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The Impact of Parental Pressure: ParenTalks Postscript

A conversation about the benefits and pitfalls of parental pressure on kids — one which started in the February edition of ParenTalks at St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) — continued in the final presentation of this series for this academic year.

The four-member panel which included a family physician, two psychologists, and an educator delved into how parental pressure can manifest in a child and what tactics parents may want to consider to positively motivate their son or daughter.

"Parental pressure is defined from the kid’s point of view, doesn’t matter what the parents say," Dr. Heindrie (Hank) Weisinger shared during ParenTalks’ May edition. "If the kid perceives that the expectations that the parents are holding are unrealistically high — almost impossible to meet — that is the definition of parental pressure."

SMCS ParenTalks | Parental pressure panel

Dr. Weisinger along with fellow panelist Dr. Christopher Thurber are both psychologists and co-authors of The Unlikely Art of Parental Pressure.

"We want high pressure, medium pressure, low pressure, but think about how you style that pressure, how that is delivered," says Dr. Thurber. "And that’s what’s going to make the difference. And the good news that goes along with that is, you can keep the same high standards, you can even raise the standards if you want. Because, if you’re delivering healthy pressure as opposed to harmful pressure, your child’s mental health is going to be better, therefore they’re going to be more resilient, they’re going to be capable of more, their performance will be better, everyone’s going to be happier. And it just makes a huge difference."

Dr. Thurber serves as a psychologist at an independent school in New Hampshire.

The panel also featured regular ParenTalks medical contributor Dr. Mark Broussenko ’07, who is a family physician and hospitalist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

"… One of the things that you trust the school to do is you trust them to teach, while the other thing that you trust them to do is to assess well," says Dr. Broussenko. “And at some point, if your child’s natural skill level is a B, you can only cheat that so much. They will eventually get to an environment where their abilities — if you’re doing all the things for them — their abilities will underperform in some sort of standardized testing or some sort of high-performance situation, where you’re not able to be there. Their abilities will underperform the expectations."

The event was moderated by John Connelly, Director of Student Affairs at SMCS.

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