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Being a pushy parent isn’t a good idea. Here’s why, plus what you can do instead

Mina Dilip Mina Dilip 6 Mins Read

Mina Dilip Mina Dilip


Written For ParentCircle Website new design update

Whether you are parenting a preschooler or a teenager, it is important to check in with yourself about one thing: Is it possible that you may be a pushy parent?

Pre-schooler to Teen
Being a pushy parent isn’t a good idea. Here’s why, plus what you can do instead

What’s a pushy parent?

When we feel we must make all the decisions and choices on behalf of our children, and we must control and monitor all their activities, chances are we may be pushy parents.

What makes parents pushy?

None of us wants to be called pushy. Usually, pushy parenting is an unconscious parenting style, and stems from not feeling so good about oneself. Here are the top five reasons that turn people into pushy parents (listed here using the acronym “PUSHY”):

  • Priorities out of sync

In a fast-paced world that prioritizes money, power, fame and success, we often lose touch with the most basic priorities of parenting. Today, we tend to focus so much on meeting a child’s physical and educational requirements that their emotional needs are sometimes forgotten. We often forget about giving a safe and playful space for children to talk and express themselves. We focus so much on performing well in all spheres, be it sports, academics or extracurricular activities, that we don’t realize that meeting our children’s emotional needs is equally important.

  • Unmet childhood needs

I have observed that most pushy parents are carrying a huge burden of unmet childhood needs and unfulfilled desires of their own. It’s likely we were forced to sacrifice our own wishes to gain our parents’ approval and acceptance. And we end up continuing this pattern by expecting our children to do the same.

  • Societal expectations

We are often under a lot of pressure from our own parents, extended family members and friends to push our children along certain established paths, based on societal expectations and generational structures. For instance, a child born into a family of doctors may be expected to study medicine, even if she prefers to study art. We pushy parents also compare ourselves with other parents in our children’s peer groups and feel stressed. We end up taking out these stresses on our helpless children by having unrealistic expectations on them. For example, an introverted child may be forced to “mingle” and socialize, or maybe pushed to be more “outgoing” to turn him forcibly into an extrovert.

  • Hope for a better future

As pushy parents, we often use this phrase, “We hope our children will have a better future.” To protect our children from life’s vagaries and bad experiences that we ourselves may have experienced, we push our children to “do well” in areas that we think are important. For example, a child may be talented in playing football, but her parents may believe that having a postgraduate degree is the only safe way to ensure a “better future.” They may end up preventing her from pursuing her passion for the sport, and push her toward acquiring an MBA degree instead.

  • Yearning to be ‘perfect parents’

Pushy parents measure their own self-worth based on whether their children are considered socially “successful.” To ensure that our children are well-educated and appear “settled” in life, we keep pushing and pushing our children all the way. And when our children invariably fail, we pushy parents wonder where we went wrong. The answer is simple. By not being emotionally available and mindfully present for our children when they were growing up, we have missed out on helping our children develop the most important life skill of all—to be emotionally aware, secure and healthy.

Impact of pushy parenting on children

Pushy parenting has a profoundly negative psychological impact on children, as listed below:

  • Children of pushy parents often feel disconnected from themselves and detached from their own needs and feelings.
  • Such children strive so hard to win parental approval and acceptance that they abandon their true selves. They learn to be inauthentic and pretend to be what they are not. As a result, they experience deep feelings of guilt and shame. They keep fearing that they are not good enough, and this leads to anxiety and depression in the long run.
  • Pushy parenting also diminishes children’s creativity and problem-solving skills, and makes children more nervous, stressed and emotionally dysregulated.
  • Such children come to believe that they will be rejected if they reveal their true selves, and this sets them up for failure in future relationships. They struggle with being vulnerable or intimate, as they become emotionally unavailable to their intimate partners, just like their parents were emotionally unavailable to them.

What you could do instead

The opposite of pushy parenting is supportive, democratic parenting. Here are some strategies you might consider adopting to make sure you don’t push your children too hard. These strategies are listed below using the acronym “VALUE” for easy recall.

  • View your children as individuals

Remind yourself that your children are individuals. They are thinking, feeling human beings with minds of their own. Respect their uniqueness, and observe their separateness from you as people. They are not an extension of you.

  • Ask open-ended questions

Encourage open and honest conversations by asking your children open-ended questions that get them thinking. Be mentally prepared to hear some shocking answers, too. Open your mind to learning new ways of seeing the world, as you hear your children processing their thoughts in response to your questions.

  • Listen

Listening as a life skill is grossly underrated! One of the most powerful parenting tools is active listening. This means listening attentively when our children speak, without judging or interrupting them, making sure that we resist the urge to propose any solutions. This is the best way to create a safe space for our children to express themselves freely.

  • Understand their perspectives, emotions and ideas

We often listen with an intention to respond rather than understand. When we listen to our children, let’s make a genuine effort to understand their worldview, their feelings and their opinions. We must communicate our understanding reflectively to build trust, and keep those channels of communication open always.

  • Empathize, engage and evolve together

When we ask questions, listen attentively and reflect on our understanding, we effectively communicate authentic empathy. When children feel heard, they feel respected. This helps them engage with us. As they engage freely and openly, they will be able to better communicate their needs, wishes, thoughts, ideas and feelings. In turn, such engagement strengthens the parent-child bond, leading to the healthy, holistic development of children. Instead of believing that you know better than your children, admit that you can learn a great deal from them. This way, your children and you can grow and evolve together as human beings.

By being a supportive, empathic, emotionally available parent, we can help our children grow and develop into the best version of themselves. In the process, we ourselves can experience personal growth and progress.

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