Pushing the Limits

So without giving too much info, for a few years now I have been working for a wonderful family I love. I truly have little complaints with the job but the mother pushes her children academically very hard. They are very young, the oldest is not yet 6. I tutor the children daily from home which I enjoy as I have a teaching background and the kids are amazingly smart and are each at least 2 years above grade level (not just my opinion.) She will tell them that other children are better than they are in order to push them, as well as telling them that they need to impress others, and their work is not good enough. I am becoming better friends with the mother over the years and I know her intentions are not to harm her kids. She does not always push so hard and I know that she is a perfectionist herself, but it hurts to hear her say things to her children that are negative when I believe that children need positive reinforcement from adults.

I would love some advice as to how to talk to her about this issue and remind her gently not to push too hard or that the kids are fine and to let them be kids. I understand how parents want the best for their children but its hard to see them pushed hard. Also if anyone else has experience with similar situations in the families they work for or in their own personal life that would be great. Thanks so much everyone. - Anonymous


BrooklynMomma said...

I think a good approach would be to share with her some stats or research that supports your opinion on not pushing the children too hard. It may also be a good opportunity to share with her facts about play-based learning so that the children are not solely focused on paper and pencil work. There's lots of published research out there that will support the fact that children need to learn via multiple facets, not just drilling information into them. Since it sounds like the mom has good intentions behind her actions, I would support her by providing her with information to help her children succeed while easing up on the pressure. Good luck!

Future nurse :) said...

I graduated valedictorian from my high school, involved in over 15 different sports/clubs, and student body president

I dropped out of college after failing several classes, getting multiple drinking tickets, and being way more concerned with varsity cheerleading and my sorority.

What happened? My parents pushed me way too hard and so once I was on my own I bucked.

I use this story because I really want parents to realize what a long standing chain reaction can happen to kids when you constantly pressure them to be the best. Just using my experiences as a guideline, I don't know that talking to the parents would do anything. It's worth a shot, but mine would always laugh it off and say (me, the child) she's joking with you about us, or something like that. What I would suggest you do is what you already are... LOVING these kids. At least in my household, it felt like love was attached to high performance, so if you didn't measure up you weren't loved. Teach them that they have someone in their corner who always loves them, but obviously don't say anything that would offend the parents. I would really try to foster self esteem and self confidence in the children, and make it independent of their successes in school. To quote one of my fav movies :"you is smart, you is kind" :)

katydid said...

Is she Asian?

I don't mean to sound racist, but I am part Asian and that's just how Asian parents are and it starts early, and there will be very little you can do to change her mind.

Though I agree pushing so hard usually does more harm than good.

RBTC said...

thank you for looking out for these kids - these are some good suggestions - let us know what happens

Bethany said...

Much like future nurse I grew up with parents that expected perfection when it came to grades and education.

It wa very competative even amongst my siblings. Part of that was cultural.

I am happy that they put heavy emphasis on learning and doing well.

I do wish they had gone about it a different way.

We all met the standar of graduating high school, going to and finish college, and for some of us achieving advance degrees, but we are all overly consumed with doing better than the next person , and are never satisfied with anything.

In my case I've struggle in scenarios where I am not the best or first and class.

I also think it's part of the reason it's taken me longer ,than some of my peers, to discover what I want to do in life.

Her hear is probably in the right places, her actions are a bit misguided.

I don't know how well she will receive you speaking to her.

Perfectionists have a tendancy to interpret any form of criticsim as an attack and lash out.

Hopefully she will hear you.

Aria said...

This is a really difficult situation. I know it can be hard to walk that line between being concerned for a kid and not offending the parent. That kind of pressure can really mess with a kid that young, and from what you've said, they seem like such bright kids. No child should ever feel like they're not good enough. I don't really have any advice, but I empathize with you - this is a tough one. Let us know how it turns out.

Future nurse :) said...

Oh my goodness I am the same way! I can't stand not being the best in everything and I get downright upset over getting a B on a test.

Bethany said...

Same here! For me 1000 things can go right in a day and I will focus on the 1001 that didn't, and what I did to cause it not to happen the right way.

Future nurse :) said...

Me too and I get upset with myself for not being grateful for the things I did do right. That'll serve you well in nursing school though, it seems like all good nursing students are very type a perfectionist people!

Side note... I'm not that way with kids, I never get upset if things don't go as planned. It's the only aspect I can rationalize and let go with. Wonder if it's because we subconsciously realize that we don't want to create more stressed out perfectionist little people ;)

gypsy said...

I think she is acting out of fear. She could benefit from trying to uncover the underlying issue. Its not very much fun nor is it healthy for a child to be treated like they aren't good enough, that approval will come when an accomplishment has been met. Approval should come because the parent accepts the child for who they are, not what they do.

EastBayNanny said...

So hard to be in this place. I've worked with literally hundreds of parents in school and private settings. My experience is that this is a parenting style, and it will not change. My first thought is that there is a cultural difference between you. While it's helpful to recognize that it's a cultural issue (if it is- and I don't just mean race, but maybe religion etc.) it doesn't change the fact that this is very likely not a match for you. Personally, if how a parent relates to a child is painful to observe- I soon find a way to leave the job. (I definitely realize easier said than done).

It's wonderful that you provide them with balance and probably much more verbal encouragement than they otherwise receive. But is this all about them? Do you really see yourself being able to hang so to speak?

I do not believe this is something that discussion will change. There's lots of room for discussion with parents around issues and room for suggestions around all kinds of things. But you just can't change a parent's entire world view, which I think is the case here. You can't change who a person IS.

Lex said...

'you is important' -love that quote, so special!

Not all of us die from success said...

I am so fortunate to have been pushed - it taught me perseverance and how to follow through with a task even if I didn't love it initially. There is no excuse for my child to get less than an A in the American school system which is behind in comparison to international standards. That's why we push them. They don't need to get the best grade, they just need to get an A. My children are curious and they have a social life, lots of friends, are popular and 2 years ahead of the game. They take pride in it. Just remember not all of us are monsters for wanting children to be hard workers- if my child decides to be a plumber after graduating from college then so be it. I know they will be hard working ad successful because it is who they are. But yes there are absurd parents. I have no shame in saying the truth- my children are not special, they are not better than others, they dont hear the "everyone is a winner" bull because guess what not everyone can be a winner so why make them think they are great for minimal effort. No, you are a winner if you work hard and deliver an A. You are a winner of you are thoughtful and compassionate and actively display those traits. You are not a winner if you watched TV instead of studying as bring home a B.

leftcoastmama said...

I knew plenty of people who watched TV did shit all and still brought home As.

They cheated.

I'd much rather teach them to do their best work no matter what it is and we can go from there.

I'd rather my child have understanding than just an A.

I'd rather teach them to be good people than to get an A.

The everbody's a winner philosophy is harmful, but so is not recognizing the good in each child, What is special about them that they have to offer the world.

It takes many small stars to brighten the night sky.

Seriously leftcoast said...

At least sound like an intelligent person if you choose to initiate a rebuttal. So now you are accusing the above poster that her children are cheating? You can get an A and still be a great person. For some it just comes easier than others. Grow a brain.

EastBayNanny said...

Stop fighting. It sucks. Nothing this person said was directed personally to anybody. It was a counter perspective. That's it.

leftcoastmama said...

I'm not saying your kids cheat or are going to cheat or that people can't be both A students and good people.

I have had maany people ( students) that rather cheat and bring home the A to meet the expectation of an A. Than to either study or admit that the subject they are studying is more of a challenge to them.

They may get an A but have zero understanding of the subject at hand.

I also know some that study, recieve the extra help and end up with a B, but have more knowledge of the subject of the ones that got an A and cheated.

Just Sayin said...

You can teach a child to be a hard worker without destroying their self esteem in the process.

Aria said...

Not all of us die from success, I have a question for you, just for clarification. I agree that hard work is important and should be instilled in kids. But is the A or the hard work that is the most important? For example, if you saw that your kid studied really hard for a test, got tutoring to help them understand better, chose to put aside friends and fun for a week to put their focus on studying, but they still got a B, would that be okay? I think it's important to teach children that they need to try their best. It's a matter of pride to know that you worked as hard as you could on something, so if they know they did their best, is the letter grade so important?

to answer your q said...

Never had that problem (honestly) I guess the kids got dad's brain cells and my work ethic. If they did however bring home anything less than they are used to, I would tell them nice try, but work harder. You did OK, but not great. You determine which you want to be- OK or great. I can't control them. If they chose to just be OK there is nothing I can do about that. But you are not getting a high five for just doing OK.

to answer your q said...

Ps. I am sure that will start happening in higher level university classes and at that point it doesnt matter anymore to be honest. But no child of mine has an excuse to do just OK in high school with such mediocre education standards. You can do the "tried your best" approach in grad school. Listen, they know I wont disown them over a B. But the most important part is that they can deal with a less ideal grade- and I know they can based on their character. I don't have the crazy kids who cannot hand in a paper by the due date because they didnt think it was good enough. It's hard to explain properly over an iphone keypad. So try not to read into my message too much. My point is just there are parents that go too far and I know we are not those wackjobs. We see that in peers parents.