Author and her book

When Achievement Culture Becomes Toxic

Kids who graduates with high marks at high-achieving schools were later put into a high-risk category for mental health disorders.

Something felt off, so journalist Jennifer Breheny Wallace wrote ” “Never Enough: When Achievement Culture Becomes Toxic-and What We Can Do About It.”

I read it as a parent, so my notes are scant but the point is clear: Pushing kids for academic achievements can reverse course years later. Better to encourage a healthy and happy relationship with learning. Trouble is that short-term outcomes look good for pushing kids — grades go up — but on the longtail, they’re less happy.

At present, 1 in 3 American students report excessive pressure to succeed. Madeline Levine’s 2006 book Price of Privilege got at this. Suniya Luthar’s urban youth research sought a control group and found suburban kids did worse on many health measures.

Among Breheny’s points of advice: Lead with lunch (not how they did on the test); Minimize criticism and get a PhD in your child.

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