Why you should stop pressuring kids over grades

New York: If you want your kids to become successful later in life, better avoid pressuring them over grades, suggests new research.

Parents should not obsess over grades and extracurricular activities for young schoolchildren, especially if such ambitions come at the expense of social skills and kindness, as doing so can work against helping kids become well adjusted and successful in life, the study said.

“When parents emphasise children’s achievement much more than their compassion and decency during the formative years, they are sowing the seeds of stress and poorer well-being, seen as early as sixth grade,” said study co-author Suniya Luthar, Professor at Arizona State University in the US.

“In order to foster well-being and academic success during the critical years surrounding early adolescence, our findings suggest that parents should accentuate kindness and respect for others at least as much as (or more than) stellar academic performance and extracurricular accolades,” Luthar noted.

The study focused on perceptions of parents’ values among 506 sixth grade students from an affluent community.

Kids were asked to rank the top three of six things their parents valued for them.

Three values were about personal successes such as good grades and a successful later career, and the other three were about kindness and decency towards others.

The researchers examined underlying patterns on scores based on children’s perceptions of their parents’ achievement emphasis (relative to children’s kindness to others).

These patterns on perceived achievement emphasis were compared against the children’s school performance and actions as measured by grade point average and in-class behaviour.

Results showed that mothers and fathers perceived emphasis on achievement versus interpersonal kindness played a key role in the child’s personal adjustment and academic performance, as did perceptions of parents’ criticism.

The best outcomes were among children who perceived their mothers and fathers as each valuing kindness toward others as much as, or more than, achievements, Luthar said.

Much poorer outcomes were seen among children who perceived either mothers or fathers valuing their achievements more highly than they valued being kind to others.

The findings, published online in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, demonstrate the value of being socially oriented, Luthar said.

“It is beneficial for kids to be strongly connected with their social networks, whereas focusing too much on external validations (such as grades, extra-curricular honours) for their sense of self-worth can lead to greater insecurity, anxiety and overall distress,” she added.