Being the oldest sibling has pressures in itself. Having to be a role-model while still maintaining that “cool” status to your brothers and sisters is a hard task, believe me. Additionally, being the “smartest” sibling tacks onto that list. Because I was a first-grade prodigy—I untangled headphones in class for some extra stimulation to get my brain moving . . . I was basically a genius—I have had those elementary school expectations dangling over my head for the rest of my years in school.
Now, adding the immense pressure from parents onto kids can be a tipping point.
Personally, the stress of getting A’s and doing extra-curriculars to achieve some higher purpose was never too much for me. I had a lot of extrinsic motivation surrounding myself—an A awarded me a high five and my parent’s pride, and doing good on a test or quiz meant I got to keep hanging out with friends. Extrinsic motivation, motivation coming from things and people other than yourself, is important but doesn’t truly motivate an individual in ways that intrinsic motivation can.
As I grew older and understood that the pressure being installed upon me was out of respect and knowledge that I could do better, I developed intrinsic motivation, or motivation rooted in one’s self. This journey towards intrinsic motivation had many ups and downs, proving why pressure can be both good and bad. I always assumed as a younger child that my mom yelling at me for a B or C on a test was out of genuine and pure hatred and that she was disappointed in me as a child of hers. This idea sprouted rebellion as an elementary schooler, and I was not the best-behaved kid. What I failed to understand, however, was that the scolding and yelling about a bad grade was out of my mother’s understanding that I could achieve higher than the grades reflected on my report card. I was capable of greater grades (it was obvious from my headphone untangling speeds), and I just didn’t fully use my capabilities and skills to get the grades she knew I could. Being an elementary schooler, though, I would have much rather played with my friends or watched TV than actually unlock those skills she knew I had and gotten amazing grades.
Although I was rebellious and not the best child due to the extreme pressures put upon me as a growing individual, the pressure instilled in me every day as of recently has pushed myself harder and harder, and I have seen the grades and goals I sought after achieved because of my more hard-working mindset. The pressures I was given and had to face overall helped me in the long run and will continue to help me throughout my high school and college career, and eventually through the daily tasks of living as an adult.
Moms: you are great at understanding and seeing the capabilities of your children. I’ve seen it in both my own mother and multiple others throughout my life. Push your children to see those skills themselves, and don’t be afraid to be harsh sometimes if it means letting your kids achieve intrinsic motivation in their later years.
Dear Moms is a series written by a seventeen-year-old high school senior.