My son, age 10, is smart and a really nice person. He does well at school but he hardly works at all. He doesn’t study but does well on tests. If he has an assignment, he does it at the last minute and does well. He is not being challenged at school but he doesn’t seem to mind. His teachers don’t think this is a problem as he is doing fine and he is very sweet and agreeable. I am worried that he is developing very bad habits and will not learn how to work hard. Am I being too pushy?
You are not being too pushy. Teaching your child to work hard and strive to be the best he can is exactly what you should be doing.
If your son does not learn to challenge himself he may have difficulty in doing well in the later years of high school or in university. Children (and the rest of us, too) do better when we have high expectations. The child who is never challenged will never learn to do his or her best.
Determining how to challenge your child academically is not easy. His teachers seem so happy to have a bright agreeable child that they have not been eager to push him.
There are several different strategies you can take.
First of all, I would share with your son your concern. He may not have much sympathy with your unease but it is better for him to know why you are pushing him.
Get him involved an extracurricular activity like a science fair, a language club or learning a musical instrument. Doing a science fair project will be a challenge. See if you can get him linked with a university researcher who can mentor him. He will also meet bright, hard-working undergraduates and graduate students in the research lab.
Learning a new language or a musical instrument can also be very demanding. Let the instructor know that you feel that your son needs a challenge.
Although physical activities may not be academically demanding, they can teach the self-discipline that you want your son to learn. Encourage him to enroll in sports.
Sometimes a hobby can be demanding. See if you can find a hobby that will push his abilities.
Finally, you could discuss this issue with the principal of your son’s school. The principal will know which teachers are able to push bright children to meet their full potential.
The pursuit of excellence in any area is important for the development of robust self esteem.
Many people don’t realize that having high standards is one of the best things we can do for our children. Low standards make children:
- lose determination
- intellectually flabby
- emotionally weak
- lose persistence
- fragile and easily defeated
Although easy success may produce immediate joy, the joy does not last. Low standards do not make children happier in the long run. Pushing children to do the best they can, will actually increase happiness. There is nothing as satisfying as achieving something that was a real challenge.
High standards should be geared to the ability of the child. Expectations should be attainable but not without real effort.
High standards should be accompanied by a very large dose of love. High standards with warmth produce effective children. High standards with coldness or cruelty will produce anxiety and low self-confidence.