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Signs you're becoming a pushy parent

19 August 2011

Not so long ago pushy parenting meant filling junior's evenings with tennis and Taekwondo.

These days it's playing Mozart to your pregnant bump, coaching your six-year-old in String Theory... and boycotting the Nativity play because little Oscar didn't get Joseph.

"Not me," you think. But wait until the pressure starts at the school - no, make that the nursery - gates. Mums and Dads are reporting a trend for hot-housing little ones at an increasingly young age.

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"I thought this pushy parent stuff was an urban myth, until my daughter started nursery," reveals one London mother.

"In my day it was peg dolls and Play-Doh. Then I found out half of my little girl's playmates were getting private art tuition at home - at the age of three!"

Pushy parenting can even start even earlier. Some parents are reportedly setting out to conceive an autumn baby because the oldest kids in the school year tend to be more academically advanced.

And on web forum Netmums one mother writes: "There was a lady [at my eldest child's school] who had a baby at the same time as me and she would make a beeline for me: is yours walking yet, is he crawling, is he potty trained? So I said, 'no, but he is on the last chapter of War and Peace'. Her face was a picture."

Less amusingly, says another Netmum: "I've seen pushy parents to a really bad extent that their kids get a whack for not winning a trophy."

The tales might sound so extreme as to be removed from reality. But the problem comes when you realise your tot is the only one not getting extra help. In a world where exam results for even the littlest kids appear to hold their futures in the balance, it can be a dilemma for parents.

Journalist and mother of two Judith Woods says: "When every other helicopter parent is hovering anxiously over their offspring - encouraging them, guiding them and, yes, occasionally pushing them - it feels like a dereliction of duty not to do the same."

So where does encouraging your child to fulfil their potential tip into 'pushy parenthood'? Here are some failsafe signs that you're becoming a Pushy Ma or Pa:

You ask your tot if he or she would like a treat (thinking:chocolate). They ask for a rice cake.

  • Little Archie speaks three languages. And he's only four.
  • The first day of the school holidays is spent shopping... in WH Smith for text books.
  • Your three-year-old is learning more than one musical instrument and three kinds of dancing.
  • You've entered your under-five into a pageant. More than once.
  • You offer your little one a bribe if he finishes cello practice - a new book on Ancient Rome.

More seriously, experts note, warning signals include refusing to give your child choices over extra-curricular activities, failing to listen when they say 'no' to matters of personal preference and getting "uncontrollably angry" when your child says they want to quit a hobby.

Others include arguing with teachers about your child's performances and being more concerned with achievement over effort or experience.

Writer Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer, author of Motivating Your Child,
says: "The secret is to be aware when vital support and encouragement shades into taking over, for this will undermine any child's self-belief and ability to be self motivated."

The key, she suggests, is to compliment effort rather than chide carelessness as a sign of "future failure" - and offer a range of solutions to problems rather than telling a child how to think and what to do.

"There's a world of difference between supporting and pushing," she adds. "Supporting is like a column - it relieves the strain. Pushing adds to it."

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