Children & Pressure: What’s a Parent To Do?
Our children face multiple pressures. They live in a world where significance is idolized, recognition (being number 1) is sought with great fervor, and self-worth is determined by performance. Those pressures, unfortunately, sneak into our lives as parents and attack our children from within the home…from their own family…from us! Lies and rumors voiced among parents in the community fuel our fears and those fears translate into a performance-orientation. Hearing other parents boast about the accolades, awards, and opportunities their children have received arouses our own insecurities and fans the fear that our children may miss out on the “limited opportunities available” for success. Rumors incite us to encourage our children to prepare their college resume as soon as possible, to become proficient in sports yesterday, and to make crucial career decisions now. As a result, our children are forced to make adult decisions before they are developmentally ready. They find themselves compelled to make commitments to adult pursuits (career, sports involvement, etc.) while still lacking the experience and wisdom to do so. When these pressures sneak into our family life, whether the result of parental fears or misguided dreams, our children suffer. They find no respite, no relief. As family shepherds, we must guard our home against these pressures in order to maintain a refuge for our children. How? Here are a few hints to help.
First, identify the pressures your children face in their school and community. Most likely, they encounter one or all three of the following pressures.
1. They may feel the pressure to achieve, perform, and gain recognition. They may also feel that the only way to truly know you have achieved is to earn prizes and awards. In the midst of this performance-oriented environment, children find it difficult to simply enjoy a fun activity. Such an environment threatens to squeeze the joy of internal motivation out of our children and replace it with the craving for external rewards.
2. Or, your community may emphasize material belongings. Perhaps the families in your community live by the rule that says “the one with the most toys wins.”
3. Your children may also encounter families that feel the need to give children everything they want, to never suffer the pain of disappointment or discipline…even if it means the family suffers. In these families, children’s schedules and desires run the household. Children grow more entitled every day as their family experiences a growing sense of resentment over their children’s lack of gratitude.
After you have identified the threat, give serious thought to your own beliefs in that area. Parents also risk falling into the trap of community pressure. To avoid the discomfort of seeing our children disappointed or “wanting,” we may give in to their demands and spoil them. We don’t want them to miss out on the opportunities that their peers experience, so we give into their every request and desire. In our desire for them to “have a better life than us,” we push them to perform and achieve in order to get into the best colleges or gain the most promising opportunities. All done with the best of intentions, but none the less, conforming to the pressures of the world that harass our children.
Once you have identified the pressures your children face and confirmed that you do not personally play a role in creating those pressures, you can create alternatives in your home. Since your children most likely encounter at least three pressures, consider at least these three alternatives.
1. Replace the pressure to achieve and perform with the grace of unconditional acceptance. Honor one another for effort and learn to celebrate participation in activities by simply having fun together. Allow your family to play and enjoy one another’s company without the need to perform a certain way or achieve a certain level of “expertise.” Have fun just to have fun!
2. Replace the emphasis on material belongings with a focus on relationships. Give your family the gift of your time. Let them know that your relationship with them is far more important than any material blessing you might have. Teach them that material belongings do not bring happiness, loving relationships do. Build intimacy with one another. Practice gratitude for the many material, relational, and spiritual blessing you do have…and share gratitude freely with one another.
3. Replace a sense of entitlement with an environment of generosity and service. Teach your children that we find greater joy in giving than in receiving. Model generosity with your affection toward them and your service in the home. Teach them by example and actions that service is a sign of true greatness.
Make your home a place of refuge from the world of pressure. Create an environment of honor and grace. Shape your family into a celebrating community of honor and grace.