A child may be an overachiever if he feels an impulsive need to get perfect grades and be on top of everybody else in his class. At first glance, it would seem that being an overachiever is no problem at all. What’s wrong with being on top? Is there anything wrong with wanting to be the best? It’s perfectly normal to feel that way. However, if this desire to be on top affects someone mentally, physically, emotionally and socially, then it becomes a problem.


I often read – and become angry – about people who push their children too hard, living a sort of vicarious life through their children’s achievements.  Much advice is given for these parents to slow down and allow the children more freedom. 

But what to do when it’s the child herself who pushes too hard?

On the 31st of August my child was ill, so ill that I wanted to withdraw her from her ballet exam scheduled for that afternoon.  She was adamant she was going to take the exam.  At the RAD Hall, her teacher said she looked very ill and asked her if she was sure she wanted to do it; the child said yes.

When she came out after her session, she was pale and poopy.  I thought she was going to collapse and drove to Doctor Neighbour’s rooms at high speed.  He prescribed strong meds and booked her off school for a week, insisting that she stay in bed.

Yesterday the exam results came through; she achieved 64%; a pass with Merit.  We congratulated her and she burst into tears; all she kept saying was that it was the very first time she hadn’t got a Distinction.  There was no consoling her.

I am sure my mother would have known what to say.  For my part, I could only tell her that I was proud and try to put things in perspective.  Pumpkin fritters are a fail-proof method of drying tears.  And watching the rescue of those Chilean miners made her own drama seem not so great after all.

Perhaps I’ll be able to convince her to bunk ballet class this afternoon; we’ll go and throw the Frisbee for the dogs in the park instead.


47 Comments Add yours

  1. I am crying! Ai – it is so hard to explain to them that they did well and considering how ill she was, I think she did brilliantly! Good luck with trying to get her to bunk ballet!!!

  2. Madmom says:

    I wouldn’t worry too much about it, Cindy. Dort seems to be well-balanced in all aspects of her life and it is probably just her big passion for ballet driving her to achieve in it.

    1. theonlycin says:

      I hope you’re right, Madmom.

  3. leigh says:

    Well, now I’m feeling the love.

  4. adeeyoyo says:

    I know just how you feel, Cin. My daughter was the same with her school work – she excelled at everything and couldn’t bear to lose any marks at all! The tears she cried when in high school she got in the 90%s. Assurances from us didn’t help. She calmed down at varsity, but even now is such a perfectionist about her work, and she is studying again part-time and getting so uptight over those marks too. I can only watch and beg her to slow down…

    1. theonlycin says:

      Makes one feel so helpless …

  5. thysleroux says:

    I can’t agree more.

    Too many parents lose track of the fact that a child is not an “extension” of themselves.

    The forget that a child is an autonomous human being. When the child wins the “Miss Autumn Pageant” it doesn’t change the fact that mommy didn’t win it back then!

    When they push themselves too hard a bit of perspective, such as the dramas in the news helps a bit.

    Unfortunately the “modern world” has placed so many “must achieve” goals in front of an ever-growing group with an ever decreasing age bracket

  6. Nzwaki says:

    Parenting is a big challenge, especially when you dont know what to do or say. But I think she will get over it.

  7. Tandy says:

    it is not easy when the drive is inborn! and the age she is at won’t help either! I am sure it will all be OK with some perspective!

    1. theonlycin says:

      You’re right, the age doesn’t help 😦

  8. souldipper says:

    Cin, what a great mom you seem to be. It must be hell having to see one’s child suffering – at whatever degree!

    1. theonlycin says:

      I sure didn’t feel like a great mom last night 😦

  9. Posky says:

    If you were serious about throwing a frisbee with a dog, I’m pretty sure all of your daughter’s problems will be temporarily solved.

    Then again, maybe I shouldn’t assume what works for me works for everyone else.

    1. theonlycin says:

      I’m of the firm belief that throwing a frisbee for a dog cures any heartache.

  10. aardvarkian says:

    Bless her. And bless you too.

  11. Naomi says:

    She sounds like a honey all round, Cin, and I feel for you trying to console her. I’m with you lot on the frisbee and dogs thing…if only we could all be a bit more like them 🙂

    1. theonlycin says:

      Damn right, Naomi, the world would be a much better place.

  12. Cin, I have often said to my mother in a fit of rage that I feel she is trying to live the life she never had through me – and that she still treats me like I’m of school-going age. Honestly, from the other side of the fence, I wouldn’t worry too much about OB. She obviously WANTS to be a ballerina hard enough (like I WANT to be a good writer), that she will push herself regardless of how much you (or anyone else for that matter) tries to slow her down. I would love to meet her – she sounds like a fine young lady (must be because she has a fine mother).

    1. theonlycin says:

      Your mom did a good job, regardless, Sweetie Pie.

      1. (blush) Thank you Cin.

  13. gospelwriter says:

    Difficult situation. I’d say Pass with Merit when you’re that sick trumps Pass with Distinction when you’re well, any old day. But even many adults don’t seem to get that. {sigh} Hope she takes you up on the doggy Frisbee afternoon…

    1. theonlycin says:

      She did and it was a good afternoon, thanks 🙂

  14. slpmartin says:

    This is indeed a difficult situation to deal with…I recall one of my university students saying to me once that I placed extreme pressure on them to perform at a superior level…this took me by surprise since I had always tried to create a relaxed positive environment…when I enquired what I did to foster that feeling…I was told that I demonstrated ‘faith in them and what they could do and that’s not what they had experienced before in classes’….one can never truly know where the pressure for ‘distinction’ comes from..good luck my friend.

  15. it’s a hard one. she will bump her heart many times as she grows up and like all of us will have to learn how to cope with it

    it will only be much later that she realises you have given her the coping mechanisms

    1. theonlycin says:

      Well, I’ll always have you nearby as a shoulder to cry on …

  16. granny1947 says:

    Oh poor OB…give her a big hug from this granny!

    1. theonlycin says:

      I will, thanks Love.

  17. Oh, Cindy, waves of empathy today. But not because of my daughter: because I’m just the same. I hate to fail, and learning how to do it gracefully and handle the searing pain of failure with resilience has been half a life’s work. I always though it was the sign of a creative person, but now I learn there are people who don’t take these setbacks that way. It’s hard playing Salieri to someone else’s Mozart…

    1. theonlycin says:

      I’m guilty of it myself, I guess, and feel bad that she may have picked it up from me.

  18. tsuchigari says:

    If I could go back in time and tell myself to chill out about the whole grades thing and instead spend time participating in things I really liked I would. But my younger self would probably give me a raspberry for my efforts!
    Patience, it all evens out.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks, it’s perhaps a good thing that we don’t have 20/20 vision.

  19. buttercup600 says:

    My darling OB..I feel for her…I also think it’s more so a thing with only children (recalling my own youth)..It’s not always easy for us mothers to have all of the answers …she is a fine young lady…after all, she was really sick and in my mind she did extremely well 🙂 Give her a hug from me xxx

    1. theonlycin says:

      I will do so, Amanda 🙂

  20. Jamie Dedes says:

    I know. This is hard stuff. I never knew what to do. All I can tell you after the fact (mine’s 40) is that he is well, well adjusted, and happy … You’re daughter sounds just lovely and so bright. An heroic effort!

    Congrats to her from me for whatever it might be worth.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Every time she hurts a little piece of my heart turns to ash…

  21. suzicate says:

    Bless her heart. I don’t know how you try to calm an over achiever. I know it’s hard to watch her in pain. One day her persistence will pay off. Wow, sounds like she really loves ballet to do that while being so ill. I’m sure she knows you are proud of her even though she is disappointed in herself.

    1. theonlycin says:

      She seems to be over it now 🙂

  22. nrhatch says:

    Sounds like you did the right thing:

    (1) Put it in perspective by watching the rescue of the miners
    (2) Placed her firmly “in the moment” by tossing a frisbee with the dogs.

    You rock.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thank you Nancy 🙂

  23. Tokeloshe says:

    It is such a pity with ballet exams that if you can’t do the exam you have to wait another whole year.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Yes, she didn’t want to ‘lose’ the year.

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