Pushing your children too hard and having unreasonable expectations of their progress will burn them out. That is counterproductive and serves no useful purpose. It might lead to the last thing you want to happen – your children ask if they can attend public school.
I always feel bad when I see highly talented children treated like sacrificial lambs at the behest of their parents. Making Jack and Jill always carry that pail of water will eventually discourage them if that is what they do all they long. Even if they like water. As with your child’s curriculum, there needs to be a balance that makes the best use of the available time while letting them still be children. You want them to succeed and they want to succeed. Use that as the starting point for negotiations on how much time is spent working and how much playing.
We all want our children to do better and be better than ourselves. Every parent has that natural tendency but the problem is how we prepare them to explore that path of excellence. In the earlier years, children are willing to listen more and rebel less. As they enter the teenage years and begin to see the world differently – as a place they can individually succeed without the assist from their parents – keeping them focused on what can be rather than where they are at now is challenging. They may already feel they have learned all they need to know and now want to cash in on their personal investment of time and effort.
The truth seems to be that after a certain point it really is their decision. If they are at the edge of burning out, the flashpoint may come more quickly. So here are a few signs that they are stressed and overchallenged: they are tired all the time, their interest in sports and recreational activities is almost zero, an inability to pay attention, and the easiest one to spot – signs of physical illness.
I always think it’s odd when parents work hard all week, whether at work or at home, they believe they are entitled to a break to prevent from burning out. Or maybe they are already burned out. The point is, they know the feeling and should be able to empathize with their children, who may not be going through burn out in the same way but nevertheless need a serious time out.
I want to close this blog entry discussing freedom. People like believing, even if it isn’t true, that the decisions they have made, particularly the ones with positive outcomes, were made because they were a choice. Any choice has the possibility of failure, but exercising the freedom to be wrong makes the times when the choices are right feel much better.
Now apply this to your children’s interests. If they believe that their personal interests and excellence were the result of choices they had the freedom to make, is it likely they would rarely, if ever, burn out? The necessary motivator to continue pursuing excellence and developing your natural talents is having the child realize it is their effort that makes the difference. And that choosing to make that effort is a freedom you have given them. They have earned it.