Being the parent of a teen overachiever may sound like a dream. We always want the best for our children -- the best schools and the most visible extracurricular activities. But underneath the achievements, awards and straight A's often lies an unhappy young person. "Ambitious kids had higher educational attainment, attended highly esteemed universities, worked in more prestigious occupations, and earned more," says Timothy Judge, a professor of management at Notre Dame. "So, it would seem that they are poised to 'have it all.' However, we determined that ambition has a much weaker effect on life satisfaction and actually a slightly negative impact on longevity."
Hard worker or overachiever
Does your teen strive to have the best grade in every class or the highest SAT score? When she suffers a setback, does it seem that the world has come to an end? Overachievers put so much pressure on themselves to do everything perfectly they have a difficult time recovering from a setback. Hard-working teens may take on tough classes and extra activities, but they don't have the same high expectations for perfection. When hard workers suffer a setback, they tend to learn from their mistakes and apply these lessons going forward. Help your teen to step back and examine their motives for doing everything just right. Is he concerned about getting into the right college, or just keeping up with competitive friends?
If your teen seems focused on doing everything perfectly, take a look at your own motivations. Do you expect your teen to get an A in every class or sign up for every extra activity offered? If you come to expect perfection from your teen, they worry about letting you down. Mistakes are good learning experiences and failures often bring later success. Check your reactions and see if you may be contributing to the problem.
Teens should be able to make many of their own decisions about what classes and activities appeal to them. If your teen really feels that she can handle the extra work load of an AP class, along with the sports team she loves, let her try. Parents should provide a safety net and help brainstorm solutions when things don't go as planned. By making their own decisions, teens are more invested in making things work out.
Win-Win^ By helping your teen relax their standards a bit, you are helping yourself too.