Ep 255: How Much Should Parents Push?

Jennifer Breheny Wallace, author of Never Enough, shares insight into modern day “achievement culture.” We discuss the hidden consequences of pushing teens too hard, and how to help teens balance achievement and fulfillment.

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Full Show Notes

Parenting teenagers in today's world comes with a unique set of challenges, not least of which is the increasing pressure on teens to excel in all areas of their lives. From school achievements to extracurricular activities, our teens are bombarded with the message that they need to do more, be more, and achieve more just to matter. But what if the secret to raising healthy, happy, and successful teenagers is not about pushing them to achieve more but helping them understand that they already matter?

In this eye-opening episode of Talking to Teens, we're delving deep into the world of high-achieving teens and the often toxic culture surrounding their quest for success. We're joined by Jenny Wallace, a seasoned journalist who has spent the last four years investigating the rise of toxic achievement culture across America. Jenny's work, including hundreds of interviews with teenagers, parents, and experts, culminates in her latest book, Never Enough, which aims to shed light on this pressing issue and offer practical solutions for parents.

Jenny brings a wealth of experience to the table, having worked as a journalist for 60 minutes and frequently contributed to The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. As a parent of three teenagers herself, Jenny's insights are not only research-based but deeply personal, making her guidance invaluable for anyone navigating the complex world of teen parenting today.

The Weight of Achievement

Jenny begins by addressing the mounting evidence suggesting that teenagers attending high-achieving schools are at an increased risk for anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. She discusses the pervasive "never enough" mentality that drives teens to prioritize achievements over their well-being, often at a significant cost. By shining a light on this issue, Jenny hopes to encourage parents to reevaluate how they define success for their teenagers.

The Power of Mattering

At the heart of Jenny's message is the concept of mattering—ensuring that our teens feel valued for who they are, not just what they accomplish. Jenny's research reveals a stark reality: many teens believe their parents value their achievements more than their intrinsic worth as individuals. She shares compelling stories and data that illustrate the importance of fostering a sense of unconditional mattering in our children's lives.

Practical Solutions for Parents

Jenny doesn't just diagnose the problem; she offers a pathway forward. She shares practical strategies and personal anecdotes that demonstrate how parents can create a home environment where teens know they matter regardless of their achievements. From simple exercises to meaningful conversations, Jenny provides actionable advice for parents looking to support their teens in healthy and sustainable ways.

In the Episode

Our conversation with Jenny is packed with insights and advice, covering topics such as:
  • Recognizing the signs of toxic achievement culture in our homes and schools
  • Strategies for communicating unconditional love and support to our teens
  • The importance of prioritizing our own well-being as parents
  • Success stories of teens who thrive within high-achieving environments
  • And much more!

This episode is a must-listen for parents, educators, and anyone who plays a significant role in the life of a teenager. Jenny Wallace's informed and compassionate approach to tackling the toxic achievement culture offers a beacon of hope for families navigating these challenges.

Don't miss this powerful conversation on how we can help our teenagers understand that they matter—not because of what they achieve, but because of who they are. Listen to the full episode and subscribe to Talking to Teens today.

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Creators and Guests

Andy Earle
Andy Earle
Host of the Talking to Teens Podcast and founder of Write It Great
Jennifer Breheny Wallace
Jennifer Breheny Wallace
MomX3, Journalist, Author of NYT Bestseller Never Enough: When Achievement Culture Becomes Toxic – And What We Can Do About It #youmatter
Ep 255: How Much Should Parents Push?
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