If you have kids, you probably spend a lot of time thinking about their future, trying to decide when to push them to try harder and when to back off. We read about Tiger Moms who send their kids to Harvard or Carnegie Hall, and we might think, "Should I have done more?
We also hear about the sometimes tragic effects of parents' efforts to launch their children toward success and we think, "Thank goodness that's not my family." As a mother myself, and as a psychologist who specializes in families, I am deeply familiar with these questions.
But when we think about the problem in this individualistic way - how best to provide for my child - we ignore larger socioeconomic and political circumstances that make families insecure and push the drive to succeed into overdrive.
Wages for most Americans are stagnating. Health care and a college education are not a universal right, but a personal expense. Almost every family fears - and many also experience - economic hardship. With very few safety nets, families have to fend for themselves. Understandably, parents are anxious.
So it's not surprising that many well-meaning parents push kids toward what they hope will ensure a secure future; good grades, top colleges, and prestigious jobs. But we can't assure a secure future for our kids by pushing them to achieve more. Instead, we need a shift in our thinking: from anxiety to empathy, from me to us.