According to a recent study, when parents have unrealistic expectations, it has a harmful effect on their children’s achievement.

When Parents Have Unrealistic ExpectationsPsychologists at the University of Reading in England analyzed results of a German longitudinal study comparing the math scores of 3,530 high school students with their parents’ expectations.  They discovered that unrealistic expectations and excessive pressure had a negative impact on school performance.

These results go against the conventional wisdom that many parents have followed. “Much of the previous literature conveyed a simple, straightforward message to parents — aim high for your children and they will achieve more,” said study author Kou Murayama.

In the German study, aspirations were defined as the strength of the desire parents had for their children to earn a high grade, and expectations measured how well parents believed their children could realistically perform. The children’s math scores decreased when parental aspirations exceeded expectations.

The researchers replicated the analysis, using a similar study of 12,000 American students and parents.  The results were the same.

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