The Effects of Pushy Parenting on Teen Mental Health

What one parent might define as being pushy could be described by someone else as being simply good parenting. It can be hard to draw the line between encouraging and pushing your teenager. It’s an important distinction, however; while encouragement is a great way to motivate and validate your teen, being too pushy can cause an adolescent to get overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious. Over time, these feelings can develop into anxiety disorders, social difficulties, and even depression. Read on to find out more about how pushy parenting can be detrimental to your teen’s well-being, as well as tips on how to get out of the pushiness habit.

What Are the Ways That Parents Push?

You might have heard about the stereotypical “tiger mom,” who is often portrayed as an Asian-American mother who pushes her children to be extremely successful in school and in various extracurricular activities. Pushy parenting does not follow any particular ethnic background; while there are some cultural norms that might cause a parent to adhere to a particular parenting style, parents of all races can be pushy or laid-back. If you think about the typical “tiger mom” stereotype, however, that is one way that parents can be pushy.

Another is to be very strict and to expect extremes in terms of behavior or responsibility. A pushy parent might take it as a grave personal insult when their teen misses curfew, for example. Or they might not understand why the teenager can’t keep the house clean and maintained while the parent is away for a few days on business. Having unrealistic expectations of your teen is part of being pushy.

Pushy Parenting Can Create Depression and Anxiety

Children who are pushed to excel might feel that their parents are valuing achievement and excellence over kindness. This can be particularly true if parents are unkind to their teens in an effort to get them to do better in school. For example, they might impose unfair consequences for not acing a test or missing a homework assignment. These teenagers might be more likely than others to struggle with anxiety and depression.

Part of this is that pushy parenting and unkindness can paradoxically cause a teen to do worse in school. It could be because the teen is feeling too pressured to concentrate, or it might be a form of rebellion against the strict rules and unfair expectations. Either way, this often increases parental pushiness and it can lower a teen’s self-esteem, particularly if they are trying as hard as they can to live up to their parents’ ideals. Over time, this can cause depression and anxiety.

Social Implications of Parental Pushiness

Children who are raised with the idea that it’s highly important to be excellent in school or in other activities often have a hard time relating to others. They might have a low self-esteem, which makes it difficult for them to feel good about talking to others. They might feel self-conscious a lot of the time or think that they are not doing as well as others their age. Therefore, they might think that other teens will think that they are not smart or not trying hard enough. Teens who have very over-involved parents might also find it hard to relate to others because they haven’t been given the opportunity to have age-appropriate conversations and interactions.

On the other hand, teens who are raised by critical parents might, in turn, become very critical toward others. This also negatively impacts a teen’s ability to make friends. Other adolescents don’t want to be or feel judged by a peer, and a teen who is looking down on his or her classmates is not going to make many friends. If the situation devolves into gossiping about others or bullying, it will get even worse and have more negative effects on a teen’s social development.

Pressure That Teens Feel Aside From Parents

Teenagers often feel pressures from a variety of sources when it comes to doing well in school and excelling on the sports field or the stage. First, they tend to put a lot of pressure on themselves. Most teens do want to do well, and it’s often a matter of pride when they put forth their best efforts. To not excel after trying hard is something that makes many teens feel anxious and worried. This can be particularly true if a teen goes to a school where most of the students are high achievers or if he or she is taking difficult classes with competitive classmates.

In addition to the pressures they put on themselves, many teens feel that their friends, teachers, and others in the community are pushing them to do well in whatever endeavors they try. Sometimes teens misinterpret others’ intentions and may think that encouragement is actually pushiness, and other times people in the community are genuinely too pushy. Because many adolescents don’t yet have the skills or the personality to tell adults and friends to back off, sometimes they put up with a lot of pushiness that is unwarranted and inappropriate.

How to Stop Pushing

Pushy parenting can be a difficult habit to change. However, keep in mind that balance is key. Don’t completely stop encouraging your child to meet his or her potential. Having a heart-to-heart conversation about how your teen feels and whether he or she thinks you’re pushing too hard is a good first step. Also, find out from your child’s teachers or guidance counselor whether they think your teen is being too hard on him- or herself. Finally, don’t be afraid to have your teen’s physician talk to them about their feelings. If it turns out that your teen seems to be developing anxiety or depression, the doctor can refer out to a mental health professional.

Parenting a teen is a balancing act, and it can be difficult to determine when encouragement turns into potentially detrimental pushiness. Keep tabs on how your teen is feeling and be careful not to overreact if there are struggles when it comes to school, friends, after-school activities, or even behavior. Keep in mind that your teen is still growing and changing and that gentle encouragement will go farther than criticism.