Parent Research: Too High Parental Aspirations Can Hurt Kids’ School Performance

Research suggests that parents’ educational aspirations can benefit or harm a child’s academic achievement.

If a parent’s expectations are realistic, children tend to do better in school. However, if the goals are unrealistic, then the child may not perform well in school.

“Our research revealed both positive and negative aspects of parents’ aspiration for their children’s academic performance. Although parental aspiration can help improve children’s academic performance, excessive parental aspiration can be poisonous,” said lead author Kou Murayama, Ph.D., of the University of Reading, whose study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Researchers found that high parental aspiration led to increased academic achievement, but only when it did not overly exceed realistic expectations. When aspiration exceeded realistic expectations, the children’s achievement decreased proportionately.

What Parents Can Do:
• Parents should set realistic expectations for their child’s academic potential and then encourage and coach them to reach that potential.

• Encourage your children to do their best, learn all they can, and do the best they can do. Intervene when they do not, and affirm them when they live up to their academic potential.

• Parents should be careful to not push their kids beyond realistic academic expectations. When kids fall short of their parents’ expectations, they feel pressure which can lead to a sense of failure, and ultimately result in lower academic performance.

• Keep in mind that you can’t push an average student into an overachiever by nagging or pushing. In fact, the more you get involved, the greater the likelihood the student will do worse, not better.

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Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has 40 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, editor, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord Culture Blog also appears on Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

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