We run with a crowd of people who have high expectations for their kids. They don’t just want them to go to college. They want them to go to one of the best colleges in the country. As our friends’ kids get further along in high school, conversation naturally turns to college ambitions. Recently, we’ve heard from friends with straight A kids and fabulous SAT scores that they can’t get into the likes of MIT, Harvard, or other highly reputable schools. And some of those kids, I know, chose this route for themselves. It was their decision to work for A’s, to do well on the SATs and to aspire to Harvard. But we also know people where I’m not really sure who’s driving the car. Is the kid who wants those things, or the parents? I struggle with this myself. If I’m honest, I know that I would really love it if both my kids ended up at a school that opened lots of doors for them and that gave my friends a slight twinge of jealousy. I try to focus on the former rather than the latter, but I’m being honest. I wouldn’t have those thoughts if I didn’t think both my kids were capable of achieving those goals. But I’m also trying to find a balance between pushing my kids toward those goals and letting them find their own way. I worry, like many parents, that the way they would choose on their own will keep them from achieving success and maybe even lead to unhappiness. But, here in the Northeast, it’s not uncommon to find parents who push too much, who have their kids in millions of activities from a young age, all with college admissions as the guiding force behind them.
I don’t want to be the pushy mom. But I also don’t want to be the pushover mom. Figuring out the right balance is proving one of the most difficult parenting challenges. Readers, what’s your strategy for motivating kids toward goals, academic or otherwise?