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Raising Superkids? Parents Show Stress

Poll Shows Many Parents Are Anxious About Their Children's Academic Success
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 10, 2006 (New York City) -- Today's parents are stressed out about their children's academic success and believe starting early is the key to achievement, according to a new poll.

In fact, 54% of parents of children aged 2 to 5 said they had anxiety about their child's academic performance and 38% felt that their child was in competition with other kids. The new findings come from a telephone poll of about 1,000 parents of children aged 2 to 11 conducted in July 2006 by the National Parent and Teachers Association (PTA) in New York City, and the Public Broadcast Service (PBS) Parents.

More than 90% of all parents polled said that they believe that starting early to prepare their children for academic success is key. When the findings were broken down by income status, low-income families had significantly greater concerns about education and were three times more likely to think that they are not as able to help their child prepare for school as their richer counterparts.

Making Priorities

"Parents need to be very careful about how they pick their priorities in attempting to raise successful kids," warns Michael J. Bradley, PhD, a clinical psychologist from Feasterville, Pa., and the author of several books including Yes,Your Teen is Crazy! Loving Your Kid without Losing Your Mind. "Our goal is not to raise an Ivy League student, our goal is to raise the future parents of our grandchildren."

Close to 80% of all parents polled said that they think parents today do overschedule their children with extracurricular activities, but only one in eight think their own child is overscheduled. What's more, two of three parents are satisfied with their child's schedule.

"You have to decide what success means for your child," Bradley tells WebMD. "For your neighbors' kids, maybe it is six activities a day," he tells WebMD. "Sometimes you have to get your blinders on."

Structured vs. Unstructured Activities

Many parents often feel that structured activities -- whether swimming or ballet -- are the key to success, but the science says otherwise, he says. The learning that comes from unstructured activities may exceed the type of learning that children get from structured activities.

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