Books about Children and Parenting
Pressured Child: Helping Your child Find Success in School and Life.
Michael Thompson with Teresa Barker. A Ballantine Book, Random
House Publishing Group. 2004.
Michael Thompson, a psychologist by training, has been a high school guidance counselor for many years. In this study, he employs both training and experience siding with the children as they struggle through school. Late in the book he quotes his mentor, a child psychiatrist, Alfred Flarsheim as saying "Every child is doing the best he or she can at every moment." This premise permeates the book; a book that shows that though school can be great for some children, it can be torture for those for whom school is a poor fit. Thompson echoes the sentiment of the children he has worked with who feel that the parents, having forgotten their own school experience, focus primarily on grades and neglect to consider that school encompasses much more than academics.
Human beings are social animals, and we spend an enormous
amount of time developing and cultivating our interpersonal relationships.
For most children, friends are indeed the reason they get out of bed in
the morning, brush their teeth, get dressed, and head for the bus.
“happens” to children. They
must go to school and have little say in how their studies are conducted.
This, the author feels, sets up feelings of powerlessness and
resentment in many children. Indeed, the school experience may be so
difficult that many of today's parents repress their own experience of
school and, therefore, sadly lack the empathy they should have for their
struggling school-age children
After twenty years of working. . . with parents and children,
I am convinced that one of the greatest barriers to helping children in
schools is the fact that parents don't have an accurate view of school.
It's paradoxical: since parents spent time in schools when they were kids,
they should, theoretically, have such information available. However, it
has been my experience that adults have lost touch with the texture and
meaning of their own educational experiences. As a result, children feel
that their parents are "out of it," that they don't understand.
Parents tend to focus on grades. . .
illustrates the difficulty a child can have in school by following the
experiences, in school and on into adulthood, of 9 students (one of whom
is one of his own children). These
examples also highlight the struggles of the children's parents. For
Thompson, there is nothing “wrong” with any of the children.
They are quite capable enough; school is the problem.
Thompson reminds the reader that school is an institution and, as
such, is designed to deal with large numbers of students, not the
individual student. Students
with individualistic ways of learning or coping can have great difficulty,
with problems in school that are not their fault.
Schooling should be adjusted to fit the child not the reverse.
The author recommends, for instance, "mental health days"
(days spent at home) for children who just need a break from the pressures
of school so they can reflect, adjust, and perhaps recover. Also,
there’s a lot more going on in school than academics and it is actually
those things that the children are most attentive to.
The author quotes a twelfth grader:
School isn't too much different from a small country. Each
school has its culture, its figureheads, its politics, its lower class,
and its oddities. What you get out of it is really not totally yours to
control. You live your life and deal with the various twists as they come.
By the time it's over you are different in some respects. School changes
your life, for better or for worse.
school culture that a child is engulfed in may be a constant source of
fear or anxiety for some children, or, as the author’s own daughter
says, “You have to put up with a lot of crap in school.”
School comprises many years of the child's life and, as such, is
more like a long-distance race than other competitions. School requires
endurance and more endurance for children of some socioeconomic groups
than others. “The United States is the only major industrialized nation
to spend more on the education of middle‑class white students than
it does on the education of poor children of color.”
finds parents are often surprised to learn about their children's
experiences at school and that schools and parents often do not listen to
children because adults feel children dramatize or lie about their
experiences. Not so says the
author: children are for the greater part being very honest as they
describe the distress school causes them.
The author passionately asks us to listen to children, especially
about their particular and unique experiences
being unsympathetic to their children’s school experience, parents often
exacerbate their child’s difficulties by assuming their child is either
working hard enough or not and that school is simply a matter of effort.
They may also place undo emphasis on going to a “good” college
another of a host of pressures placed on children, undo pressures that do
not match the importance of the goal.
College is important, but the author asks what happened to the goal
of achieving adulthood and maturity.
College supersedes other more important aspirations.
I want to repeat my previous assertion that growing up and getting
out of school are the
true developmental goals of every late adolescent. College
is not, in and of itself, an intrinsic goal. After all, viewed from
the point of view
of students, college is just more school. Getting into another school
a momentary achievement, while feeling grown up is something
substantial, something that is part of you.
Thompson feels that children have their own wisdom and that it would be
wise of us adults to listen to them.
He has listened and he has related the stories of nine children as
they struggle with school. These
stories combined with the author's arguments on the subject
present a compelling case against the pressures placed on children
in schools and for more compassionate parenting as regards school and the
inner life of the child.