This is Part 1 of a 2-part article.
It is a sad reality that despite all the amazing medical advances millions of children continue to experience poor health, psychological disorders, anxiety, fear, anger, depression, substance abuse, suicide, behavior, mood and learning problems. Why? These children all suffer from a deeply hurting spirit, which converts into academic, mental and physical problems.
One of the factors that can cause a child’s spirit to hurt is that we teach our children that their self-worth is based on their academic, social and athletic achievement,
not on who they are as human beings.
This places immense pressure on them.
We all want our kids to achieve in as many spheres of life as possible. I agree that we must encourage them to strive for achievement – based on their unique capabilities. However, when parents and educators live by values that are more concerned about grades and performance than about health and well-being, they are in danger of creating toxic pressure
If you listen to the conversations of parents at any kind of social gathering, it is almost always all about how well the child is doing in school or on the sports field. They speak about how bright and intelligent and successful the child is, about the trophies they have won, the grades they achieve, their outstanding test scores and their acceptance into prestigious schools. I have yet to hear a parent talk about how compassionate her child is or the community service the child does or what a grounded, responsible person the child is. In response to the question, “How is your son doing,” I have never personally had the privilege of hearing a parent say, “Thank you for asking. He is such a joy to us. We just love the way he sees the world so differently and we are learning so much from him each day.”
Too often, being a ‘great kid’ is measured by achievement and performance. The child’s worth is measured by doing, not by being. Children rarely receive trophies for being kind and caring, for helping others less fortunate than themselves, for their ability to see the world through their own eyes, for showing respect, for their collaborative abilities, for challenging a useless status quo, for innovative solutions or for their dreams of greatness. Too rarely do children get recognition just for trying or for the fact that they are doing the very best that they are capable of doing. And if they do, this recognition is seen as a pity trophy.
How do YOU Value Achievement. Is it Healthy or Toxic?
Here is a challenge. Ask yourself this question and be brutally honest with yourself when you answer:
Is our emphasis on achievement toxic or healthy for our child?
Here’s how you decide:
- It could become toxic if the message you send your child is: ‘ Get the grades, get the grades, get the grades!’
- It is healthy if the message you send your child is: ‘Do your very best. Give it your best shot!’
I can just hear all your voices, as you read this, saying something like …’yes but he has to get into college!’ My question to you is: ‘How much pressure can your child take before it becomes toxic and makes him or her ill? Then what will this do to his or her chances of going to college?’
Parents can’t change the values of society but they most definitely can be responsible for their own family values and for choosing schools that have healthy, not toxic achievement values.
See my next blog for a list of the symptoms of toxic achievement stress
As always I would love to hear your thoughts!