Do you want an over-achiever or a 'healthy achiever'? If you 'hold your kid back' you're a more successful parent than most, according to a Harvard-trained expert

Encourage your child not to spread themselves too thin

Teenage girl stressed studying with laptop on bed
(Image credit: Alamy)

Stopping our children from taking part in too many classes and extracurriculars can be a good idea, a parenting researcher says. 

As parents, we all want our children to reach their full potential, but it can be difficult to know if we’re doing the right thing. With trends like sturdy parenting and lazy parenting being hotly debated, and plenty of discussion around how to raise confident kids, too, which techniques and styles are the best?

Well, according to one Harvard-trained expert, holding our kids back sometimes and not encouraging every possible opportunity can be beneficial for them. 

In Jennifer Breheny Wallace’s recent book, Never Enough: When Achievement Pressure Becomes Toxic — and What We Can Do About It, the parenting researcher looks at “toxic achievement culture,” and the way it can put undue pressure on our children. 

Wallace interviewed psychologists and worked with a researcher at Harvard to survey 6,500 parents, finding that, often, parents said their children were the ones wanting to sign up for more classes and extracurricular activities. 

However, as she tells CNBC Make It, “The parents that I met who had the healthiest achievers sometimes held their kids back. They didn't encourage every opportunity. They put up guardrails." 

She explains that children who do this are reflecting the environment around them – for example, they might be feeling the pressure and competition to get into the best colleges and universities. And the mental health of our children and teenagers can get worse simply by being around peers who are stressed or feeling the pressure to achieve. 

If your child is struggling, Wallace recommends stepping in yourself and urging them to slow down. Tell your child that they need to get enough sleep, rest, and fun with family and friends, and enforce it. 

And, you might need to slow down yourself – even if it seems easier said than done. Numerous parents of high-achieving children told Wallace that they tried to model better habits themselves. So, do your best not to let work take over your life, and ensure that you get enough sleep and enough time with your family. Wallace writes, “Our kids see the dissonance between our words and our actions when we exhaust ourselves, trying to secure the best for them.”

In other family news, Dr Becky reveals to Oprah the number one boundary she has for her three kids when it comes to screen time, while these myths of only children have been debunked. Meanwhile, research shows that sister relationships are ‘more positive’ than any other sibling bond.

Freelance writer

Adam is an experienced writer who regularly covers the royal family and celebrity news for the likes of Goodto, The List, The Metro, and Entertainment Daily. However, you can also find Adam covering relationships, mental health, pet care, and contributing to titles such as Creative Bloq.