What’s so wrong with pushy parents anyway?

This was a mother I watched with awe.

From her tightly laced runners to her lycra leggings she was ready.

In form.


She was ready. In the zone. Psyched.

She had a list of times that last year’s competitors had run.

A chart with training sessions marked in green and study periods allocated in pink.

An iPad to video the races on and stop watch of her own to counter check the times.

Next to her feet was a kit packed with tape, sports drinks, cool down towels and jelly snakes.

No, this wasn’t the pre-trials for the Olympics.

It was the first time I met our resident pushy mum from my son’s school - and the athlete in question just six years old.

My feelings were confused.

I veered from outrage: What is she doing to her son? He’s a kid. She needs to back-off

To envy: Wow she certainly is devoted.

I mean the kid certainly could run and his mum clearly had committed to the cause, while I was struggling to cheer on the egg-and-spoon race.

Are pushy parents really so bad?

It made me wonder. Why are we so hung up on pushy parents after all?

Are they really so bad?

From extra sports coaching to kumon maths. From Saturday afternoon art classes to professional level dance, the opportunity to push your kids is certainly out there.

You hear of them in every playground. THAT mother. You know the one. She’s always there. Her kids are always on their way somewhere. They have back-to-back activities. They are super scheduled and extra competitive.

The parent - in many cases the mother - often regales the rest of us with tales of her extra bright, extra talented, super high achieving little darlings.

We hear of how they have been hand picked for G&T streams, of how they compete in development level sports. Piano grades and ballet levels are thrown around in terms that those of us still stuck on the recorder and Mummy-and-me classes can’t even comprehend. They are always off to "regionals", "AMEB exams" and "STEMSEL".

The mums with more, well, average children raise our eyebrows and wonder what kind of adults the aspiring pianist and prima ballerina will grow up to be.

(As we try and decipher all those acronyms.)

But I am beginning to wonder... Maybe, just maybe what these kids are doing is beneficial.

Watch little Austin’s whose parents believe that he needs to be pushed – at the age of five he does karate, swimming, tennis, golf, reading class, soccer and basketball. (Post continues after video)


As far as I can see the majority of the kids with so called "pushy parents" seem well, pretty happy.

Is it really so bad that parents are nurturing their children’s talents?

At least they are there. At least they are interested. At least they show up.

That mum who is always there every week in class reading groups. Always championing the cause of her little academic is deeply invested in her child’s future.

That father with the loud voice at soccer egging little Luke on to chase the ball mate, get in their, focus just wants to see his son get the thrill of kicking the winning goal.

Of course we hear of cases when these parents take it too far. When the pressure gets too much but that’s the exception to the rule, isn’t it?

At least they show up.

The rest of the parents - while it might not be everybody's cup of tea - are just vested in their child's further.

A recent study, from the Universities of Leicester and Leeds showed pushy parenting can be beneficial for our kids. Researchers found that if a parent is pushy, then their child’s teacher is more likely to work harder for their children.

The researchers actually found that the level of interest parents take in their children’s education is six times more important for a pupil’s eventual grades than the child’s own effort.

Parental effort is also four times more important than how hard the school works to help children’s progress.

Dr Clementine Beauvais, a British researcher looked at the issue of whether there really is such a thing as 'gifted' children - or whether they simply owe their talents to pushy parents. In her work, she cited Mozart, “the completely supernaturally gifted child".

She says that while he was talented, he was also the subject of a very devoted father. She wrote: 

"It’s been evaluated that between 3 and 6 years old, he practised his piano for 3,500 hours! This is a tiny child! It didn’t come from nowhere; when you’ve had that kind of training, something’s going to come out of it."

The level of interest parents take in their children’s education is six times more important for a pupil’s eventual grades than the child’s own effort.

"Not just that, but his father was working towards a very specific aim: he wanted to tour the children around Europe. I’m not saying he was a monster, not at all, but again we have this incredibly controlling person investing himself entirely into his children.”

These days we tend to label any parent invested entirely in their children as a helicopter parent.

I think we need to re-examine the label and call into question whether or not these parents are simply just like the rest of us - doing the very best for their children even if their methods might be a little confronting for the rest of us.

What do you think of pushy parents? 

00:00 / ???