I have no driving need for Risa to get straight As, win sports tournaments or land a starring dramatic role. I don’t dream of my only becoming valedictorian or getting admitted to Harvard. However, if I am being totally honest, I’d love her to join an acapella group someday. I know it’s dorky, but I’ve always had a little thing for quality acapella (oxymoron, you’re thinking, I can hear you). I would have joined a group myself if I had the gift. Alas, I can just about manage to stay in tune if I focus. Risa, on the other hand, won the golden pipes handed down from my jazz-singer grandmother. So my girl could live out my lame-o fantasy if she put her mind to it. Does she want to? I don’t know but I’m planting the seed by listening with her to WERS’s All Acapella program on Sundays. I even took her to an acapella concert (which, at age 8, she kindly deemed "not my favorite"). Doh!
Anyway, my point is that I am as susceptible as anyone to wanting my child to live out my pipe(s) dream, so I paid careful attention to a Psychology Today blog post called “Curbing Too-High Hopes for Children’s Success” by social psychologist/author Susan Newman, Ph.D., and I’m reprinting a few of her key points here.
First of all, Newman suggests there’s an easy way to know whether you’re pressuring your child too much:
Over-emphasis on excellence is relatively easy to spot in the school-age child. You can tell you are too demanding when your child turns to your spouse on a regular basis for entertainment, consolation or affection. A young child will walk away from the parent who insists that a dive be executed precisely or book be read without errors. She will march to the parent who accepts her skills at her level. A drop in the quality of schoolwork, extreme sensitivity to mild or constructive criticism and a lowering of his own standards are also indicative of an over-stressed child who is trying to live up to a parent’s desires. If he feels—or says—he’s lazy or dumb, if he appears to have stopped trying, you may be driving him too hard, or expecting too much.
Here's what to do if you are:
If you can see you’re guilty of putting on the pressure, pull back. Join forces with your spouse or significant other to start fresh and ease up. Block out time so that the three of you can be together doing something enjoyable or sharing a task. You might start a garden, clean a closet, paint a room or piece of furniture to remove the focus from whether or not your child is doing well. Parents impose unrealistic expectations on their children for various reasons. Parents face their own childhoods while watching their children grow, and in doing so some want their children to have the successes that once eluded them.
Read the rest of Newman's post.
For me, what's tricky is that singing is actually one of Risa’s strengths, and if she wanted to put in the girl-hours, she could use her ability for acapella good (sigh). On the other hand, it’s quite possible other kids would throw icy slushies in her face a la Glee if she even made it into an acapella group. Even I know that. So I guess for now, I’ll just enjoy her sweet tunes when they come and also allow myself to belt out Pink’s “Raise Your Glass” in the car – enthusiastically and with the windows rolled up.
I am a journalist, filmmaker, author, wife, and mom to an 8-year-old daughter. My most recent project is I Love Mondays: And other confessions from devoted working moms. Other projects explore raising only children, happily ever after, raising strong girls, and hot topics for Jewish women.
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