You want the best for your teenager, and to ensure this, you try to be an active participant in their life. Honestly, that’s great! As an involved parent, you can play a vital role in your teen’s academic success by lending them your support and guidance.
Some parents, however, end up taking their parental involvement a little too far. This can put a lot of unnecessary pressure on teens to succeed, which ultimately has a negative impact on their happiness and future careers.
We all want our teens to get good grades and to choose a career path that propels them to future success. But how much is too much? To avoid pushing your teen too hard, here are seven common mistakes to watch out for.
Mistake #1: Overloading Your Teen’s Schedule
Homework. Soccer practice. Debate team. These days, it’s not uncommon for teens to have schedules that are nearly as jam-packed as a CEO’s. Many parents are guilty of pushing their teens to get involved in a variety of clubs, sports, and activities in the hopes of beefing up their college application. While your intentions may be good, be careful. Too many extracurriculars can result in exhaustion and academic burnout.
If your teen begins showing warning signs of burnout (lack of sleep, a change of eating habits, mood shifts, etc.), it may be time to sit down with your teen and have a frank discussion about their schedule. The solution could be to either reduce your teen’s schedule or find better ways to cope with their stress.
Mistake #2: Nagging Them Too Much
Many parents can’t help but nag their teenagers. After all, how else can you be sure that their homework will be done unless you say something?
But the truth is, nagging doesn’t work. In fact, nagging does the opposite! Research has shown that certain parts of a teenager’s brain literally shut down upon hearing a controlling tone of voice from a parent.
Rather than nag your teen, listen first. Figure out why they’re dragging their feet on certain tasks in the first place. Is the assignment too hard? Are they distracted by something else? You’ll make far more headway by coming from a place of understanding rather than criticism.
Mistake #3: Not Making Any Room for Failure
As parents, we all want to protect our kids and keep them from going through unnecessary hardship. We don’t want to see them fail.
But they’re going to fail at certain things anyway. And you know what? That’s perfectly okay. There are valuable lessons to be learned through failure. But if you’re constantly shielding them from failure and hardship, they won’t learn those lessons in a safe space where you can help pick up their pieces.
So, let them fail and encourage them to try again. Praise the effort, not the outcome, and you’ll raise a determined teen who knows how to persevere.
Mistake #4: Giving Them Narrow Career Options
It’s fine to have big dreams for your teen. Just remember that your dreams are not their dreams. Instead of making important career decisions for your teen, show them how to choose a career they love. Then comes the hard part: being supportive of their career choice, even if you don’t necessarily agree with it!
Try to keep an open mind. Not all careers begin with a traditional four-year college. Many lucrative career paths begin with vocational school, community college, or apprenticeships. Let your teen explore them all and make the choice that’s right for them.
Mistake #5: Ignoring Your Teen’s Passions and Interests
Don’t be so quick to dismiss their hobbies as just another distraction from homework. Is your teen obsessed with drawing? Do they love taking pictures on their phone? Special interests and hobbies look great on a college application and could potentially lead to an extremely rewarding career.
Instead of shrugging off your teen’s hobbies, encourage them to think about how they might turn them into a future career. For example, maybe your teen’s love of doodling could lead to them drawing cartoons for the school paper. Help them explore career possibilities that are fueled by their passions and they’ll be a lot more excited about their future.
Mistake #6: Setting Expectations Too High
Expectations are good things. They can help give people (in this case, your teen) a sense of direction and motivation to achieve their goals.
On the other hand, placing high expectations on your teen can put unnecessary pressure on them. This can lead to severe anxiety and, eventually, disappointment when expectations aren’t met.
Perhaps you don’t expect your teen to be an all-star athlete with a 4.0 GPA. That doesn’t mean your expectations aren’t unrealistic. For instance, maybe you were good at math as a student and unknowingly expect your teen to excel in that subject, too. Think carefully about the expectations you’re placing on your teen and ask yourself if they’re truly realistic.
Mistake #7: Using Critical Language
Given how often your teen may roll their eyes at the things you say, you might not think that your words have much power. But that’s simply not true. The words you say can have a huge impact on your teen, for better or for worse.
To avoid derailing your teenager’s success, take care with your words. Avoid being overly critical, especially with little jokes. Saying things like, “If only Joe were as good at math as he is at baseball” in the presence of your son may seem innocent, but these backhanded compliments can make your teen feel awful about themselves. The last thing you want to do is cause your teen to develop a harsh inner critic.
Finding the Right Balance Is Key
Pushing your teen can give them the motivation they need to achieve their goals, while pushing your teen too hard can do the opposite. If you don’t want to end up with an anxious and overwhelmed teen, it’s important to take a step back and ask yourself whether you’re helping or hurting the situation. Remember to keep open lines of communication with your teen and you can provide the right balance of motivation, love, and support.