The Harsh Expectations of Parents

It’s only natural for parents of teens to want the best for their children, but sometimes parental expectations can rise to unreasonable levels – and it’s not unusual.

As a result, a great amount of pressure is placed on struggling teens, and teen pressure can be a powerful force. Even teens who exhibit gifted skills may struggle, and while an effort to maintain teen grades is important, setting an adolescent’s goals beyond their capabilities can put a huge burden on them to perform. This is particularly true if teens are experiencing mental health issues or are struggling with learning disabilities.

How Parental Expectations Can Amplify Problems

It’s fairly common for parents to view their teen’s ability to achieve in a vacuum-like state: expecting the kind of accomplishment that can only be achieved in the absence of any other challenges or distractions. However, teens are not a part of a scientific experiment, and despite a parent’s well-wishes, teens inevitably stray off course. It may have to do with the fact that they simply aren’t interested in the path their parents expect them to follow, or it may be due to the expectations themselves.

Stanford University’s Stanford News published an article that points out several of the risks that come with high expectations, stating: “Pressure by parents and schools to achieve top scores has created stress levels among students—beginning as early as elementary school—that are so high that some educators regard it as a health epidemic.”

In addition, there is also research to support that parental expectations of risk-taking behavior may assist in such behavior becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. A study published in the Journal of Research on Adolescence noted that a bias develops when parents expect bad behavior during early adolescence, reinforcing a teen’s negative view and subsequently perpetuating additional behavioral problems throughout the teen years.

As a parent, how can we understand this psychology better?

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