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This is a Public Service Announcement for all parents and future parents.

I was in a school today talking to pupils about pressure. I asked the pupils, who are now almost exactly two weeks away from starting their Higher exams, what was causing the pressure they felt and we got the answers you’d expect; prioritising workloads, sheer volume of work, not enough time left, memory and recall issues, fear of repeating past mistakes, expectations of results and performance and a couple more that, to be honest once we’d discussed them, ended up not being that important.

We explored these pressures, probed for where the real hot spots were and i was surprised at what they said. It’s not the volume of work, their memory or any of the other things, it came from the very people who are meant to be their biggest source of support; parents, teachers, siblings and associated others.

What are we doing to our kids? Really? The pressure you put on them to perform and do well (or sometimes not) is actually the majority of the problem and none of the solution.

I get it, you don’t want them to make the same mistakes you did, you want them to do their best, you want them to be successful and happy and do well and all that jazz. So think about it. Is what you are doing really helping? Here’s some of the most common mistakes;

Are you comparing them to siblings, cousins and the next door neighbours daughter who’s now got a great job cos she studied hard at school. Terrible idea. Leads to jealousy, resentment and feelings of inadequacy for someone, there’s always a loser in every competition. Notice what they do well. Positively reinforce good behaviour without telling them their sister did it.

Do you tell them their life will be over if they don’t pass (or something similar)! Noooooo! Please Stop! Your just adding undue pressure on to an already heavy mind space. These exams are important but, come on, you know as well as I do that there is always a way. It might take more time to get to your destination but there is always a way. Failing these exams will be a pain in the ass but its only a bump, not a wall.

Do you constantly push and tell them they’re not doing enough. Would that work for you if your boss was to use that tactic on a Monday morning? Nuff said.

Your kids are people and they are people who are currently involved in one of the first times in their lives where they need to step up, take charge and do something completely and utterly on their own. No team to help, no parental hand holding. Just huge responsibility and possible life change riding on the next 4-6 weeks. Of course they’re going to make mistakes!

So, while they do that, give them every support and encouragement to simply do their best. They have no control over anyone’s results bar their own. They are where they are and there are a finite number of hours in the day. Their best is all they can ever do. Why would you ask them to do more?

Anyway, in my experience, and I’ve worked with many kids in this situation, help them begin a process of finding and nurturing absolutely the best mental state they can so that when the time comes, and it is coming, they can simply do the best they can do with what they have. And, can i add, that involves you doing the same.

Good luck everyone…see you on the other side!

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