Recently, during a presentation I conducted for parents to help their child overcome exam pressure and anxiety, I discussed the most common mistakes parents make that create a stressful environment at home.

The number one mistake was the unrealistic expectations parents had of their children. Many of the children I have coached have told me they felt their parents always expected too much from them.

In academics, if a child got 80 per cent, for instance, his parents would ask him why he didn’t get 90. If the child got 90, parents would suggest he work harder and get 95. Nothing the child achieved was good enough for the parents who lived under the misguided belief that they were pushing the child to perfection; another flawed goal!

A mother whom I spoke to about this issue, asked me, “What if she [her child] has not explored her potential?” She was unaware of the beliefs that she herself was struggling with, that one had to work harder and harder to achieve more and more, only then success was guaranteed. Her daughter achieving 90 per cent was good, but if she had achieved 90 then surely if she worked harder and optimised her potential she could achieve 95. That would assure the mother that her daughter had reached her potential.

Children of such parents come to me deflated and demotivated, saying that they feel they are not good enough. Whatever they achieve never satisfies their parents. One teen boy told me that in his frustration — his father asked him where he had lost the one mark and got only 99 on an exam — he climbed his apartment balcony to jolt his parents to reality.

One can stretch a rubber band, but if you extend it beyond its capacity it sometimes leaps far out of your hand and becomes difficult to retrieve or breaks beyond repair.

Pushing your child has similar repercussions.

Young ones below the age of ten can get artificially goaded to perform and work harder but once they reach their teen years and discover their identity, the first step is rebellion. Rebellion can manifest in many ways, ranging from slamming doors, shutting down communication or just not bothering to impress parents anymore, and developing a callous attitude to life in general. Teens can show a lackadaisical attitude by giving up self care and personal hygiene, turning a deaf ear to guidance and neglecting academics. Of course these kids are severely lacking in self-confidence as they believe they are not good enough nor are their efforts noticed or appreciated, leading them to become indifferent. These are all signs of children pushed to fulfil the unrealistic expectations of their parents.

It is important that parents have positive expectations of their child so that the child lives up to them. Motivational and inspiring expectations for your child creates benchmarks for him to strive toward. But let the expectations not be based on his test scores and academic grades. Hold high expectations of your child to imbibe values of honesty, loyalty, service of the less privileged and develop life skills such as self-confidence, resilience, perseverance and consistency — all of which will help him succeed in life. Exam scores are gauge of his learning a subject, not the barometer of his success in years to come.

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— Sunaina Vohra is a certified Youth and Family Life Coach at Athena Life Coaching in Dubai. For more information log on to or call (+971) 56-1399033.