When Parent Aspirations Hurt Academic Performance
The trick to parenting seems to suffer from the Goldilocks problem.
It can’t be too hot and it can’t be too cold. The sweet spot is somewhere in the middle.
Too much protection from the world, praise, or hovering can hurt a child’s development or ability to cope with problems in their adult years. Too little, and they can suffer as well.
I don’t envy parents, no wonder they’re stressed all the time.
Now, it seems that a child’s academic performance can run into the same problem.
Having aspirations for your child has been found to be good. However, research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology finds that if you aim too high, your child’s performance may suffer.
Getting It Just Right
One of the lead authors, Kou Murayama said this about the research:
“Our research revealed both positive and negative aspects of parents’ aspiration for their children’s academic performance.”
While having aspirations is usually a good thing, you can go overboard. Kou continues:
“Although parental aspiration can help improve children’s academic performance, excessive parental aspiration can be poisonous.”
So what’s the key?
It appears that having realistic aspirations is what matters. Previous research in this area has found aspirations to be good, but the research team has revealed how this can backfire if parents go too far.
A Look At Performance
Kou and the research team saw this phenomenon when looking at a 5 year study of over 3,500 secondary school students in Germany. It measured math achievement along with parental expectations and aspirations. And they did this on a yearly basis.
Here’s the key to understanding the study. Parental aspiration was defined by how much parents wanted their child to earn a grade. And parental expectation was how much they believed their child could achieve that grade.
This is where parents could get into trouble.
When looking at the data they saw that aspiration could actually lead to increased achievement. But when aspiration outdid their actual expectation, the child’s achievement dropped.
So when you break it down, if parent’s want more for their child than they actually thought the child was capable of, their academic performance was hindered.
A Second Look
The research team wanted to double check their findings to make sure their results would hold up. So they found more data from a two year study in the US. That study included over 12,000 students and their parents.
Kou and the other scientists found similar results as they did in their Germany study. Overly high aspirations were equated with poorer academic performance from their children.
Summing up the research Kou said this:
“Unrealistically high aspiration may hinder academic performance. Simply raising aspiration cannot be an effective solution to improve success in education.”
The biggest key to a child’s academic success depends a lot on how involved parents are. Sure, there are other factors. Like a teacher’s attitude, or certain classroom factors. But at the end of the day, the biggest impact is at home.
Remember, aspirations aren’t bad. In fact, it’s important to have aspirations for your child. They need you to believe they are capable of great things.
Just don’t let it out strip what you believe your child can actually achieve.