The crushing pressure on kids to be the best – at everything
Before “travel leagues” and “advanced placement,” kids played sports at the neighborhood park and competed in class for a teacher’s attention and at home for a parental pat on the head. But along with every other aspect of our lives today, childhood is accelerating.
Because it has become one of the scariest parts of being a kid today I made overachievement a key part of teens’ lives in my thriller The League of Delphi. Writing about a secret society that runs a town and pressures teens into dangerous overachievement is a creative way of dealing with this dark and destructive issue facing our kids in real life.
In her revealing and sometimes shocking book The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids, Alexandra Robbins (a recovering overachiever herself) exposed the new world of social, academic, parental and extracurricular pressure overwhelming children’s lives. She found that the kids at her former high school were often dismayed, disheartened and depressed over their self-image in the face of constantly rising expectations. (BTW: Robbins also delved into another central theme of The League of Delphi – secret societies – in Secrets of the Tomb: Skull and Bones, the Ivy League, and the Hidden Paths of Power)
The trend of helicopter parents jockeying to get their kids into the best preschools, terrified by the prospect of an ordinary, underachieving childhood, is not an urban myth. Even more disturbing, stories of parents like Wanda Holloway, the Texas mom willing to kill to get her daughter into a key cheerleading spot, have become a reality.
Today, kids feel more obligation than ever to be smart, popular, attractive, athletic – all of the above. Blame the media, fashion, video games, or simply the times we live in, but something in our culture is causing kids to push themselves to extremes formerly known only in the adult world.
In the near future kids may realize that only their own judgment matters when deciding how to spend the hours of their days and the days of their lives. Will they live in a society that punishes them for their individualism or will they remake the culture into one that supports the search for their true, self-determined inner calling?
Now, here’s the cheese on this Brain Burger.
3 things overheard at a gathering of overachievers:
- “I thought San Andreas was my fault!”
- “That Einstein dude was such a slacker.”
- “I can’t cut back to only 7 hours of studying a day!”