate about. 

     This can potentially stunt social skills from developing and an overall negative shift in behavior because students aren’t allowing themselves to rest or do what they’ love–they’re too busy studying because the bar was raised unfairly high.

     Higher stress levels can also distract students from performing well on tests, because when the time comes to take the test, they’ll be too caught up in worrying about doing well to actually recall valuable information. This explains the lower grades observed in study. 

     In a different study done by Dr. Stephanie Aoki, it was discovered that the more Asian American students believed that their parents had high expectations for their academic achievement, the more they experienced academic stress and depression. This further attests to the fact high expectations are a real threat, and that the way parents approach their kids about their successes needs to change.

     It’s time to normalize valuing other areas of what students have to offer instead of only asking for more. Students constantly having to search for some way to reach these expectations takes large amounts of energy, and messes with their self-worth. After having to live with not living up to what they’re “supposed” to be for long periods of time, it’s bound to demotivate them and take a toll on their confidence.