#38: The Costs of High Expectations

Why do we as parents and educators push our kids to do “whatever it takes” to get into the best college they can? We think we are helping our kids, but are we really setting them up for all kinds of challenges in which they cannot be successful? Do we tie our own self-worth into their accomplishments? Do we realize the connection between our “pushing” and the increase in anxiety and suicidal ideation?

All those questions are up for discussion in our latest podcast with Dr. David Gleason, author of At What Cost: Defending Adolescent Development in Fiercely Competitive Schools. It’s a book that will make you uncomfortable in a much-needed way. I met David last month on a trip to Johannesburg, South Africa, and his presentation there was my most profound learning moment to date in 2018. Our conversation touches on the bind we are in as educators, parents, and society when it comes to keeping our most heartfelt commitments to our kids. Join me as we talk with David about his book and the research that brought it about—and prepare to be challenged.

We flaunt our success in front of our children, making them think they have to compete with us.

Why the emphasis on the narrow path of academic success? There are many reasons for this, such as the economy, securing our kids’ futures, and the college application process. All of this is leading to more stress, more anxiety, and an increasingly louder problem of suicidal thoughts in our children. David discusses his research into brain science, “immunity to change,” and much, much more. We must recognize the bind we’re in, the problem at the heart of it, and what’s keeping us in this pattern. We overschedule, overwork, and overwhelm our kids—and they are paying the price.


Leadership Without Easy Answers by Ron Heifetz

At What Cost: Defending Adolescent Development in Fiercely Competitive Schools by Dr. David Gleason

Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization (Leadership for the Common Good) by Robert Kegan

1 thought on “#38: The Costs of High Expectations”

  1. I was amazed that there have been no comments on this critically important piece. I’ve used and referred to this interview and other pieces re: David’s work in my writing. My apologies for not responding sooner to thank you for bringing it to our attention and not affirming your decision to open this issue for discussion and action. Rich

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