Should You Raise an Overachiever?

Maria is a 16 year old, born in Mexico, raised in Texas, and hoping to travel via pen and pencil where no one else has gone before. Her hobbies include soccer, video games, writing, and she hopes to become a published author.

 advice, humor, funny, academics, anecdotes, overachiever, parenting advice, raising a child, success

NOTE: Some of this is intended for comedic purposes.

I bite the inside of my mouth determined to memorize 300 lines of Ancient Latin Poetry before the exam. While outside my kitchen window the sounds of kids on Spring Break rejoice in unrestrained free time. Their continuous shrieks persist in bothering me, forcing me to finally wave away the chance of making progress on my studies.

I slide my progressively expanding notebook towards the other end of my table and pick up the scholarship application I have been postponing on filling out. Once my pen reaches the extracurricular section it remains still, zealous to fill out more activities, more recommendations. But the page has already reached its end. The creators of the scholarship negligently assumed the applier actually had a life. Then I ask myself in a scowl, “Did they seriously not consider The Overachiever?” I answer my own “witty” question with an “of course not” and a “maker-must-surely-of only-made-it-to-Community-College”.

Then I continue studying Vergil, ignoring the radiantly gorgeous day outside.

I have met and conversed with several parents who would give anything to have raised teens like my friends and I. These parents tell me that simply having their teens log off Facebook to do work produces enough frustration. (Meanwhile, my mother tells me to stop drudging over my assignments or to stop reading. *Gasp!*)

Even teachers, are enthralled that their multiple degrees have not been consummated in vain when they see students actually going beyond the expectations of a set rubric. These instructors gloat, flaunt if they find a class saturated by a good amount of overachievers.

But what constitutes an Overachiever? What categorizes them as the future rulers of the world? And is it worth the time spurring the child into going beyond expectations? But let’s not go too fast – yet.

Symptoms of an Overachiever:

1. Your teen has more college credit hours as a high schooler than you had as sophomore in college.

2. You receive emails from your teen’s teacher that he/she has actually been doing abnormally well. The email also mentions that he suspects that either the student is cheating, or your teen must be placed in an advanced program. (Trust me, no news is good news.)

3. You ask other parents as to how/why their teens got rid of the black bags under their eyes. Then, you soon realize that this, in fact, is not natural.

4. Your teen is in his/her 4th year of Advanced Latin…

5. He/She has more academic awards than you have acquaintances.

6. He/She complains to you regularly about only being number 12 in a class of 800.

There are of course a various groupings that link down from the general overachiever. Some are the community high-flyers who spend most of their weekends volunteering at a local homeless shelter or organizing food cans whose heights rival Mt. Olympus. These teens eventually work more at an organization than the directors themselves.

Usually, we most commonly refer to overachievers as “Academic Try-Hards”. These specimens are found usually in Advanced Calculus, or in the roster of top 5% of the class. They find regular classes tediously mundane and would rather have to study for 3 hours a night for an AP class, than be teased as the highest scoring person in a normal class.

Unfortunately, some are stereotyped as such and grow up to need the high grades as a positive reflection of themselves. These teens, by their own achievements, grow to be perfectionists. Of course, they are never satisfied. Nothing could or will ever reach their expectations. These highflyers continually harm themselves mentally if they do not make the highest score. Some take a toll on their self-esteem.

A lot of parents may not want to admit it but they take part in this meltdown. They spend a substantial amount of energy and time encouraging their teen from a very young age to stand out amongst the average. Parents consider if they were successful, then their children should too. Granted, this comes a lot from their background or cultural circumstances.

(For example, certain expectations come from specific cultures. Asian students have a valedictorian speech to look forward. Indian students have MIT waiting for them. Meanwhile, Hispanic students have to relax by school and expect to be married by 20.)

On the contrary, some overachievers have an internal spur in them that education inflames and leaves them wanting more. Their internal curiosity conquers their self-logic.  They learn for the sake of learning.  A self-fulfillment induces them to complete assignments or volunteer hours beyond belief.

I have to admit I am one of those students. I push myself just to see how far I can travel without getting tired. When I fall short of my own expectations I know and repeat to myself I could do better. I find a value in studying in advanced classes. There you are expected to go above and beyond. I can explore my own mind, and think. If I don’t think the right way then I accept criticism. I find it insulting when teachers do not mark up my paper in blood and express what I did wrong. Because if they don’t, then how do I know what I am actually doing right?

I was never encouraged nor forced by my parents to take part in the huge amount work I have placed myself in. They would be simply content and proud of me even if I easily graduated high school. (Probably because they couldn’t, but more on that at another time.) I was never expected anything of me. I had no brother or sister I needed living up to. And even if I did, my parents wouldn’t care. It is mostly my self-expectations that drive me to work harder and longer than most people.

And, I enjoy being in a classroom in which my peers’ success pushes me. I could breeze by a regular class with the highest score. But, I could end up learning nothing.

If I don’t finish something properly then it sticks with me, forcing me to conjure up a better plan. So, probably what makes some overachievers successful is their willingness to go above and beyond. They are naturally accustomed to a steady readiness to complete any goal—even ones that they have not encountered yet. These successful people exist not only in the business world—as we all assume—but in arts, fashion, and probably any aspect of life that includes the human element. They base achievements on the fact they are satisfied and set examples, not on the capacity to inundate a page with facts and numbers.

Raising an Overachiever:

1. Before you require a student to take part in any activity make sure they are comfortable and have something to learn from it, not just because it strengthens a college application.

2. Keep in mind that we can’t be all overachievers. (Now that would be a sad world).

3. Try and figure out your child’s weaknesses and strengths. You can’t force a teen to study math and science when they have a passion for the arts. It will only put a strain in your relationship with him/her.

4. Just because a child is ahead that does not mean you should automatically skip them a grade. Different grades have different maturity levels, so your child might be uncomfortable around different people.

5. BE SUPPORTIVE! So what if your kid is not in the top 100 of the class? As long as you are there and present AND listening to your teen then they probably are going to do just fine. Remember you are the first person that shapes a child’s life. Don’t blow it just because you are busy yourself. Trust me, teens may not realize it, but we do want you there.

 

In the end it probably won’t be scores that your teens remember when they raise their family, rather the simple organics of the relationships with their peers and family. So make it something worth remembering.

 

Photo Credit: permanently scatterbrained from Flickr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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