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The Unlikely Art of Parental Pressure

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The Unlikely Art of Parental Pressure: A Positive Approach to Pushing Your Child to Be Their Best Self

The right kind of parental pressure puts kids on a path to success.
The wrong kind can be disastrous.

Parents instinctively push their kids to succeed. Yet well-meaning parents can put soul-crushing pressure on kids, leading to under-performance and serious mental health problems instead of social, emotional, and academic success. So where are they going astray?  According to Drs. Chris Thurber and Hendrie Weisinger, it all comes down to asking the right question. Instead of “How much pressure?”, you should be thinking “How do I apply pressure?”

The Unlikely Art of Parental Pressure addresses the biggest parenting dilemma of all time: how to push kids to succeed and find happiness in a challenging world without pushing them too far. The solution lies in Thurber and Weisinger’s eight methods for transforming harmful pressure to healthy pressure.

Each transformation is enlivened by case studies, grounded in research, and fueled by practical strategies that you can start using right away.  By upending conventional wisdom, Thurber and Weisinger provide you with the revolutionary guide you need to nurture motivation, improve your interactions with your child, build deep connections, sidestep cultural pitfalls, and, ultimately, help your kids become their best selves.

16 reviews for The Unlikely Art of Parental Pressure

  1. 5 out of 5

    Abby Freireich & Brian Platzer


    “The Unlikely Art of Parental Pressure is the rare parenting book that respects both parents and children. Instead of simply applauding parental pressure as the key to success or dismissing it as cruel and ineffective, Thurber and Weisinger walk their readers through the theory and practice of parenting happy, successful children. A tour de force.”



  2. Abby Freireich & Brian Platzer
    – Social psychologist
    – Authors of Taking the Stress out of Homework
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  4. 5 out of 5

    Chad Beguelin


    “The Unlikely Art of Parental Pressure beautifully illuminates and addresses the delicate dance that parents are faced with on a daily basis.”



  5. Chad Beguelin
    – Playwright & Lyricist, The Prom
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  7. 5 out of 5

    Yael Schonbrun


    “How do we push children without pressuring them in unhealthy ways? How might we support without being too lenient? Amid the onslaught of unsolicited, unscientific, and often conflicting advice, parents feel confused in answering these questions. Enter the warm and humorous advice of Drs. Thurber and Weisinger. By the end of the book, you’ll have absorbed the parental trifecta: compassion, clarity, and scientifically-backed guidance to transform unhealthy pressure into wise parenting.”



  8. Yael Schonbrun, PhD
    – Brown University Asst Professor & cohost of podcast, Psychologists Off the Clock
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  10. 5 out of 5

    Kattherine G. Windsor


    When our first child was born in 1994, the doctor announced his Apgar score, and my husband—a clinical psychologist—quipped, “The first of many standardized scores he and we will receive over his lifetime.” Although an Apgar score simply measures the effects of obstetric anesthesia on babies, we could not help but take pride (and some credit) for his strong score.

    As a professional educator, I appreciate how all parents inexplicably focus on every performance marker, and I now have a fresh appreciation for how this influences our parenting styles, the goals we set for our children, and the pressure they feel.

    Drs. Thurber and Weisinger do a masterful job of deconstructing the art and science of parenting by centering the child and providing a framework for parents to be intentional and reflective as they navigate the challenges and opportunities of parenting. The Unlikely Art of Parental Pressure is a must-read that we certainly could have used in 1994!



  11. Kattherine G. Windsor, EdD
    – Head of Miss Porter’s School
    – Instructor, University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education
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  13. 5 out of 5

    Amy Morin


    “This is a great resource for any parent who wants to know how to push their kids to do their best without placing their children under toxic pressure.”



  14. Amy Morin
    – Bestselling author of 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do and 13 Things Strong kids Do
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  16. 5 out of 5

    Susan Newman


    “There is indeed an ‘art’ to parental pressure, and Drs. Thurber and Weisinger provide the tools you need to become a master at pushing in ways that support children and avoid harmful results or pushback. One of the most helpful parenting books in the last decade.”



  17. Susan Newman, PhD
    – Social psychologist
    – Author of Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day
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  19. 5 out of 5

    Gregg Bernhalter


    “Parental pressure is often detrimental to a child’s desire to participate in sports. The Unlikely Art of Parental Pressure provides parent the tools to transform parental pressure into a positive force that will encourage your child to follow their passion and perform their best, be it on the soccer field or school field.”



  20. Gregg Bernhalter
    – Head Coach, US Men’s National Soccer Team
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  22. 5 out of 5

    Michael G. Thompson


    “All parents worry that they are pushing their children too much…or not enough. Two sophisticated psychologists, Drs. Thurber and Weisinger, tackle this problem head-on in The Unlikely Art of Parental Pressure. With up-to-date science, great wit and wisdom, and readable case examples, they show parents the right way to support their children. If you have ever worried that you are the dreaded ‘pushy parent,’ you should read this book. Your children will thank you.”



  23. Michael G. Thompson, PhD
    – Bestselling author of Raising Cain and Best Friends; Worst Enemies
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  25. 5 out of 5

    Temba Maqubela


    “No one goes to school to be a parent. Hence the African saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ This timeless book is also timely, given how many children have been emotional casualties of COVID-19. Reading The Unlikely Art of Parental Pressure reminded me that children are essential for the survival of our species—a sober realization for boarding schools where the focus is raising children in partnership with parents and other caregivers.



  26. Temba Maqubela
    – 8th Headmaster of The Groton School
  27.  

  28. 5 out of 5

    Brittney-Nichole Connor-Savarda


    “Like the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, Drs. Thurber and Weisinger guide you behind the scenes to give you a panoramic view of the harmful and healthy effects parental pressure can have on our children. While reading this book, you may also uncover the residual footprint that your own parents’ style has had on your life. Thurber and Weisinger enlighten and educate, teaching us how to reframe and convey our positive intentions in a way that fosters a healthy and supportive space for our children to thrive.”



  29. Brittney-Nichole Connor-Savarda
    – Founder: Catalyst 4 Change LLC; Generation EQ
  30.  

  31. 5 out of 5

    Tyler Chapman Tingley


    “Based on their decades of experience, Drs. Thurber and Weisinger have illuminated a new pathway to student success by demystifying the difference between healthy and harmful parental pressure. The Unlikely Art of Parental Pressure invites readers to a conversation about parenting that can improve the lives of both parents and children as they strive to be their best selves.”



  32. Tyler Chapman Tingley, EdD
    – 13th Principal of Phillips Exeter Academy
    – 1st Co-Head, Avenues: The World School
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  34. 5 out of 5

    Jim Taylor


    “The Unlikely Art of Parental Pressure is a timely, insightful, and somewhat contrarian (in the good sense) exploration of a challenge that all parents face as they help navigate their children’s journey toward success. The authors’ writing style is both rigorous and accessible. Not only does the book provide a broad and deep examination of issues that parents will immediately resonate with, but the authors also offer practical solutions that parents can actually use with themselves and their children. A worthwhile read that parents can refer back to time and again.”



  35. Jim Taylor, PhD
    – Author of Positive Pushing: How to Raise a Successful and Happy Child
  36.  

  37. 5 out of 5

    Gilda Ross


    “It’s time to rethink parental pressure. In The Unlikely Art of Parental Pressure, Drs. Thurber and Weisinger break with convention by showing parents that the question to ask is not ‘How much pressure should I put on my child to succeed?’ but rather, ‘How do I apply pressure in way that leads to success?” Readers will learn how to transform unhealthy parental pressure into a guiding force that will boost the quality of the parent-child relationship and help any child navigate their life more effectively.”



  38. Gilda Ross
    – Student and Community Projects Coordinator, GlenBard Parent Series
  39.  

  40. 5 out of 5

    Michael Ungar


    Finally, there is an antidote to Tiger Mom’s and Helicopter Parents. This insightful book for parents and counselors debunks the myth that kids who face lots of pressure to succeed are those who excel the most (they don’t), and that parents can do no harm if their intentions are good (wrong again…they can!). With a keen eye to the never easy dynamics of parenting kids with potential, The Unlikely Art of Parental Pressure shows a better way to avoid the paradox of harming our kids when all we really want is to make their lives easy than our own.”



  41. Michael Ungar, PhD
    – Director, Resilience Research Centre, Dalhousie University
    – Author of Change Your World: The Science of Resilience and the True Path to Success
  42.  

  43. 5 out of 5

    Library Journal

    The Unlikely Art of Parental Pressure: A Positive Approach to Pushing Your Child To Be Their Best Self
    A survey of 421 students at Penn State showed that nearly a fifth had contemplated suicide; some of those students said that the primary reason was pressure from parents to get good grades. Would reducing parental pressure on students improve the situation? Not so fast, say psychologists Thurber and Weisinger, who in this book assert that the right type of pressure can be strongly linked not only to excellent performance but also to thriving mental health.

    The authors discuss the qualities of a “support-style parent” who sparks a child’s natural interest and motivation by expecting their personal best. Thurber and Weisinger advocate that parents take a proactive approach that includes reflecting on their own expectations and parenting style; coping with their own stress away from their child; teaching self-soothing and stress management techniques; and using tender emotional expression to comfort their child. With this book’s specific information for non-white families and gender-diverse children and parents, and its consideration of an audience representing diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, it’s sure to be a helpful resource.

    VERDICT: An interesting perspective on parental pressure that will to be compelling to parents interested in the intersection of a child’s academic success and emotional health.

  44. 5 out of 5

    Publishers Weekly

    The Unlikely Art of Parental Pressure: A Positive Approach to Pushing Your Child to Be Their Best Self
    Psychologists Thurber and Weisinger (Performing Under Pressure) offer an empowering guide to helping children succeed. Parents’ natural instinct to want the best for their children can often lead to pushing too hard, they write, and it’s easy to slip into applying “unhealthy pressure.”

    To counter that, the authors suggest parents avoid defining success in “narrow, do-or-die terms” and break down the difference between “pressure parents” (who create an “urgent, competitive world”) and “support parents” (who foster collaboration, hard work, and self-reliance). To encourage “excellent performance and great mental health,” they write, children should be pushed to do their best rather than to win at all costs, and parents should prioritize empathy over problem-solving.

    VERDICT: The authors pair their tips with helpful imagined dialogues and case studies on how parents should and should not respond to children who are hurt, confused, or disappointed. Their advice is timely and well-considered: “The push to perform is backfiring,” they write, and “that is the central paradox of parental pressure.” Parents who push hard will find this gives them clear steps to more positively relate to their children.


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