Pressure to Perform: Stressed Out in Preschool
What are the effects on children and parents?
Amy Flynn, M.S., M.Ed.
the Director of the Family Center has afforded me the opportunity to get to
know many children and families. I also have the responsibility of helping the
children aging out of our program to move to on-going schools. These children,
for the most part, are four-year-olds looking to get into pre-k or kindergarten
programs in either the public or private sector. Parents must begin collecting
information about on-going schools in the spring and summer–a full year and
some months before their child will actually move to a new setting. During the
fall prior to the year children will enter pre-k and kindergarten, parents spend
considerable time filling out applications, attending open houses and worrying.
In the late fall, children interview with schools and take either the Stanford
Binet and or the ERB (Educational Records Bureau–the test that is administered
is the WPPSI-R, which is a standardized test). In addition, if parents are considering
the gifted and talented programs in the Board of Education, they must take the
Stanford Binet, which is another standardized psychological test. A licensed
psychologist administers both exams. The stress and pressure on parents and
children is enormous.
Many parents have told me that whether their child does well or gets into the
right school will have lasting effects on their child’s entire academic career.
Parents take children to places to be prepped for the tests, hire special consultants,
attend meetings to prepare for school applications and work diligently with
their children at home.
From my vantage point, I have seen the effects of this pressure and stress on
children. Children are concerned and worried about their school placements.
Some children do not understand that they visit schools that they will attend
at a much later date. They become anxious that they are leaving their current
school immediately. Some parents have asked children to be a part of the decision
making process, asking children which school they like best. These kinds of
decisions and concerns should not be part of the life of a three or four-year-old
Some parents, out of concern, are asking preschool teachers to prepare their
children for the impending tests and school visits. They now want us to formally
teach handwriting, reading skills and higher level math concepts to their preschool
age children, although these concepts are well out of their child’s developmental
range. Most of the children are learning to write, recognize sight words and
solve math problems in a developmentally appropriate manner, yet parents are
still pressing for more “skills” to be imparted to their children. Letting children
have fun, enjoy learning, feel good and competent in their world–essential for
all young children–is being sacrificed in order to “get ready for kindergarten.”
How unfortunate and sad for children and families that parents must spend this
last precious stretch of their child’s preschool years preparing their child
for the “high-pressure world” rather than enjoying the amazing growth and development
that their child has achieved in four short years.
I leave you with a phone conversation I had earlier this year with the father
of a young infant. He was looking for a program for his nine-month-old daughter.
I told him that we are a full time childcare program for children from six months
to four years. He said that his wife is not planning on going back to work,
but they wanted to get their daughter into a good school now so that she wouldn’t
be behind the other children. I told him to relax. I said that he and his wife
should enjoy their baby, take her to the park, play, read, and sing to her.
that enough?” he asked. I said “yes.” #
Flynn is the Director of the Bank Street Family Center.
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