Pressuring Our Kids to Perform

Have your kids ever embarrassed you?  Not like audible flatulence in public embarrassment, but have they said something that made you literally want to run away and just die for a while?  During a recent get together, my preschool-aged daughter asked a single friend of mine if she had a baby in her belly.  To be clear, she was definitely not pregnant.  On the bright side, I actually heard this story retold by my husband who was the supervising parent when our offspring committed this act of verbal terrorism. Love him, but I’m so glad that it wasn’t me!

I really do teach my kids to say things that are loving and kind.  I try really hard, and sometimes fail really miserably, at modeling this in my own speech as well.  Most of the time, I also do my best to keep from acting like a psychopath and throwing tantrums. Despite my best efforts in all of these areas, my kid will still occasionally say terrible things and and like she’s being raised by a pack of rabid squirrels.

A friend and fellow expat mom recently told me the greatest stress she experiences here is the pressure for her kids to perform.  I was shocked at her statement.  First of all, I knew exactly what she was talking about, but I had not ever been able to actually articulate those feelings.  Secondly, my friend’s kids are totally sweet and wonderful, and she herself is one of those gracious, fun, organized all-star moms.  How could anyone expect anything more out of her kids?!  The third thing that struck me about her statement was the realization that I was not only on the receiving end of this stress, but I had no doubt been one to look at others’ children and think or even say things to contribute to this kind of stress.

I have a deep amount of love and respect for all of the expat moms here.  Each of us, at some point, decided that we were going to pack up our lives and raise our children in one of the most dangerous places on earth.  We are from a wide variety of backgrounds, yet God worked in each of our unique lives in such a way that we are all living in Afghanistan at the exact point in time when we would each cross each others’ paths.  Somehow, God knew that we would all be here together, and He wanted it that way.

Each of these women are bright and talented, and all of them are passionate moms.  I hate the thought of knowing that we have all felt the pressure for our kids to act a certain way in order for them to fulfill others’ expectations. They are kids, for crying out loud.  They’re kind of notorious for being irrational and moody.  And that’s a lot of pressure for someone who just started talking  a couple of years ago.  The fact is, we are imperfect people who are raising imperfect little people.  These women, just like me, are doing their best at this mommy deal. 

We have our parenting wins dappled by those times when we cry into a diminishing jar of Nutella during nap time.  Our kids aren’t so different.  They are going to have days where they act like the villain from a slasher film, and days when they say things that are so sweet and Christ-like that you start filling out their application for official sainthood.  We can’t just try to be gracious with them, we must be gracious with each other, too.  Sisters, we need each other.  When you see your friend’s kid not acting like a child his / her age should, extend grace.  When your friend is barely keeping her head above water, remember that a simple act of kindness to her in the midst of your own busy life may be the exact thing that she needs today.  I think Peter puts it nicely:

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:8-10

Have you felt the pressure for your kids to perform? Or for yourself to perform?

Photo Credit: Môsieur J. [version 9.1] via Compfight cc


  1. Jo January 14, 2014

    This is fantastic!  For me it is a reminder not to judge other Mums as you’re hoping they’re not judging you!  We really DO need each other, but that means other mums also need me to proactively seek out times when I can encourage them.  A friend of mine said only encouraging things yesterday when I was having a problem trying to find a discipline approach that would work for my rebellious (but cute) 2 year old and I love her for it.

  2. Mallary January 15, 2014

    My child is only eight months old and I already feel this.  Due to our work overseas and wanting to be a light in all circumstances, I would love for my son to smile, be willing to be held by students, fruit sellers, and other Chinese friends, and most of all, not cry at inopportune times. But in reality, he does not always feel like smiling, he feels most safe with mom or dad, and when he is tired, hungry, or overwhelmed by Chinese people surrounding or touching him, he cries.  Sometimes I fear it hurts our work here. (I now realize how irrational that sounds).  In your words, he is a baby “for crying out loud.”  Thanks for your reminder!

  3. Amy Young January 15, 2014

    I know I have felt the pressure to perform — especially when I was on a two person team and my teammate (who I love dearly and we had a good working relationship and friendship) was an introvert. I felt the pressure to “perform” for both of us and, as Mallary said, to be “smiling” all the time. In what ways do you think personality DO factor in and SHOULD factor in?

  4. Amy Young January 15, 2014

    Well so much for performing impressively in my own language 🙂 … DOES (not do)

  5. Danielle January 15, 2014

    As the only young family on our team, I often perceive others to be judging our kids as total crazies.  I find myself tensing up and wanting my kids to behave when we are with them–mostly because I remember how I judged parents before I actually was one.  Is it weird now that I kind of enjoy seeing other people’s kids misbehave?  It makes me feel like, “Hey, we’re normal, what am I freaking out so much for??”

    1. Danielle Wheeler January 15, 2014

      Ha!  I’m totally guilty of enjoying the misbehavior of kids not my own!  It is a normalizing balm to my tantrum-weary soul.  Exactly what Emmy said.  Maybe NONE of us have this parenting gig figured out.  It only helps us all when we can actually admit it!

  6. Emmy Foster January 15, 2014

    Thanks, ladies, for your kind and empathetic comments!  Mallary- I know what you’re talking about.  I feel the same way.  I feel like such a jerk when I have to pull my daughter aside and, in my stern mommy voice, tell my daughter that she MUST acknowledge the presence of my cleaning lady with a “salam.”  Most of the time, we’re ok.   But I have to remember that she has not yet figured out how to fake a smile when she’s having a bad day, and that’s probably not such a bad thing.

    Amy- I think that’s such a good question.  My kids are both, most of the time, really happy and pleasant.  My daughter is a total social butterfly, but when she’s in a foul mood, it’s like she wants all of creation to feel her wrath!  I’m trying to teach her that regardless of where she is and who is present, she must treat people with respect.  I don’t make her hug people or even shake their hands, but she is not allowed to treat people disrespectfully.  Of course, that means different things in different cultures, too!

    Danielle– I can’t believe what a relief it is to me to see other kids having meltdowns, because it’s reassurance that maybe NONE of us have totally figured out this parenting thing!  I need to remember, like Jo’s sweet friend, to affirm other moms when they’re having struggles with disciplining and correcting their kids.  Those are truly words that matter!

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