The Unlikely Art of Parental Pressure

A Positive Approach to Pushing Your Child to Be Their Best Self


By Dr. Christopher Thurber

By Hendrie Weisinger, PhD

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The Right Kind of Parental Pressure Puts Kids on a Path to Success. The Wrong Kind Can Be Disastrous. 
Level up your parenting with this positive approach to pushing your child to be their best self.


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.


chapter one


Parental Pressure from Two Perspectives

REGARDLESS OF THEIR AGE, ALL CHILDREN NEED AT LEAST ONE WARM, reliable adult to believe in them and provide comfort, especially in times of distress. Most parents remember a time when their child came to them upset. A classic example might be the complaint, “I hate school and I have so much homework that I’ll never get to do anything fun this weekend.” Most parents also remember a time when they responded to their child’s distress with sage advice, such as, “Yeah, well, school is important, so let’s take a look at your assignments and see what you should work on first.” And finally, most parents remember a time when their child threw that supportive bid back in their face with some version of “Don’t tell me what to do!” or “Stop lecturing me!” or “You just don’t understand!” What is going on? Parents are trying to help, but kids are rejecting the offers. We think, What do you mean I don’t understand? I understand quite a bit, which is why I’m giving you great suggestions!

What explains this frustrating disconnect? Perspective. Parents and children often see the same problem quite differently. In this example, the child—be they in second grade or sophomore year—wants empathy. They want the parent to feel their pain, to acknowledge their dismay. By contrast, the parent—who has seen this all before—wants the child to solve the problem quickly, before things get worse. However, putting problem-solving before empathy is a recipe for conflict, as we will discuss in Chapter 10. For now, just appreciate how different a parent’s perspective can be from the child’s, as well as how unexpected the impact can be, regardless of the parent’s intentions. Pressure is more complicated than a heavy night of homework, but it is also experienced differently by parents and children. Consider the case example of Gloria and Liz, a mother-daughter pair whose relationship and personal well-being have been ravaged by unhealthy pressure.


Gloria is married, but tonight she feels like a single mom. Her husband, Abel, is away again on business, hard at work in a different time zone. Their daughter, Liz, is also far from home and hard at work. She is studying and running track at an independent school, somewhere in a third time zone, and feeling tremendous parental pressure. Hang on. With the family so dispersed, how could parental pressure be an issue?

Looking at the time on her phone, Gloria realizes that she needs to work efficiently because Liz is probably already awake. Gloria wants Liz to have a fantastic day, so she feels compelled to complete one more task this evening before going to bed. The lights are off in the kitchen, but the city glow through the kitchen window is enough for her to see the table and chairs. She sits down and taps the space bar on her laptop, kindling a second source of glowing light.

Using Liz’s username and password, Gloria logs in to the student portal of the school’s website. The virtual private network (VPN) she pays for allows reliable access to foreign websites. This premium VPN also anonymizes Gloria’s computer IP address and encrypts her keystrokes, routing her access through a server on a distant continent. Unbeknownst to Gloria, Liz is walking to an appointment on that same distant continent with vague thoughts of suicide slowing her pace.

On the laptop screen, a tiny animated graphic chases its own tail to indicate that the website browser is waiting for a response. Gloria removes her glasses to rub her eyes. We’ve been preparing Liz for almost seventeen years to get where we are now, she thinks. I guess I can wait thirty seconds for the student portal to load. She misses Liz, as loving parents do when their children are away from home. She reminisces about the Saturday afternoon she told her husband that she was pregnant. This child is our life now, she had said to Abel. We’ll both have to work even harder. Since that day, they have devoted the bulk of their time, salaries, and Saturdays to Liz’s education, with a singular goal for her: to succeed. They believe that if Liz can outshine her high school classmates in one or more ways, her chances of collegiate success—and ultimately professional and financial success—will improve dramatically.

When Liz was in elementary school, Gloria would leave work to pick her up after school and drive her to a private math and English tutoring center staffed by the local university. After tutoring, Liz and her best friend would walk the two blocks to their figure skating lesson, after which one of Liz’s parents would pick her up on their way home from work. When he was not on a business trip, Abel would help Liz with her homework while Gloria prepared a homemade lunch for their daughter to carry to school the next day. On most days, with Abel away, Gloria was both tutor and cook.

The laptop beeps, and Gloria’s attention snaps back to her research. She repositions her glasses as the familiar landing page resolves. Even before the global spread of deadly viruses that necessitated online learning, most schools had purchased learning management systems (LMSs)—software that made it simple for teachers to upload digital course content, take attendance, and post grades. Gloria knows from experience where to find the My Courses section of this LMS. She inhales, blows a quick sigh of anticipation, and clicks Biology 410. The next page lists assignments and test grades for the course over which Liz has poured the most sweat and shed the most tears. Her current grade is a B+. Any score over 94 on yesterday’s exam would boost her to an A–. Gloria finds the number in the column labeled Exam Three: 91.

Gloria studies the number, knowing that it will not raise Liz’s course grade into the A range. However, the online syllabus lists three more graded assignments. There is reason to hope. And to strategize. By most standards, 91 out of 100 is an outstanding grade. Unless, of course, most of Liz’s classmates scored in the high 90s. In that case, 91 is relatively low. Too low, in all probability, to make Liz’s final grade stand out. Unless…

Gloria touches an app on her phone that opens a list of individual and group contacts. She finds what she’s looking for near the top of the screen. This group chat, comprised of parents whose kids attend the same school and are poised to graduate in the same year, is also a silent measurement tool, a kind of rough probability calculator. She posts this message to the group:

Bio 410 still a grind for Liz. So much memorization! Yesterday’s test = 91.

The absence of an adjective to describe Liz’s numerical grade is a subtle way to tempt other parents—mostly moms—to share their child’s grades on the third exam; one way to learn how Liz’s academic achievement stacks up against that of her classmates; one way to decide whether some of the family’s disposable income should be spent on a biology tutor; and one way to refine Gloria and Abel’s calculation of their child’s chances of being admitted to a top university next year. One thirteen-word post in one group chat could harvest responses that will influence Gloria’s emotions, the parents’ investments, the family’s social status, and the direction of Liz’s education.


You may think that Gloria’s motives and methods are extreme. Yet when it comes to our children, we all want the best, and we are willing to make sacrifices to provide what is best. Perhaps Gloria’s behavior is rational, but the circumstances are extreme. Of course, rational is not always right. In 2019, the FBI’s Operation Varsity Blues exposed thirty-three parents who had paid more than $25 million between 2011 and 2018 to William Rick Singer, head of the Edge College & Career Network. Singer had used some of the millions to falsely inflate students’ standardized test scores, fabricate some of their achievements, and bribe college coaches and officials to arrange to have the children of the thirty-three coconspirators admitted to top colleges and universities in the United States.1 Few parents have the wealth to write checks for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and even fewer would leverage their privilege to bribe a school to admit their child. Yet the fact that some did attests to the pressure that many parents, in many parts of the world, feel today. This pressure—to give one’s child an advantage in an increasingly competitive and populated world, to acquire bragging rights about the prestige and selectivity of certain schools—has become the social-emotional pandemic of our time.

The American Psychological Association’s news magazine, the Monitor, recently featured an article on the increased student self-referrals to college and university health centers for anxiety and depression. The story summarized research that validated what clinicians in secondary and postsecondary schools have been saying for decades: Student mental health is getting worse at alarming rates.2 The clinicians in counseling and psychological services at high schools and universities across the country get more referrals than they can easily handle.

In an earlier press release, the APA summarized findings from a Harris Poll survey of 1,018 adolescents and 1,950 adults in the US. The two groups were roughly equivalent in what they perceived to be a healthy level of stress: 3.9 out of 10 for teens and 3.6 out of 10 for adults. However, the teens’ self-reported stress levels during the school year—5.8 out of 10—far exceeded what they perceived to be healthy levels. During the summer, levels were lower—4.6 out of 10—but still unhealthy. According to the study, “Many teens also report feeling overwhelmed (31 percent) and depressed or sad (30 percent) as a result of stress. More than one-third of teens report fatigue or feeling tired (36 percent) and nearly one-quarter of teens (23 percent) report skipping a meal due to stress.”3 Follow-up studies in the APA’s Stress in America series have found that political discord, racial injustice, and the COVID-19 pandemic have all increased self-reported levels of stress.

To expand on the definition of stress we provided in the authors’ notes at the start of this book, let us consider the origins of stress. The source of stress can sometimes be extrinsic (coming from outside the person, such as from a parent or an upcoming exam) and can sometimes be intrinsic (coming from within the person, such as from ruminating about the worst thing that could happen). Just as stress can be a force exerted on objects (like a load of heavy, wet snow bending a tree branch), stress can also be a force exerted on people (like a load of difficult courses straining a student’s ability to keep up).

OK, but why is stress increasing among young people? If human stress is a state of physical, mental, and/or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or highly demanding circumstances, then we have to ask: Are we giving kids more difficult tasks than before? Or is task difficulty unchanged and kids’ coping abilities have taken a nosedive? Is it possible that tasks and abilities are both unchanged, but kids are misperceiving how hard life is and/or how well they can cope? All three of these factors have probably contributed a bit to the increased stress levels that young people report, even before the COVID-19 pandemic.4 We are here to report on a fourth factor: parents. Loving, well-intentioned parents.


Stress has many sources and can take many forms, but the evidence suggests that none matches the emotional intensity of parental pressure. A recent study from Penn State University showed that out of 421 students (227 females and 194 males), 19.4 percent had contemplated suicide because of the enormous pressure from their parents to produce exceptional grades.5 Ironically, research conducted by the Pew Research Center suggested that the majority of American adults (56 percent) felt that parents put too little pressure on students.6 Just 15 percent felt that parents put too much pressure on students. However, adults in China, India, and Japan reported the inverse perceptions: 63 percent, 61 percent, and 59 percent of adults surveyed in those countries, respectively, felt that parents put too much pressure on students.

Whatever cultural differences exist in the perception and application of parental pressure, the actual harm to young people across the globe is undeniable. In response to heightened awareness of the intense pressure young people report, creative journalists and licensed mental health professionals have shared wholesome ways of coping with academic, athletic, artistic, and social stress—both online and in print. However, none has offered suggestions for preventing parental pressure in the first place. We believe that is because it cannot be prevented. We also believe that the problem will worsen until parents understand why parental pressure is inevitable and commit to transforming harmful pressure into healthy pressure.

Parents apply pressure because they care. No blog post, focus group, or scientific survey will ever change that. Moreover, parents themselves are under a great deal of pressure, both personally and professionally. Most of us also judge ourselves—and feel judged by others—according to how well our children are doing. For their part, mental health providers and professional educators continue to debate what constitutes the “right amount” of pressure. Nothing has changed all that. Until now.

The Unlikely Art of Parental Pressure is a clarion call to stop blaming parents for doing what comes naturally and to stop asking the wrong question. Forget “How much parental pressure is too much?” We owe it to our children and ourselves to start asking, “What kind of parental pressure is healthy?” and the related question: “How can parents transform harmful pressure into healthy pressure?” The answers are fascinating, hopeful, and practical. If you are motivated to change, even a little bit, then this book is for you.

Gloria’s story offers a glimpse of a parent under pressure. She has devoted herself to her daughter and immersed herself in Liz’s academic life. Her commitment may be excessive, but, so far, it is hard to see how Gloria’s behavior has made Liz suicidal. To understand the harm, we need to see things from the child’s perspective. We need to know what the pressure put on Liz by her parents feels like.


After months of coping on her own, Liz self-referred to Counseling & Psychological Services for what she describes to me as the “double whammy” she faces: “I’m freaking out trying to pull As in all my classes, but if my parents knew that I was seeing a psychologist, they would freak out. Right now, I could be using this free period to study bio or practice Tchaikovsky. Plus, you know that mental health problems—any problems, really—are juicy gossip for the other moms.” Liz pauses. “I guess that turns out to be a triple whammy, not a double. Now you know why I think about dying, Dr. Thurber.”

When I ask how it is possible for other students’ parents to know that she is seeing a therapist, Liz looks at me quizzically. “Through apps, Dr. Thurber. Apps.”

For years, I have known that the moment children enroll—from preschool to prep school to university—parents flock to smartphone messenger apps to start comparing notes on their children’s experiences. In Asia, Africa, and South America, most parents are on WhatsApp. In China, Korea, and Japan, the dominant apps are WeChat, Kakao Talk, and Line, respectively. Parents in North America, Australia, and Europe are split between Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, with English-speaking parents taking to Facebook pages and Instagram (owned by Facebook), often to brag about their progeny but in a less organized way than on any of the dedicated messenger apps. All of this happens quickly. For example, on December 13, 2018, Harvard University notified the 935 early-action applicants to whom it had offered admission from a pool of 6,958. By the next day, the private Facebook group Parents of the Harvard Class of 2023 was live and quickly grew to 490 members.

Parents’ preferred platforms vary, but the apparent purposes of these online communities has remained constant: lighthearted social support and the casual sharing of school information. The reality is that when Liz confides in her mom that she received a 98 on a calculus test, her mom shares her grade with the other parents in the group chat within seconds. Low scores, of course, are typically not shared—a practice that aligns perfectly with the worldwide custom of curating our virtual lives in a way that amplifies accomplishments.

The real peril results from Liz’s mother having the password to her account on the school’s student portal and/or its LMS. For most students, it feels only mildly controlling to have their parents know what the homework is and when it is due. Grades are different, at least at this age. Consciously or unconsciously, many parents feel that grades reflect performance and performance reflects talent. Talent can get you into a top-tier school, and top-tier schools are international symbols of prestige, both at the secondary and postsecondary level. Of course, prestige carries weight in some circles, but it never carries the day. How did pride in our kids become more about which school’s name is on the diploma than which student’s name is on the diploma?

LIZ SIGHS AND RAISES HER EYEBROWS. “MY MOM KNOWS when I have a test coming up, of course. A day after the test, she gets online, like every half hour or something, to see my grade as soon as the teacher posts it. Half the time—and this is just one of the crazy parts, Dr. Thurber—other parents and students know my grade on a test before I do.”

“Your mom’s getting on a messenger app and posting your grade in a parent group or two, even before you have a chance to see it yourself,” I say, trying to summarize and understand at the same time.

“Exactly. Well, sometimes she just posts that I did really well but leaves out the number. Either way, a lot of those moms are then telling their own kids what I got, or that I did well or something, even though it’s technically none of their business.”

“Not even technically. Ethically.” I try to be empathic without sounding too surprised or judgmental.

“I don’t know what’s worse,” Liz continues, “the fact that other kids are coming up to me, all snarky, like, ‘Oh, so you got an A– on that last math test. What did you miss?’ or, like, the fact that these other kids get crap from their parents like, ‘I heard so-and-so got an A. You could get As, too, if you studied harder. Maybe we shouldn’t have sent you to that expensive school in the first place.’”

Liz’s voice sounds softer now and a bit distant. “No wonder half my friends are suicidal. They’re working their asses off—sorry—getting like four hours of sleep a night, and the people who are supposed to be their main supports are telling them, ‘You’re not working hard enough’ or ‘You’re not worth the money’ or ‘You bring shame to this family.’”

“You’re getting pressure from all directions: your parents, other kids, your teachers, and yourself,” I say, starting to feel helpless. “They make you feel ashamed sometimes.”

“Lots of kids get pressure from parents. That I can handle, even when they threaten to pull me out of school if I get Bs. I’m sure you’ve heard that before, Dr. Thurber. You know, like, ‘We’re not paying this crazy tuition for you to get Bs and then go to some no-name university.’” Liz looks up at me, and I can see that her eyes are getting teary. She continues, “But what’s really messed up is that I feel pressure from this kind of… competition… or comparison… with other kids that is totally parent-generated.”

“And your parents make it seem like there’s just one prize worth winning,” I say.

“Obviously,” replies Liz. “It’s like if I don’t get admitted to this or that school—and you know which ones we’re talking about, Dr. Thurber—I’m a total failure. Why go on?”

“It’s probably hard to concentrate and do your best academic work when the definition of success is so narrow and the stakes are so high.” I think about how unlikely it would be for her parents to withdraw her for B-range grades, but her fear that they would is her reality.

“Welcome to my world,” Liz says with an ironic grin. She leans her head back and opens her eyes wide to prevent the escape of welling tears.

“Well, I’m glad you’re here,” I say. “It’s a lot to handle, and I can see how the circumstances change your feelings about school… and yourself. And your parents, too, I guess.”

When I point out that our meetings are not only confidential but also free (i.e., included in every student’s yearly Health Services fee), Liz protests. “They track my phone, Dr. Thurber. They’ll know I’m here in the Health Center. Don’t worry. I’ve thought this all through. I can just lie and tell them that I had a cold or something.” Anticipating my next question, Liz adds, “And no, I can’t just turn my phone off or they’ll get even more suspicious.”

For Liz, the parental pressure is not only explicit and authoritarian but made worse both by the rapid and public comparisons to peers and by her stellar achievement to date.

“You don’t know what it’s like,” Liz says. “The better I do, the more anxious I get that I won’t do as well the next term or even on the next test. Even my college counselor said to me, at the end of last year, ‘Congratulations on your 94 average. Just don’t let that drop or the admissions committees will wonder what’s wrong.’ Speaking of which, I have to study for Latin. Is it OK if we meet for just thirty minutes?”

I make a trite comparison to a roller coaster, attempting to capture her emotions in a colorful metaphor. “No,” Liz objects. “A roller coaster goes up and down and eventually stops. I’m on a rocket that keeps accelerating. Not only can’t I get off, I don’t know when it’s going to disintegrate because it’s exceeded the tolerances it was built for.”

In the remainder of our session, I assess Liz’s mood. The chronic stress and unhealthy pressure she has been feeling has created some classic symptoms of depression: sadness, loss of interest and pleasure in activities that used to bring joy, low energy, low intrinsic motivation, difficulty concentrating, appetite changes, and insomnia. She looks exhausted, but she never sleeps through classes. In fact, her attendance and academic performance have been excellent, which explains why her adviser and teachers have not suspected she was seriously depressed. Even her three close friends—two in the boardinghouse and one at the school newspaper offices—are unaware, or at least have not expressed concern. And although Liz shares with me that she sometimes thinks life is not worth living, she has no intention of hurting or killing herself. Nevertheless, I double-check that she understands how to contact the counselor on call, suggest some healthy ways of coping, and am pleased that she agrees to another meeting.


chapter two


Two Parenting Paradoxes

BEFORE DAWN, JUST A FEW DAYS BEFORE YOU PICKED UP THIS BOOK, four smartphone alarms jolted four parents awake.

In Los Angeles, California, thirteen-year-old Jacob’s father woke him up to shower and eat half a protein bar before playing through the first movement of Brahms’s second piano concerto and uploading the recording to his teacher in Stockholm, Sweden.

In the suburbs of Berlin, Germany, eleven-year-old Bruno’s father woke him up and stuffed two bagged meals into his rucksack before Bruno caught the bus to the third round of the Junior Olympics diving team tryouts.

In downtown Shenzhen, China, eight-year-old Jinsu’s mother woke her up to study English flash cards before eating a breakfast of zhou (rice porridge) and walking to school with her grandmother.

And in Delhi, India, sixteen-year-old Poonam had already been awake for twenty-five minutes when her mother knocked and opened the door to the bedroom she shared with her sister. The glow from Poonam’s laptop gave her face a ghostly hue and exaggerated the bags under her eyes when she glanced up. Her mother smiled as Poonam’s gaze returned to the screen and the videoconference with her American college admissions consultant.

Every morning, parents all over the world wake up and get their kids going. Many of those children and teenagers have the luxury of going to school. Others, less fortunate, go to work to help their families. The least privileged go out looking for food, some without the benefit of parents or surrogate caregivers to help launch the day. A few young people go searching for the next adult who might toss a coin in their cup or pay them to perform a service, no matter how degrading or dangerous.

As with their homes, cultures, and caregivers, the pressure that kids feel varies enormously. The pressure to fill the void in one’s stomach and the pressure to fill the void in one’s résumé are worlds apart. Yet common to all youth is their need to feel loved. Indeed, kids will do almost anything to appear competent, to seem worthy of attention and affection, especially in the eyes of parents. For this reason, parental pressure is uniquely potent.

Young people’s instinctive craving and striving for parental love is rivaled only by parents’ drive to protect their young. Together, these forces forge intergenerational bonds that are essential to the survival of the species. Millennia ago, children who lacked value in their parents’ eyes were abandoned and often perished. Even today, in some subcultures, children who lack worth to parents are suffering physical abuse, sexual abuse, and even murder.1 Compared to prostitution, honor-based violence, and mob executions, unhealthy parental pressure seems paltry but can also be lethal. Around the globe, children who lack worth to parents—or who feel that way—are succumbing emotionally. Their instinctive craving and striving for parental approval makes those young people especially vulnerable to parental pressure.


  • "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."—Abby Freireich and Brian Platzer, education columnists for The Atlantic and the authors of Taking the Stress out of Homework
  • "An interesting perspective on parental pressure that will be compelling to parents interested in the intersection of a child's academic success and emotional health."—Library Journal
  • “The Unlikely Art of Parental Pressure beautifully illuminates and addresses the delicate dance that parents are faced with on a daily basis.”—Chad Beguelin, playwright & lyricist of The Prom
  • "Parental Pressure is often detrimental to a child’s desire to participate in sports. This book 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.”—Gregg Berhalter, head coach, U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team
  • “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 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.”—Michael G. Thompson, PhD, bestselling author of Raising Cain and Best Friends; Worst Enemies
  • "There is an 'art' to parental pressure and Drs. Thurber and Weisinger give you the brushstrokes and tools you need to become a master at healthy prodding that supports children and avoids harmful results or pushback. One of the most helpful parenting books of the last decade."—Susan Newman, PhD, social psychologist and author of Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day.
  • “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 parents and children, as they both strive to be their best.”—Tyler Chapman Tingley, EdD, 13th principal of Phillips Exeter Academy, 1st co-head, Avenues: The World School
  • "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."—Yael Schonbrun, PhD, Assistant Professor Brown University and cohost of the Psychologists Off the Clock Podcast
  • "An empowering guide to helping children succeed."—Publishers Weekly
  • "Drs. Thurber and Weisinger's work teaches parents how to transform unhealthy parental pressure into a guiding force that will help any child navigate their life more effectively and in the process, boost the quality of the parent-child relationship."—Gilda Ross, student and community projects coordinator, GlenBard Parent Series
  • "No one goes to school to be a parent hence the African saying that 'it takes a village to raise a child.' This book is timely during this pandemic where many children are casualties of Covid-19. Reading the book reminded me that, children are essential for the survival of our species—a sober reminder for those in schools where the focus is raising children in partnership with parents and guardians."
     —Temba Maqubela, Headmaster at Groton School
  • "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.
    I realize now, as a professional educator, that all parents inexplicably focus on every performance marker, and I have a new 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!"—Katherine G. Windsor, EdD,, head of Miss Porter’s School, instructor, University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education
  • "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"—Amy Morin, author of 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don't Do and 13 Things Strong Kids Do
  • "The Unlikely Art of Parental Pressure is a timely, insightful, exploration of a challenge that all parents face as they help navigate their children's journey toward success. The book provide a broad and deep examination of issues that parents will immediately resonate with and offers practical solutions that parents can actually use with themselves and their children."—Jim Taylor, PhD, author of Positive Pushing: How to Raise a Successful and Happy Child
  • “With a keen eye to the never easy dynamics of parenting kids with potential, Thurber and Weisinger show a better way to avoid the paradox of harming our kids when all we really want is to make their lives easier than our own.”—Michael Ungar, PhD, director, Resilience Research Centre, Dalhousie University; author, Change Your World: The Science of Resilience and the True Path to Success
  • "Like the ghost of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, Thurber and Weisinger guide you behind the scenes to give you a panoramic view of the effects parental pressure can have on our children. While reading this book, you may also uncover the residual footprint your own parents parenting style has had on your life. Thurber and Weisinger enlighten and education, teaching us how to reframe how to convey our positive intentions in a way that fosters a healthy and supportive space for our children to thrive."—Brittney-Nichole Connor-Savarda, founder, Catalyst 4 Change; Generation EQ

On Sale
Jul 20, 2021
Page Count
272 pages
Hachette Go

Dr. Christopher Thurber

About the Author

Chris Thurber, Ph.D. is a board-certified clinical psychologist, educator, author, and father.  He earned his BA from Harvard University in 1991 and a PhD in clinical psychology from UCLA in 1997.  In 1999, after a two-year post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Washington School of Medicine, Thurber accepted a position as psychologist and instructor at Phillips Exeter Academy, a coeducational, independent school in seacoast New Hampshire.

Hendrie Weisinger, Ph.D., is a world-renowned psychologist and pioneer in the field of pressure management, as well as the author of a number of bestselling books. He has consulted with and developed programs for dozens of Fortune 500 companies and government agencies, and has taught in Executive Education and Executive MBA programs at Wharton, UCLA, NYU, Cornell, Penn State, and MIT. 

Learn more about this author