Articles are available for reprint as long as the author is acknowledged: Domenick J. Maglio Ph.D.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Pushy Parents, Underachieving Kids

Every time parents attempt to influence, cajole and finally browbeat a teacher to increase the child’s standing in the class, they are sending a horrible message to their child. The student learns parents will bail him out of his laziness, twisting of the truth and sloppiness in dealing with his daily school assignments. These potentially high functioning students concentrate on “getting over” on the teacher rather than just doing things right the first time. They rely on their parent’s powers of coercion rather than their own hard work to obtain high grades.

This disinterested and lazy view of schooling starts in the home. The child becomes absolved from solving his own daily problems. These compulsive parents do their child’s work rather than requiring the child to do it himself. Nagging is their primary strategy while the child learns to be selectively deaf and dumb. The child perfects these passive-aggressive games so that the irate parent gives up and does it herself.

These established habits of the child doing only what he wants to do is transferred from the home to the school environment. As long as learning comes easily it is not an issue. When the student can no longer get by with his reserve of general knowledge, usually in junior or senior high school, the problems surface. Instead of rising to the challenge of the harder work, the student digs in his heels using his passive-aggressive techniques used at home. The parent notices the lower grades and lack of studying that produces anxiety about their child’s future school success. As the child’s grades remain below the parent’s expectations it becomes the teacher’s not the child’s fault.

These are usually high functioning, bright parents who demand the best performance from everyone including their underachieving children. This approach usually works with the public. They direct the teacher to send everything home to them from grades, assignments, to specific reading lists. The parent decides to micro manage the child’s studies and homework until the parent becomes frustrated from the lack of results.

The parent’s inconsistency gives the child a free pass as the parent knows her pit bull tactics only drives the child further into his own world of avoidance. The solution to the parent’s dilemma is to place their child’s poor performance squarely on the shoulders of the teacher. “The teacher did not inform the parent early enough. There were insufficient progress reports for the parent’s liking. They did not know about this or that assignment. The child should receive one-on-one instruction.” The parent never places the responsibility where it belongs, on the child to do his own work.

The child’s dispassionate existence is reversed when the parent requires the child to be responsible for his own home chores and school duties. The parents’ emphasis should be demanding what is in their control, the child doing family responsibilities. At the same time the parents increase their pressure at home, they should release the reins for their child’s academic studies. Any difficulty the child has at school should be viewed by the parent as an opportunity for the child to improve and grow as a student.

The message should be loud and clear. “You contribute to the family and become responsible for your own education or else you will be cut off from the things you love but have not earned.” The computer, television, books, the child’s virtual reality must be replaced with a chore list of helping the family. “Not for a weekend or a month but until you show ownership of your chores and schoolwork.”

When the parents understand that their youngster must be held accountable for his own well being then they allow the child to make his own choices and deal with the consequences of his behavior. The message changes from “I will use my power to cover up your self-made difficulties” to “grow up because this is your life now.” This shift in the parent’s attitude and behavior will move the child from underachieving towards taking more appropriate action for his own future. The child will become empowered to mature into a self-reliant student.



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