Study: Parents who emphasize kindness over grades have kids with less anxiety, depression and better report cards

Parents would all like their kids to have better grades, better tests scores and go to a good college. But when parents have very high expectations around academic achievement, could it be doing more harm than good?

Drawing is 15-year-old Joshua De La Torre's passion.

"I want to be an artist," he said. "I want to draw things that inspire other kids to follow their dreams."

Joshua's mom, Rosa, points out that being an artist isn't the most practical profession.

"You need to make money,"" she said. "That's right, you need to make money."

But his mom doesn't want to crush her son's dreams.

"My mom is very supportive of me," Joshua said.

A recent study reveals when students face a lot of high achievement expectations, the perceived pressure from parents may impact a teen's well-being.

Researchers asked more than 500 sixth-graders to rank what they believed their parents valued as most important. Scientists also looked at grade point averages and classroom behaviors. They found teens whose parents valued grades over kindness to others did not get better grades, but did have elevated stress levels, especially if the parent was critical. Adventist Health pediatrician, Dr. Martha Rivera said, "I think parents have to learn to let children do what they want."

The study also found teens whose parents emphasized kindness just as much or even more than academic achievement had lower levels of anxiety and depression, less behavior problems, higher grades and higher self-esteem. Rivera said parents need to remember not every child wants to or should be a doctor, lawyer or engineer. Students should pursue their interests.

"If they opened up their eyes and look at all the other things people are doing out in the world, they probably wouldn't get a much stress," Rivera said.

Joshua made an illustration with a tree of life that featured self care and kindness - a sensibility his mom taught him. The study is not suggesting that parents should not value academic achievement, but rather they should dedicate as much time to promoting kindness to others.

The researchers also suggested that parents should focus on being supportive when a child is struggling academically. Ask their child how they can help, rather than being critical.
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