Are we putting too much pressure on our kids? We all want the best for them. We want them to achieve everything they can, but do we put too much pressure on them to do this? Is our need to be proud of our successful children creating unrealistic expectations for them and for ourselves?
The pressure on teenage children is beyond belief and harmful to their physical and psychological health. Rather than being inspired, they are constantly pressured and stressed out.
The day that thousands of teenagers across the country have been nervously waiting for has arrived – GCSE results day. They have queued up outside schools today to find out whether their two years of hard work was worth it, and whether they got the grades they need to go on to further study or employment.
GCSE examinations are taken by most pupils at the end of compulsory school education (year 11) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Exams are a big worry for most young people. During the period of taking these exams they frequently get panic-stricken, overburdened and overwhelmed. ‘
But then there is the wait to find out their results. This is a nerve-racking time, where they can feel their whole life hanging in the balance. The pressure to succeed can be extremely traumatising, and this is a worrying time waiting to see how they’ve done.
My daughter Carly was really stressed out waiting for her results. This morning she was very nervous, couldn’t eat any breakfast, and was unable to get much sleep last night.
At about 9am we set off to the school. Just before we arrived she said something that really got me thinking. She turned round to her best friend Nicky and said “Let’s get this done. our future is in a brown envelope, better find out what it tells us”
So in her mind her entire future relied on opening a menacing brown envelope to discover her GCSE results.
But do these results really matter to her FUTURE?
At 16 she’s only just reaching an age where she can explore her interests and discover her passions.
I wanted to tell her that exams are not the be all and end all, that she shouldn’t worry. Even if her results turn out not to be the best there are opportunities out there for everyone. GCSEs are not the final word on the success or failure she will achieve in her life. The next steps she will take in life are much more important. Disappointing grades do not limit your future success. But now was not the appropriate time to tell her this.
Off they went to open this dreaded envelope. Overall she did brilliantly, and I’m very proud of her. In the last two years she has put so much effort in. Many a night she would lock herself away in her bedroom working hard on her school work. Well she got what she deserved, and should be elated. But because one subject hadn’t gone as well as she’d wished, she allowed that for a while to take away the ecstasy she should have felt. She allowed this one negative take central stage in her mind.
Yet when she considered the fact that her college place to study Health and Social Care was secure she had nothing to be upset about, and could now celebrate her achievements.
But this is only the start for her.
If she wants a fantastic future it’s within her grasp. If she takes small, positive steps in the right direction for her she can set herself up for success down the road. She can find a path that will enable her to achieve her goals, pursue her career of choice and become a happy adult.
I attribute much of the success I’ve experienced in my life to books I read when I was about 16, which began my personal-development journey. Having the skills and tools for goal-setting, time management, self motivation and other principles of personal development will help teenagers make a life full of achievements and success.
Here are some questions I’d like her to ask herself:
What sort of interests do you have?
Are there any that could be used in a job?
What are you good at?
Are there certain skills that you need to develop?
What jobs involve activities that you might enjoy?
What or who do you value most in your life?
What are three things you do well?
What would you like most to be remembered for?
What do your friends really like about you?
What is one important thing you have done in your life?
What skills would you like to learn?
Do you like working closely with others in a team, or do you prefer to work independently?
Are you an indoors person, or do you like being out and about?
The power of these questions lies in the fact that you can choose to become anything you want! Imagine becoming anything. You can design your life completely from scratch. You get to make thousands of choices that will determine exactly who you will become as an adult.
It’s you who must make the decisions. You can drift along, or take charge of your life and create anything you desire.
As a teenager you can explore a whole set of options to learn more about yourself and the world around you. You can pick something you really want to do well and you can go do it right now. If you say “I am going to be an actress!” then go for it. You can audition for acting parts. You can find some friends and do plays together. You can write and film your own movies. You can write to agencies, to theatre companies, whatever it takes. Head in a direction and see what you find there.
Remember that the point of life is for you to enjoy it. Be happy, and life will reward you. You are only 16 so allow yourself to enjoy life, but at the same time prepare for your future.
Do your best always so you can be proud of everything you do. But remember to give yourself a break when things don’t go your way.
When you are in the state of mind where you feel you can accomplish anything, you can! It’s all about your mindset. Life is what you decide it is. There really isn’t much more to it than that. If you decide that it’s going to be filled with passion, happiness, and love, then it will be. If you decide it’s going to be ‘shit’, then guess what, it will!
There is virtually no limit to what you can accomplish. It’s time to find your passion, the things that you care most about, and start living them.
Whatever your passion is, I urge you to pursue it with all your heart and believe in yourself, and ask yourself this question:
“What am I going to do with my life?”
Please share this with any teenagers you know, show them that it’s in their power to build their life.
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This post almost made me cry! I so wish that when I was 16 my parents could have asked me all these questions and made me think real hard about them. I can’t of course blame them. Where I come from, 15 years ago times were very difficult and it was more the matter of what you have to study to find a good job, rather than what you wanted to study to be happy in life. I will make sure I share these questions with my 13 year old sister and also with my children when they are teenagers. I think thse questions are truly vital if asked in time in shaping childrens’ future!
katia thank you so much. yes times have changed. We as bloggers are also in a wonderful position where we can help others not make the same mistakes that maybe we did. To me what i saw today in a school car park the tears, shock, fear in so many childrens eyes. The conversations i heard where at 16 some thought their chance to make something from their life has gone made me decide i had to try and show them how different things could be.
I have to question your concerns. If your daughter was made aware of the importance of these exams when she was much younger and did the same amount of study as she did the last two years, she wouldn’t have felt too much pressure those last two years. It is probably true that there are only 2 years worth of lessons to learn; but if that is the case, why go to school at all until those two years? I think parents need to look ahead much sooner and then the children won’t feel so much pressure that last lap.
Ann. The sylabus in my daughters school was completely different until the GCSE course began. I do agree that this is stupidity and all those years went by where proper preperation and learning could have been better spent. My daughter, like many other children has shown incredible development over the last few years. She has flourished, come out of herself, and developed an enjoyment of learning. Prior to this learning was not something she enjoyed. I think she was also intimidated by her big sister, a straight A student. She found it difficult to live in her shadow. But she has shown herself to be every bit unique and talented. Parents have many responsibilities to their children, and one of them is not to force anything on their kids, and let them develop at their own pace. thank you so much for visiting.
I wish my son was as academically motivated as your daughter! He does well in school, but doesn’t stress enough and doesn’t give it 100%. Now, soccer is another story! This is an excellent post. I am going to print out your questions and have my 16 year old son answer them. Thank you! ~ Suerae
This is a great post. But, the timing is off- way off.
We need to stress these facts to our kids THROUGHOUT their lives- not on the eve of receiving a milestone grade.
If we don’t do that early and often, then by age 16, we are doing them no favors. It will be more unsettling that comforting. It’s as if we are telling them, it’s ok, honey, you aren’t that good- but you’ll still make it anyway. (Trust me- that’ exactly how it sounds no matter your words or emotion, if you wait until this moment to explain it.)
As parents, we need to stress education to our kids- but NOT STRESS them. Explain they need to learn these facts- but the deadline of the test is not the deadline for their lives. And, we love them no matter what. It’s your effort we seek, and we’ll help you get where you want to go- as you decide where that is.
Roy. As a personal development coach my children have benefited (i believe) with some of the knowledge i share. But we also know that teenagers do have their own way of thinking, and too often they want to find out answers for themselves, and not gain the knowledge second hand from us old fuddy daddies. i totally agree with trying to protect our kids from stress, and teaching them not to allow events and situations to stress them. But no matter how they seem to be adjusted to everything, when their friends are panicking and talking non stop about the inpending disaster of examds approaching or results arriving they seem to follow suit. Every prent must as you say show that we will love and support our children no matter what, and we’ll always be proud of them as long as they do their best. Thank you so much for your conversation provoking comment, i look forward to many more
i loved this post and so many great points and i’m really pleased your daughter did well in them. it is a very stressful time for them around their gcse results but the wait is over and now she can go and be a success
Lewys – thank you. I am very proud of her, and therefore am saying nothing about her going out on the drink last night. She deserves the opportunity to let her hair down and party. College begins in less than a month and thats the beginning of her next step on the road to success.
Thank you for publishing such an insightful post – can you record this and put it up on YouTube? It would be amazing and help so many young people who believe their life is a failure because they have not achieved their grades – even though it was 40 years ago for me I can remember it like it was yesterday – not getting the ‘right’ GCSE’s to do what I wanted. Looking back it doesn’t matter and have encouraged my children to follow their passion and whilst they have both taken a few different jobs they are now both police officers and love what they do. So once again thank you.
Susan. welcome to the blog and thank you for commenting. The important message you bring is that your success or deemed failure at school does not guarantee your success or failure in life. Many who have exceled at school failed to make their mark after waards, while many who zeroed out in their academic life, have made an enormous success later on. On the other note having spent time on your blog you have given me the motrvation to explore producing video posts. so thank you for that too.
Love it, Larry.
I think there is very poor alignment between education and true success principles. Case in point, if you talk to any high school student about success, they think, “rah rah.” And probably run to listen to that Lady Gaga song.
It’s sad that fundamental success principles are not being stressed in schools… rather, in school, they focus on the process, not the end goal. Many high school graduates don’t even know what they want to do in life, but sink into hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt to go to college because “that’s just the way it is.” They have no vision but they’re already in debt.
I totally agree w/ Dr. Ackerman.. I’m not a parent, but I do know that stress is only detrimental to a person’s health, be it academic stress or financial stress. Education is important, but what I believe more important is the fundamentals of success principles. With those fundamental principles, no matter what someone wants to do in life, they will be able to achieve it.
It is definitely interesting to see the differences between American and British education systems… dunno if either is better or worse, just differet =)
Rasheed thank you for this comment. you provide further food for thought. You mention something that i had a big issue with, ‘fundamental success principles’. Being a personal development coach, and stress management teacher, i have often felt and indicated that both my areas of expertise should be added to the schools system curiculum. Our schooling system is there to set our children up to cope and excel in the outside world, we offer them sex education, cookery classes, but what about helping them to acquire the tools which will help them deal with the problems they face on lifes journey. one of my major points of principle is to offer our children goal planning so that they can determine with conviction and passion where they want to take their life.
This a a wonderful post Larry. So very true and sad at the same time that our teenager’s young years are being spent more on worrying about their grades for tests they take, than enjoying the young years with their friends and family, both of which may not be there as they grow older. Thank you for sharing this today 🙂
Anna thank you for your comment. It is such a difficult balancing act. Between the need for our children to develop academically and for them to have time with their loved ones, as well as their friends. Sometimes when you look at these formative years you do question how much stress we force upon them, but then you also understand that you have to help them gather the tools to assist them through lifes journey.
Thank u for this one…I am sorry to say but I do tend to put pressure on my daughter at times…maybe my inner insecurites over take me..for me her grades matter a lot…but during my time,my parents were not like me…An eye opener for me..
Alpana – its natural to want the best for your kids, and sometimes yes we over step and pressurise them. But just like our kids we can learn by our mistakes.