Don’t Push: Avoiding the Rush in Developing Your Child

This is the 3rd in a 6-part series of articles based on the public lecture conducted at the National Library on 16 April 2012 by Professor Steven Pfeiffer entitled “Raising a Successful Child”; the content herein is reproduced with permission from Professor Pfeiffer and the National Library Board.

As parents, we naturally only want the best for our children, to love them, encourage them, do everything we can do to ultimately see them do well and become successful individuals. But as we uphold these values and expectations of good grades, doing things correctly and success in general, we need to be careful that we don’t unduly rush or push our children too hard.

If your child is pushed too hard to work on or excel, your child will perceive such a push as a shove, and because of that, the child loses the intrinsic motivation to do well. Your child will feel like he or she is working for you instead of himself or herself, or working to avoid disappointing you, or to avoid failure. If you put too much pressure on your child to get good grades, or put too much emphasis on not making mistakes, what starts out for your child as a desire for mastery or accomplishment – that internal, intrinsic desire to do well – will quickly diminish, to be replaced by a forced sense of working to satisfy the demands of parents and others (i.e., teachers) who push them too hard.

Related to this act of pushing is encouraging or rushing your child to grow up too quickly; wanting a child to advance beyond their age has grown to a global pandemic, not just in Singapore, where parents, as well-intentioned, loving and caring for their children as they may be, not only push their children too hard to achieve, but also rush their child to accomplish academic and/or non-academic pursuits at levels higher than what they are developmentally capable of.

The dual lesson here is to encourage and provide opportunities for your child to learn at a level suitable for their age and developmental stage, be excited about their mastery at work, but not push too hard, and not to rush them; don’t unduly focus on them doing everything perfectly and accurately, or you may find the child’s internal, intrinsic motivation erode, They may lose their passion for learning, and what you may end up with is a youngster who will not be successful in adolescence or young adulthood.

Steven Pfeiffer, PhD, ABPP, is a Professor and Director of Clinical Training at the Florida State University, and is also currently visiting scholar at the National Institute of Education (NIE) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

Prof. Pfeiffer is also author of Handbook of Giftedness in Children, Springer (New York), 2008, and his upcoming book, Serving the Gifted… (Routledge, New York, 2012), will be available this coming August.

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