A common problem I've seen with children is that they seem to be pushed too hard and become anxious and stressed. As a soon-to-be parent, in which both of us parents are highly educated and high-achieving, I am worried that I will push my child too hard and ultimately cause undue amounts of stress and anxiety for our kid. What are indicators that a child is being pushed too hard by their parent(s)?

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    Welcome! While I can understand your question, it's unfortunately too broad for the site. Can you re-read How to Ask and maybe edit your post to narrow it down or separate it in more than one question? That said, a general "how to correct a mistake" won't work either - we'd need actual details, not an "in theory" approach. Why don't you start slow and as all new parents, learn to be a parent together with your child / children?
    – Stephie
    May 15, 2019 at 5:50
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    FWIW, you are not a parent yet and your entire perception of reality is about to change. You're imagining a world in which you are pushing a child too hard in school, which is at least 5 years away. Your understanding of how your little one responds to your parenting will evolve over those 5 years, and you will be able to come up with a more precise question, should you have any. There's no sense trying to fix a problem that isn't yet a problem. May 15, 2019 at 15:57
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    @Ian_MacDonald I disagree that preventing problems before they happen is not worth it - at least in some cases. But I also think this might be a relevant question not only for preventative measures for a parent, but also for any parents or caregivers (teachers, relatives, etc.) to recognize signs of anxiety from high expectations. May 16, 2019 at 2:55
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    Something to keep in mind is that while trying not to push too hard, one might not push hard enough.
    – Ben
    May 16, 2019 at 15:00
  • @IanMacDonald, I agree. InSpace's hypothetical situation in the future could be Joe Blow's very real situation now. May 16, 2019 at 16:22

3 Answers 3


This answer is mainly applicable to babies and toddlers/preschoolers. IMO the question becomes to broad to answer once kids are a bit older and have clear agency.

For babies, toddlers and slightly older children, it seems very simple to me: It becomes obvious when you're pushing too hard. When you require your child to do something that the child can't do, and repeatedly fails to do, then you know you expect too much.

The way to notice that is that your family life becomes difficult, stressful and ladden with conflict.

In my experience, young kids do things exactly when they're ready to do them. You may be able to train them to do them slightly earlier, but you'll have to ask yourself what for - some kids are early talkers, some can be toilet-trained earlier than others, some are socially active earlier than others, some can kick or catch a ball earlier than others. A year or two later, the latecomers have caught up with the earlybirds.

Trying to make your kid be the first in all these things will cause stress all around, so that's a sign to look for. If you notice you're getting short-tempered, that's a sign to take things less serious and give them time.

This may be difficult at times, but remember that your child is not you. What it can and can't do is independent of what you are capable of, and while it's okay to be proud of what your child can do, remember that your child is not there to make you proud.

So, sure, encourage your child to try things, but focus on variety rather than depth (or proficiency!). When something repeatedly causes failure and conflict, back off and try again a bit later. There's nothing to be won by having your child be "the first", "the quickest" etc. at this young age.

What seems more important to me at the baby/toddler/preschooler phase is to give your child a strong and reliable feeling of security and belonging, so that he/she learns he/she can depend on you and that his/her world is reliably governed by rules he/she can understand. There's a very nice german word for this, "Urvertrauen", which can be roughly translated into "basic trust" or "primal trust" (in the world, in people, in life in general).

This will set the basis for trust and self-confidence, which IMO are paramount for later success in whatever the child wants to pursue.

Pushing the child into repeated failure and telling him not to be a quitter etc might foster feelings of shame, low self esteem and fear of failure instead.


Recognize how you set expectations for yourself. Whatever you imagine what a good parent does is an indication of what expectations you will be setting for yourself in parenthood.

Realize that you have standards for yourself and expectations for how you want to parent. Know, own and accept that you will not achieve those standards - you will fall short of that standard. Parenting is complicated, exhausting and hard - what worked yesterday has a negative effect today.

This does not mean you are a failure, just human. Be humbled every time you see how you fall short because your children will not meet your standards either and humility and grace are needed to give your children space to learn and grow.

Your child is not you. They will have their own interests, motivations and priorities. Learn what those are and cultivate those interests and motivations to help them flourish as productive members of society.

In terms of counteracting when you push too far- apologize and never withhold affection. Learn from your mistakes. We hurt most the ones we love and that includes our children. There's no avoiding it.

  • +1 for the Your child is not you. You see stories of children being anxiety-ridden because their parents live vicariously through the child or the parents' enthusiasm is cranked to 11 when the child's is more like a 7. Not being that parent is a good start. May 16, 2019 at 16:25

Hey congratulations on becoming parents soon!

What are indicators that a child is being pushed too hard by their parent(s)?

This is a very hard question to answer, because every child is different and being pushed too hard manifests itself in different ways. I think the best way to build a strong relationship with your child so that they more or less tell you that they feel overwhelmed. Even then you may chose to push your child past their comfort level for their own good. Just remember that you're acting on their behalf and not your own. For instance, my 1 month old baby hates baths (and generally most new things), but he will need to take more and more baths as he gets older so my job is to get him used to baths. Our approach is to ease him into it with a bath once a week or so and make sure he's comfortable (water temp, room temp, bathtub, etc). It's not that important nor necessary to take baths daily as such a young baby anyway.

But it's important to listen to your child and make a judgement call. If later your child challenges your decision, just walk them through your decision process. Hindsight is 20/20, but given the information you had you made a call and if that call's wrong, then own up to it. Obviously, you didn't want to bring harm your child, but given the information, it seemed like the best decision at the time.

And wherever possible bring your child into the decision process. Start small like "what do you want for fruit?" and "what board game do you want to play?" and build up to "what sport do you want to play this season?" and "what colleges do you want to apply to?"

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