The fine line between academic encouragement and tiger parenting – Tips on how to motivate without pushing

Striking the balance between motivating your child to have ambition, take responsibility for their learning and their futures against putting too much pressure on so as to fuel their anxiety and negatively impact their self-esteem is a constant challenge for many parents. In this newsletter, we attempt to offer some cogent advice on finding the right approach.

Whilst it is true that children need to learn how to persevere if they are going to succeed in life, and a gentle push here and there is needed occasionally from mum and dad, it is sometimes difficult to know how much and how hard. We regularly hear tales of children struggling with anxiety, poor concentration or health issues, shying away from challenges or choosing to be endlessly entertained. Is this telling us that they haven’t been pushed hard enough, or that they’ve already been pushed too hard? This is such a difficult question for parents. Too much pressure is obviously counter-productive; too little pressure however and our children may drift along, lacking in drive, discipline and focus. So, how do we avoid the two extremes? Given every child is different in personality, stress thresholds, motivations, interests and learning styles, never mind different schedules, you will have to regularly analyse these areas to measure your approach and input.  

Bespoke Tuition’s 15 point plan aims to offer you some further guidance in finding the balance between academic motivating and hot-housing! 

15 point plan: 

  1. Remember that one size does not fit all – every child is an individual. 
  2. Consider your own motivations for encouraging your child with their studies and how you define success. Then think about how that might differ from what motivates and inspires your child and use that theme to engage them. 
  3. Are you selecting the right time to give your child a nudge? Do you personally have the time, headspace and focus to give them the support they might need? 
  4. Are you selecting the right location? That last minute car journey to school before the exam may not be the best place to pile on the pressure! 
  5. Collaborate with school and tutors so that everyone shares the same goals and you are clear on what is expected of your child’s level. 
  1. Adopt a routine so that your child develops an expectation that at a certain point after they come home from school they will need to concentrate on homework. 
  2. Even if it’s just the kitchen table, make sure there is a defined workspace and quiet time, so that your child can focus without distractions. 
  3. Bring school topics to life through fun excursions to museums, galleries and exhibitions, making the whole learning experience more enriching. 
  4. Work with your child’s strengths; it is the quickest way to get them motivated and tackle subjects they might otherwise shy away from. 
  5. Understand your child’s personality and their learning preferences so that you can provide suitable encouragement and unconditional support. Ask yourself how does your child react to being pushed? Are they naturally competitive? Stubborn? Cope well with being told what to do? What is your child’s current sense of self-perception? 
  6. Give praise but ensure it is meaningful; praise with authenticity. 
  7. In certain contexts, it is best to avoid using labels such as ‘my daughter is gifted’, or, ‘my son struggles’ as this could pile on unwanted pressure. 
  8. Give your children tasks that are challenging, yet achievable. If they succeed, they will be more inclined to attempt things that are harder. 
  9. Your child needs to know that home is a nurturing and supportive space and that failing is ok so long as they have put in their utmost effort. 
  10. Never lose sight of the bigger picture – a healthy, happy young person is a far bigger and better parental achievement than an A in Maths. 

Striking the right balance

Our educational philosophy at Bespoke Tuition lies far from drills and rote learning. We focus on the enjoyment of education, nurturing curiosity and skill-building which delivers long term impact. We believe responsible, well balanced tutoring is not about spoon-feeding nor creating a dependence on a tutor. It involves drawing out imaginations, questioning the world, building independence of thought and giving children the tools and prompts to capitalise on the way they think. We hand-pick tutors who can inspire, motivate and make learning fun, whilst maintaining a boundary of respect, in the belief that we learn best from those whom we admire and seek to impress. Bespoke Tuition is not merely an introductory service; our goal is to develop close relationships with families on a long term basis and provide customised tuition support to students throughout their academic journeys. Our Tutors can be provided by the hour, by the week or full time and you will deal with one consultant only throughout the process who understands your family and needs.

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