There’s a fine line between being a good parent capable of stimulating kids to be achievers and taking things too far. Studies show that crossing the line can have severe consequences for young individuals.

Singapore’s educational system is known for its quality and the fact that students acquire tons of knowledge and a high level of competence. In 2016, Singapore ranked first in science and math among all countries participating in an Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development survey. Standards are high and parents also tend to be quite demanding when it comes to good grades and academic excellence.

Parents have high expectations to the point of giving their children performance anxiety in school. This is one of the reasons why reports suggest Singaporean kids as young as eight could be contemplating suicide.

Mental health experts believe that unrealistic parental expectations could affect the cognitive and emotional development of children. Singapore psychiatrists, psychologists and child counselling experts aren’t alone in this belief. New studies show just how detrimental the parental push for high grades could be.

What Academic Pressure Does to a Child’s Psyche

In 2016, Arizona State University researchers carried out an interesting clinical trial that demonstrated too much pressure when it comes to good grades is simply wrong.

Parents who put too much focus on grades and extracurricular activities are minimising the importance of social skills and compassion. Thus, they could actually be contributing to their children’s failure when it comes to being well-adjusted individuals and contributing members of society.

When parents are solely interested in good grades during the formative years of children, they’re causing high stress levels and anxiety. The study has proven that teaching children kindness and compassion helps them perform better in school and increases their academic achievements.

The results of the study were presented in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence. Researchers worked with 506 sixth grade students who were asked to determine what their parents valued the most about them. School performance was also assessed. The kids that performed the best were the ones whose parents seemed to value kindness much more than high grades.

Excessive Academic Pressure is Harmful

Singapore mental health clinic see multiple cases in which children are failing to adjust or they’re experiencing social problems because parents put them under too much stress.

Today’s society is putting a lot of pressure on success. Kids are in a constant state of competition –for good grades, for sports achievement, for entering the right high school or college. As academic pressure increases, psychological health deteriorates.

The values that children perceive their parents to have play a key role in the individual development of every kid. Their priorities and even personal beliefs are shaped up by what parents see as the most crucial things in life.

Academic parental pressure will only make kids worry. When they get a high grade on a test, they will worry about the next one or that someone has gotten an even higher grade. If the grade isn’t the top one, kids will be left with the feeling that they’re just not good enough.

Being paralysed by such fear will hinder performance in even the most talented of children.

Eventually, the stress and the feeling that they aren’t the best they could be may lead to bad behaviour. Too much pressure will make kids attempt to get good grades through any means. They may cheat, they may turn to drugs and the relationships with classmates will be affected in a negative way.

How to Encourage Children and to Make Learning Fun

Psychologists believe that parental encouragement is essential for helping a child unleash their full potential. Not being involved at all is as bad as pushing children too far.

So, what is the best way to stimulate children to be achievers without crossing the proverbial thin line?

Constant non-constructive criticism is a big no-no. when failure occurs (an inevitable part of life!), parents should help children understand what went wrong and what could be done to improve the situation the next time around. Otherwise, young individuals will feel shame and fear about failing, they could refrain from communicating with their parents and the anxiety will eventually grow into depression or a behavioural problem.

As a parent, you should focus on the importance of learning new things rather than getting good grades. Children should be hungry for the acquisition of knowledge, especially in an academic area that they enjoy. The knowledge itself rather than the manner in which progress is being scored should be prioritised.

Finally, the importance of kindness and compassion have already been raised via the clinical study. These are the skills that should matter the most and not success at any cost. A win-it-all attitude (through any means) will eventually backfire and it’s not a healthy pedagogic methodology during those important formative years.

Every parent should lead by example. Words should be backed up by actions, attitude towards others and adherence to the rules when it comes to getting a positive outcome.

If a child is already too stressed out and anxious about going to school and getting graded, professional assistance will be the best option to seek. Psychologists and psychiatrists who work with children know how to address the situation and discover the contributing factors. Once the problem has been established, the family will start learning how to communicate better and set healthy goals in the long run.

Are you concerned about your child? Are they acting out or being anti-social? We can help you understand what’s going on and whether your parenting style could be contributing to the problem. At Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic – Psychiatrists and Psychologists for Mental Health in Singapore, we adopt a holistic approach towards depression treatment and child counselling. The Adelphi Families and Youth Centre offers multi-disciplinary therapies that improve the communication and the dynamics among all family members.

Don’t hesitate to contact us today and let us know a bit more about what your family is going through. Schedule your first consultation and we’ll help you get to the roots of the issue.

Article by Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic