“Hyper-parenting” – is pushy parenting hurting our children?

An article in an old issue (2009) of “Psychologies” that posed the above question, drew my attention.  No sooner that I commented on it, and my daughter pushes another article under my nose – “The Curse of the Perfect Parent” (Clicks magazine, 2012).

Let’s be accurate:  It was actually the leading image in the Psychologies article that drew my attention.  Speaking of the power of graphic design!  The photo was of a young mother helping her toddler (the kid had to be about 3 years old) to hold a violin.

AHA!  Now you also know why all my hackles went up!  So, Psychologies:

It’s “hyper-parenting” if you book your child into the Suzuki Method (no more pressure than Kindermusik at that age) and then help them practice the required 10-15 minutes per day?  Really?

Can it be extrapolated that a parent who ensures that their child learns the discipline of daily practice, is “hyper-parenting”?  We need to leave our kids to it “free-range” and let them “explore” the instrument (for two consecutive days and that’s it), and when they get tired with it, let them get away?

I don’t know how often adults approach me for violin lessons, stating that they did play as children and then they stopped.  To my question, “Why did you stop?” the usual answer is, “I don’t know.”  But I can tell them:  They didn’t have a pushy mom standing behind them forcing them to practice.

Children have to be pushed to practice.  To understand this, you need to have a look into a 9-year-old’s psyche.

The world is full of exciting stuff:  Friends, books, TV, DVDs, computer games (the death of all hobbies) and of course, the great outdoors expressed as sport activities taken at school.  Would you like to learn the violin?  Ooh yes please, Mom!  That sounds like fun!  Well, by the time Mom calls you in at 5h in the afternoon – sun still shining, friends still out, or alternatively the battle in Sector XYZ on Starship Gobbleglook is just heating up and we’ve got aliens – she is, frankly, interrupting your fun.  Moooorm, must I stop what I’m doing right now??  Yes.  Eww!

So you see, the resistance is not even so much against practising, but against interrupting what you’re currently doing.  If Mom gave you a different choice – practice violin or clear up your room, for instance?  Or a really odious task – practice violin or wash up the pots?  Within 2 minutes of proper practising, they remember why it’s fun and why they are doing it.  They remember they are actually already quite good at it.  But:  Don’t ever push them and they’ll definitely stop – and guess what, turn around as adults and blame you for not enforcing!

So the answer to the question:  Is pushy parenting hurting our children?  is a resounding NO!  Pushy parenting, leveraged in the correct spots, is good for our children.  On the contrary, those “free-range” children the article spoke about (the ones that are adults now):  Firstly, we weren’t half as free-range as it appears.  We still had to do our chores, finish our homework, TV time was regulated in the extreme, and we, too, were pushed to practice our violins (some more than others, and you could hear who got pushed).

Secondly the authors of the article forget in their nostalgia that many, many of us had full-time mothers.  A rarity today.  The hours our moms invested simply cannot be matched by our poor working mothers of today.  By being there, they imprinted their parenting on us.  It happened gently and constantly.

But thirdly, and sadly, it was a safer world.  We could walk home from school without our parents wondering if we’d be abducted on our way home.  Sure it happened too, back then; but it was extremely rare.  Now it’s a constant thing.

One of the greatest mistakes parents can make is to try to be their children’s buddy instead of a parent.

Your child has many buddies.  He doesn’t need more buddies.  He needs his parents.

So:  Go forth and hover!

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17 thoughts on ““Hyper-parenting” – is pushy parenting hurting our children?

    • 🙂 That goes far with some kids and gets one nowhere with others. I’m sure you’ve experienced it. My mom bangs her head quite regularly on the stubbornness of my youngest and oldest, whereas my middle child is incredibly compliant.

  1. I so agree that ‘pushy’ in the right directions is an obligation for a parent. Kids, left to themselves, would much rather mess about than to knuckle down. If, like Mozart, they show real talent, then they need discipline to force them to realise its potential. Many top sporting people only achieved their excellence by being forced, kicking and screaming, to hone their skills.
    It is also true that one blames the non-pushy parent later. I do, anyway. My mother let me off the hook on piano studies, and she shouldn’t have.
    Pushy on silly things like toddler competitions, which are simply to boost Mama’s ego, would be something entirely different.

    • Yes, I think you nailed it there. A lot of “pushy” parenting is really competing with other parents, rather than furthering talent in a child. I completely let my oldest off the hook with all instruments, and she is thriving. But I won’t let the two younger ones get away with dropping violin, because they’ve come too far to stop now, and there’s no extreme school pressure on them, so why should they get away with laziness? And you’re 100% right, sports people get pushed, in fact much worse. 5 practices a week, 3 hours each, and the Game on Saturday… c’mon. Kids who practice that much violin get onto international stages!

    • That is a good principle. You offer them, “would you like to do (whatever)?” But then you actually hold them to it. I feel, if it’s a sport, you give it 1 year minimum, if they still like it after that, great, otherwise try another. An instrument, especially a difficult one like violin or cello, should be given 3 to 6 months. You also need to check carefully if the child responds to the teacher. Some teachers just don’t click with some children (and vice versa). One can move the child to another teacher if necessary; but you’re usually able to tell after 3 – 6 months whether the child will continue (still has enthusiasm) or will stop. If they decide after 6 months that it’s the right instrument and they are carrying on, one should make a deal with them. They are then committed to putting in what is necessary; because after all, at R600 for an instrument plus all the other layout (~R250 for a music stand, and the same again or more for music, potentially R300 for a tuner/metronome combo, and so on) you have invested quite a bit into it. So you can expect them to bring their side and not just drop it when they get bored. (They usually get bored if they’re not moving forward fast enough because they aren’t practicing enough, so the cure for boredom is to put more work in.)

    • Just btw, this is usually the case with my students. Even if they are 5 years old, they usually come because they themselves have heard someone play the violin (Andre Rieux or someone) and they want to play. It’s rarely the parents that “demand” it of them; and those who do, don’t usually last.

      The fine art is to take that dream the children have, and stepwise turn it into reality.

    • hey-hey! Good to see you! Re pushy parenting, as long as it’s for the good of the child (not the ego of the parent), and as long as it doesn’t damage the parent-child relationship, I’d say, go ahead, push!

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