Pressured Parents, Stressed-Out Kids: Dealing with Competition While Raising a Successful Child


It begins harmlessly. Parents chatting on the playground compare their babies' first milestones: "Has Erin started talking? Addy’s already using five-word sentences!" Inevitably, Erin’s mom and dad feel anxious. Later, as report cards, standardized tests, tryouts, playoffs, auditions and social cliques fill their child's world, parents' anxiety intensifies. The older kids get, the more competition they face, whether in sports, academics or the arts. Hovering in the background is...

See more details below
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (22) from $1.99   
  • New (5) from $10.53   
  • Used (17) from $1.99   
Sending request ...


It begins harmlessly. Parents chatting on the playground compare their babies' first milestones: "Has Erin started talking? Addy’s already using five-word sentences!" Inevitably, Erin’s mom and dad feel anxious. Later, as report cards, standardized tests, tryouts, playoffs, auditions and social cliques fill their child's world, parents' anxiety intensifies. The older kids get, the more competition they face, whether in sports, academics or the arts. Hovering in the background is the race for admission to a top-tier college.
To help panicky parents deal with the torrential emotions stirred up by our competitive society, and to give them scientific knowledge about their children's growing years, leading child researcher Wendy Grolnick and educational and parenting journalist Kathy Seal offer this illuminating and accessible guide to channeling competitive anxiety into positive parenting. While evolution has given parents a genetic predisposition toward this protective anxiety whenever their children face today's heightened competition, the authors guide parents to avoid pushing and pressuring, turning their fear instead into calm guidance.
Distilling the results of thirty years of research in child psychology, the authors focus on three essential feelings—autonomy, competence, and connectedness—which parents can foster in their children to maximize the child's chances of success and minimize family conflict. They explain that granting kids autonomy lets them feel that they can solve their own problems and are responsible for their own actions. At the same time, providing structure gives kids the guidelines, information, limits, and consequences that they need to act in the world, instilling them with a feeling of competence. Finally, support from adults in the form of time and other resources provides children with a necessary feeling of connection and helps them internalize the ideas and values of their caring parents. Reassuring and empathic, Grolnick and Seal show parents how to avoid the burn-out—in both parents and children—that afflicts so many in our highly competitive society, while raising children who thrive and excel.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A first rate book. Even we sports fans who think competition can be good for kids have to admit that this book illuminates those moments when beating the other kid, or besting the family down the block, is distinctly unhealthy. The advice it offers to parents who feel real pain at such moments, who don't know how to control their own longing to succeed through their children, is the most sensible I have ever read."
—Jay Mathews, Washington Post columnist

"… required reading for all parents who want what is best for their children. They will be surprised and grateful for the many insights it provides on what really motivates kids. It is highly readable, scientifically grounded, and serves up generous helpings of valuable and practical information."
—Dr. Lawrence Balter, professor of applied psychology at New York University,
parent educator, and editor of Parenthood in America: An Encyclopedia

Publishers Weekly

Parents today suffer from what Grolnick and Seal call "Pressured Parent Phenomenon," constant anxiety over whether our children are as competitive as they could be. Both Grolnick, a professor of psychology at Clark University, and Seal, coauthor of Motivated Minds, are parents themselves, so they speak from both their own experiences and from research. Experiments have confirmed that competitive pressure actually dampens a child's motivation. But the authors say parents are biologically hardwired to pressure children because we know "that the more competent our children are, the more likely they will pass on our genes." Plus, we have huge "ego-involvement" in our kids' progress. Parents need to convert their anxiety into "positive parenting" and encourage a child's "intrinsic motivation." Parents should focus on developing children's autonomy, their confidence in their own abilities. This doesn't mean letting them do whatever they want; in fact, parents need to stay involved and connected with what the child is doing. Parents must also provide the structure a child needs to exercise competence, and Grolnick and Seal provide plenty of tips on better ways to handle those inevitable times when competitive anxiety threatens a parent's better judgment. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591025665
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books
  • Publication date: 1/28/2008
  • Pages: 235
  • Sales rank: 1,020,073
  • Product dimensions: 6.06 (w) x 8.99 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Wendy S. Grolnick, PhD (Longmeadow, MA), professor of psychology at Clark University, is one of the nation’s leading parenting researchers. She has conducted pioneering studies on the role parents play in children’s motivation and achievement. Dr. Grolnick has been interviewed on National Public Radio’s The Public Eye and is frequently quoted in Parents magazine, Family Circle, and Newsday, among other journals. She is the author of The Psychology of Parental Control in addition to many scholarly articles.

Kathy Seal (Santa Monica, CA) is a nationally known parenting journalist and coauthor of Motivated Minds—a Los Angeles Times bestseller. Her articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Family Circle, and the Columbia Journalism Review, among other publications.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Authors' Note     7
Wendy's Preface     9
Kathy's Preface     17
Wendy's Acknowledgments     21
Kathy's Acknowledgments     23
Parent Panic: It Takes You by Surprise     25
Why Now? "Our Kids Are Competing All the Time"     41
It's an Animal Thing: When Our Hardwiring Goes Haywire     71
The Big Takeover: How Our Feelings Pull Us to Push     91
Beyond the Carrot and the Stick: Fanning the Flames of Your Child's Inner Passion     107
R[subscript x] for Intrinsic Motivation: Encouraging Your Child's Autonomy     129
The How-to of Autonomy     149
Stand by Me: Maximizing Your Involvement     175
"What Do You Expect?" Channeling Anxiety into Rules, Guidelines, and Information     203
Calming Down: "That All Sounds Very Nice, But How Can I Use These Techniques When I'm Feeling So Anxious?"     219
Endnotes     245
Bibliography     265
Index     275
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2008

    Spot on and Very Helpful!

    It's refreshing to read a book on parenting written by someone who really knows what they're talking about. Grolnick is extremely knowledgeable about scientific research on parenting, yet she writes in a way that's personal, never dry, and always entertaining. This book shows you how to support your child's development, while also taking the pressure off of yourself as a parent. What else could you ask for? As the parent of a six year old I can already feel it. Piano lessons? Soccer? Dance? Spelling tests? Art? Creative Writing? Should we require her to get involved like all the other kids, or let her find her own way? How much structure should we provide? Basically, it's all just a bit too much! Grolnick writes in a way that's very empathic toward parents while at the same time providing a great deal of rich inight and analysis on how particular parenting styles affect child development. There are a lot of parenting books out there. This one is a definite keeper!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)