Pushed to Succeed-The New ‘At-Risk’ Group
We’ve heard a lot about adverse childhood events (ACEs) and how they detrimentally effect a child’s life. It makes sense. Trauma, abuse, bullying, poverty, parents who abuse drugs, incarcerated parents…these all have a negative impact on childhood and development. But, a recent “consensus study report” by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has added youth who attend high-achieving schools to this list of “at-risk youth.” (Students in high-achieving schools are now named an “at risk” group, study says—Washington Post.) In other words, a consensus has been reached among the National Academies of Sciences that an overemphasis on personal achievement puts our youth at risk just as much as poverty, abuse, and trauma. Sounds crazy at first. But, consider just the short-term negative impact of an overemphasis on achievement.
- Achievement decreases. Learning problems increase. Over time, this will impact a child’s opportunities as an adult if not addressed early.
- Kindness toward others decreases.
- More school-based problems are experienced.
- The child develops a lower self-esteem, especially when an overemphasis on achievement is paired with criticism when the standards are not met. (You can read about these results in the study When Mothers and Fathers are Seen as Disproportionately Valuing Achievements: Implications Among Upper Middle Class Youth.)
Don’t put your child at-risk by overemphasizing achievement. Instead, encourage them to do their best. Accept your children as “wonderfully ordinary.” (Overcoming Fear of the Ordinary) Teach them kindness, gratitude, and good character rather than overemphasizing achievement. You might be surprised as you do this. Your children might just achieve more as they experience your acceptance and grow more self-motivated in response.