Sometimes stress simply can’t be avoided. There are those days when the car breaks down, you’re late to work, you’ve got nothing in the fridge for dinner, and both your son and daughter have sports practice. But there are times when parents also create unnecessary stress for themselves. One of those ways is by forcing your child or children to grow up too fast.
It’s a familiar story. The moment little Eric lets go with his first wail, his parents start fantasizing about his public-speaking abilities and dreaming of how he is going to be different from all the other kids. Their expectations for Eric tempt them to push the little guy too far too fast. Not only do his parents become overstressed but so does he. In fact, studies show little Eric and his mom, in particular, are prime candidates for overstress.
What I suggest to parents is to keep in mind that pushing your child to do too much can cause you and him undue stress, which can cause him and you physical and psychological damage. Little Eric doesn’t have to be good at everything. Many parents suffer from the “my kids the best syndrome,” but don’t fall into the trap!
Your child needs to have a sufficient amount of self-esteem that comes from his or her achievements, being part of something that counts, and so on. For some, it could mean being part of a team, or perhaps playing the flute in the orchestra. For others it could mean having a lot of friends, or a job that provides money for clothes and extras. But this does not mean your child has to DO IT ALL. In fact, one suggestion I enforced in my own household is the one activity per year rule. Each child can have one after school activity—a sport, band, theater—that they can do for that year. Letting them do more than that will leave your children feeling they have no free time and you feeling as if you’ve taken up an extra job as a taxi driver.
Your child doesn’t need to perform like a miniature adult. Sure he needs responsibilities and things which he can claim to be good at, but don’t force him into adulthood before his time. He’s got a whole life ahead of him. He’ll get to adulthood sooner than you realize. And as for you, you can’t be expected to cart around another little adult to all his activities. So cut your kid, and yourself, a break.
For more ways to break the stress cycle, check out Stopping Stress before it Stops You.
And a reminder that you can download my eBook “The Way of the Wise” is for only $5.99 through January 18th, 2014.