Are You Pushing Your Tween Too Hard?

Why backing off may be the answer

School stress can be triggered by too much homework and social problems.
If you're pushing your child too hard, it's time to back off. Photo: iStockPhoto.com/Skynesher

Your growing child is learning new things, developing skills, and gaining a little bit of independence. Naturally, you want to help your child focus and accomplish the goals you both set, but there are times when parents push their tweens too hard. If you think you might be expecting too much from your child, you should probably try to determine your child's state of mind and find out his thoughts on his schedule.

The information below will help you know if it's time to back off and give your tween a little wiggle room.

The Signs of it All

Children who are stressed or have too much going on will display certain behaviors or symptoms, such as:

  • Irritability -- Your child might be irritated at you or just irritated in general.
  • Failing Grades -- Your tween's grades may begin to slip, or he may forget to complete homework or other school projects.
  • Anxiety or Depression -- A child who is pushed too hard may exhibit signs of depression or anxiety.
  • Self-Esteem Issues -- Your tween may lose confidence or put himself down for failing to live up to your expectations.
  • Physical Problems -- Your tween might develop body aches, stomach aches or headaches.
  • Acting Out -- Your tween may act out by cursing, stealing, cheating or failing to come home by curfew. 
  • Loss of Interest -- Your child may not be as interested in school, activities or other commitments as he once was. 
  • Excuses -- Your tween may have numerous excuses for why she can't go to practice, study, or work on a project. 

What You Can Do

If you think you are pushing your child too hard, there are certain steps you can take to adjust your expectations and your child's schedule to something that's more realistic.

For starters, ask yourself why you are pushing so much? Are you worried that you might be perceived as a slacker parent if you don't? Are you worried that your child won't get into a good college, or won't be competitive in the workforce after college? Are you concerned that your tween might fall into trouble if you don't keep her busy every second of the day? Examine your own motives first, and then try to adjust your own behavior accordingly. 

Also, be sure you and your child find time for a heart to heart chat. Ask your tween to prioritize his activities, and together work on a plan to chart a calendar that won't put too much on your child. You may also need to lighten your load of responsibilities, so that you can be there when your child needs you, and help your child navigate his schedule. 

NOTE: There is a chance that your child is stressed and doing too much, but it might not be you whose pushing. Some children push themselves -- constantly setting goals, working hard, and competing with their peers both academically, or otherwise. If your child is pushing himself, you can still help. Teach your child time management skills, and help your child learn how to balance school work and extracurricular activities with downtime and time with friends. Help your child focus on what he really wants to do. If you have to, make downtime a priority and schedule it so that your tween knows it's mandatory.

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