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Have you ever been accused by your kids of putting too much pressure on them?

If you have a teenager or even a tween I believe that this conversation will definitely be occurring in your near future, if it hasn’t already.

This topic came to a lively, heated-head in our house when our daughter was working really hard on her sport and felt she was falling short in our eyes.  Before bed one evening she told me she felt like we, her parents, were putting too much pressure on her to perform.

She felt we were expecting her to be this 2.0 version of us and she truly felt that it wasn’t fair to her. (God bless her for thinking I am even worthy of a 2.0 version!)
Her points were very legitimate and definitely REAL for her!

Honestly, my first reaction was “I am not!
Yup, SUPER mature, first reaction. (Sometimes I truly wish I could rewind time.)

Extreme defense was my first reaction because we have worked so hard to let our kids follow their passions and try a lot of things, to find what they love. (For goodness’ sake, we watched our girl participate in a judged sport for years….talk about painful when you are used to just keeping score based on a ball and a hoop. INSERT my own version of a teenage eye-roll here.)  

The conversation spiraled a bit from there, due to the hard-headedness of us both, and eventually we just agreed to disagree for the evening, but I promised that we would be revisiting the discussion after a good night’s sleep.  

PS: No matter how bad a convo is with our kids we always reinforce our love for them at the end, even if they are eye-rolling and giving us the half-hug.
(You know, the one where they drop a shoulder into you so you can’t get too close and they give you the half-pat with one arm on the back of your shoulder.)

It is our job to be the adults, to validate them and always wrap it up in a mature manner.
It is my opinion that it is NEVER our kid’s job to validate us as parents.
If you are insecure about your role, do the work on that to get over it.
You are an adult, act like it.

Being the “mature” one, as I walked away from this moment, the wheels started turning.
The defensiveness in my mind continued to play out.  

We’re NOT putting pressure on her!
This was HER choice!
I don’t care if she plays ANY sport!
She is just being ungrateful!

YUP, thank goodness most of this happens in my head or in conversation with Derek.

Once I calmed down I was able to rephrase the exclamations in my mind and turn them into appropriate questions.

ARE we putting undue pressure on her?
ARE we living our lives through our kids?
Has our desire for her to experience some of our same experiences clouded our sight of what is truly going on here?

I spent the rest of the evening truly thinking about it and discussing it with Derek.

Had we lost sight of the best way to handle this for her?

Honestly, those moments are a super challenging time to do the self-reflection, but it SO important.  I could see her point, I could see why her teenage-self felt the pressure she was feeling. I could see how tired she was and that she just wanted to hang out with friends. After much thought and discussion, this is what we came up with.

We WERE pressuring her, BUT the pressure wasn’t the SAME pressure that she was perceiving.
No, the pressure we intended to apply was much broader, and actually quite larger than a silly sport.
(Cuz they are silly folks! Fun, but silly!)

Let me explain.

I wholeheartedly believe that kids need to be pressured.  I believe they need to have a standard of behavior set for them and they need to experience a high level of loving accountability to maintain those behaviors and standards in their life.  

So, YES, (as I raise my hand) we WERE applying some serious pressure to our sweet girl, and we needed to better explain it to her.

So, we sat down and made a list of many of the ways we intend to apply pressure to her and her brother and here’s what we came up with.

  • We undoubtedly pressure them to be kind to others.  The golden rule is definitely the law of the land around here.
  • We pressure them to give their best effort at everything they do, even emptying the dishwasher.  We are not results oriented as much as we are invested in the process. We believe the results will come, with consistent and dedicated effort.
  • We completely expect them to learn what it is that they believe to be true for them and to the respectfully stand up for those beliefs, even it it means that they don’t always agree with their friends.  
  • We tell them that they are expected to respect us and the other adults in their life.  We truly encourage our kids to have conversations with their teachers and coaches.  As their parents, we work hard to not interfere in these relationships as we want our kids to understand that most adults in their life are FOR them, not against them!  PLUS, as parents, we could spend our entire lives “fixing” our kids problems or we could simply empower them to work on it themselves and guide them in that process.
  • We are relentless in teaching them that they are to be each other’s biggest fans!  If kids cannot get support, encouragement and love from their own siblings, then where on earth can they get it?  (Sometimes that incessant sibling teasing can really add-up, so we really work to encourage them to speak with a higher regard to each other.  Mind you, this one backfires ALOT!)

Honestly, there are so many ways that we are setting expectations for our kids but many of them are unspoken and simply modeled to them by what we do.  We show them hard work, we show them that disagreeing isn’t a bad thing and we show them that having a sense of humor is vital to enjoying life.

The #1 rule for me as a Mom and I believe it goes the same for my husband is WE ARE NOT THEIR FRIENDS.
I repeat, WE ARE NOT THEIR FRIENDS!
We are their parents and it is our job to guide them, draw the lines for them and then give them the supervised freedom to explore.  

We do not bribe, we do not negotiate and I can honestly say that never, in the our kids’ lives, has any amount of whining turned a “NO” into a “YES”. (There aren’t many things I can be so absolute about!)
This may sound harsh, but I’m ok with that, because life isn’t easy and I want my kiddos to be self-reliant, confident, and contributing humans.

So, I challenge you.  

What do you do to apply positive pressure to your kids?
Where can you up the ante a bit and where can you back off?
Are you setting the standards high enough and modeling them yourself?
There is no right or wrong answer, just a process of thinking about it and making it work for your family and for the future of your kids.

Truth be told, we are SO FAR from perfect, and we do intentionally work at improving by continuously shifting our approach as our kids are constantly evolving. The pressure we apply isn’t about some dream for ourselves that we didn’t fulfill but rather about giving our kids the tools so that they can fulfill their own lives. No matter what the steps are, we truly believe that as long as our kids are challenged by us in a loving way they will come out on the other side being all the better for it!

I would love to hear some of your “non-negotiables” when it comes to pressuring/challenging your kids.
What’s worked?
What’s backfired?
Please share in the comments below.

A couple of related articles on this topic:
https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/saying-no-to-your-child-how-to-be-a-more-assertive-parent/

https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/disrespectful-child-or-teen-5-things-not-to-do-as-a-parent/