Taking off the Pressure Cooker

Have you ever lost a toddler?   Or narrowly missed having a car accident?  If so, most likely your heart was thundering in your chest, it was difficult to breathe, and a feeling of paralysis took over.  You just couldn’t think.  Once I lost my two-year-old daughter at a huge mall in Phoenix, and I couldn’t even remember what color of clothes she was wearing when I reported her missing to a security guard.  I was in fight-or-flight, a response that is sometimes necessary for our very survival.  And, even when I got her back in my arms, it took a long time for me to settle down and realize everything would be fine.

Too much pressure makes kids shut down


  1. Only enroll your child in activities that he/she excels in and that are easy.  Having your child take difficult piano or foreign language classes only adds to his/her “pressure cooker”.

  2. Realize that your child’s performance is not a reflection of you.  There will always be a better performing student than your child.  Don’t compare your child to other children, especially when grades are concerned.

  3. If at all possible, place your child in a school setting that will understand learning differences or home-school your child until the learning gaps that are missing can be filled back in.

  4. Understand that grades in elementary school are important but don’t put too much pressure on your child to get straight A’s or B’s.  If your child isn’t performing well in a subject, talk to the teacher and form a plan for improvement. It isn’t until high school that grades are crucial and carried over to the college level.

  5. Usually, students with learning differences are unorganized.  Set up a system for your child along with the teacher so that you are emailed assignments or your child has a calendar and you check assignments daily.  Letting a student get far behind on homework only adds to the fight-or-flight sensation.

  6. Give your child some “down” time every day. Playing is important, especially free time outside.

  7. Limit video games and electronics.  The constant noises and images often contribute to a struggling student’s frustration or the student retreats into them as a form of escape that isn’t conducive to connecting the body with the brain. Young children especially need outdoor play.

  8. Understand that a learning disability or learning difference doesn’t just magically disappear.  Steps must be taken to fill in missing learning gaps that prevent academic success.  Understanding and dealing with your child’s learning difference takes the pressure off.

  9. Don’t tell your child to “try harder” or “work harder”.  Most students want to succeed and do well.  They are probably already working at capacity and don’t need to be told they are lazy or not working hard enough.

  10. Understand that for some students learning can be physically painful.  The simple act of reading or writing can cause stomach aches, arm cramps, or eye strain.  If something is physically painful, it is a normal reaction to avoid it.

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