One wish that every parent around the globe has for their child is that he or she should be able to achieve in life. All parents love to speak with great pride about their children’s outstanding grades, their sports or their artistic accomplishments. And of course, children love the feeling it gives them when they excel academically, artistically or athletically. So it is not surprising that kids would strive to be the best at what they do and that parents would motivate and encourage them. But, like all things, when taken too far, striving too hard for achievement can become a problem that affects kids emotionally and physically and has a negative impact on the family too. There is a great difference between a child that works hard and a child that is an overachiever.
What drives the overachiever?
What is so interesting about over-achievers is that they are driven by something inside of them that causes them to feel constant pressure to perform at the highest levels. Only the parents of over-achievers know how difficult it can be to watch their child push themselves too hard. The burning questions are…
- Why is this happening? Why can my child not let go of this self-created pressure to achieve despite the fact that they don’t really enjoy doing this? Why can my child not understand that the achievements do not define who she is, that we would love her without these highest achievements and that we wish she would not do this to herself?
- How do we help them?
The 2 common mistakes made by parents of overachieving children
At first parents are often excited and pleased that the child works so hard and achieves so well. It is important though for parents to recognize the point at which this becomes an unhealthy behavior because if allowed to continue too long this continuous striving can upset the child’s biochemistry and neurochemistry causing increased levels of the chemicals that makes them uptight and decreased levels of the chemicals that would help them to relax, go with the flow and enjoy life. It is a vicious cycle – the more stressed they get the more they push themselves and the more they push themselves the more stressed they get.
Mistake #1: Thinking that the over-achieving behavior is causing the stress.
Parents often believe that if ‘my child would stop pushing himself so hard, the stress would go away’. Believing this is a mistake because the stress is not caused by the over-achieving behavior, the over-achieving behavior is caused by some inner stress that was never identified and addressed. This is often a tough idea for parents to accept. Moms and Dads tell me that the child seemed to be happy and never showed signs of stress. However, the fact is that the child is feeling anxious about something that is driving them to behave in this way.
Mistake #2: Thinking the over-achieving behavior is the real problem.
When the over-achieving behavior is not caused by outside pressure but rather by pressure from inside the child, it is an indication that something is wrong and that this behavior could be a cover-up for the fact that something is causing the child to feel inadequate, insecure or not good enough. They may appear to be confident and okay but inside there is a different story. In this sense, think of the over-achievement as being a symptom of an underlying root cause. Parents, therefore, need to know how to go about discovering the answer to the question: Why is my child doing this? What could be the root cause of this?
Troubleshooting the Root Causes
The most prominent root causes that I see in the parents and children I work with are:
- Some kind of emotional or physical stress during pregnancy.
- Birth stress.
- The way the child interpreted Mom’s and Dad’s behavior and messages during early childhood.
- Physiological conditions that have not been detected such as gut infections or many other possibilities.
Identifying the root causes can be tough for parents to do on their own without the help of the correct professional person. There are some things, however, that parents can do to begin the process of identifying what could be happening inside the child.
- Adopt a new mindset. See the over-achieving behavior as a message that something is happening that you have not yet identified.
- Put your detective hat on. Look for clues and hints about what could be troubling your child. Listen carefully to the things your child says. Think back to the moment of conception and the years after that for clues.
- See if there is a possible connection with the child’s diet causing anxiety.
- Until you are able to discover what drives your child in this way, consider giving your child the correct supplements or herbs that will help reduce the stress chemistry – notice I said supplements or herbs, not prescribed medication.
There is no pre-written script for a parent that says follow these exact steps and you will find out why your child is an overachiever. The underlying cause could be different for every child, so consider working with a practitioner who understands the spirit, body, brain connection. In the meantime help your child see all the wonderful characteristics they possess that are not related to being an overachiever.
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