A lot of parents push their kids to succeed academically, using a style of parenting called “Tiger Parenting.” They believe that making every waking moment about learning, practically from birth, virtually guarantees their child will become a straight-A student, get into a top college, and have a high-profile career. But new research shows that placing too much importance on academic achievement actually makes a child less likely to succeed.

Dr. Su Yeong Kim is a professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Texas, and she’s been studying the effects of Tiger Parenting on hundreds of families for more than a decade. She says that most Tiger Moms and Dads start with flashcards when their kids are infants, and move to nonstop studying, and wall-to-wall lessons before they reach kindergarten. But instead of creating intellectual geniuses, she says kids are more likely to get the idea that they’re never good enough, a feeling that can last for decades. 

In fact, a lot of experts say the Tiger Mom attitude is a lot like bullying. It results in domineering behavior, anger when the kid fails, and punishment. And that can lead to stress and anxiety, increased depression, and fear of failure in kids, as well as alienation from family, lower GPAs, and an increased likelihood the child will drop out of school early. 

Dr. Kim says that children are better off academically,  and emotionally, with a more flexible, supportive style of parenting. In other words, parents should encourage kids to do their best, but still support them if they fall short, by focusing on the effort they put into their studies and not the end result. Dr. Kim also recommends making sure our children know that we love them, without question, whether they get an A or a D, or if they decide they’d rather play basketball than the violin.