Most of us have had one of those days when we’ve thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice if I could be a kid again, without all the stress of my job and the pressure to succeed?” But did you ever consider that many kids are feeling the same stress that adults feel?

In a culture that emphasizes success, children are bombarded daily to grow up too quickly. They are pressured to learn to read and count even before they can walk; to outperform the other kids in their kindergarten class; to be self-sufficient, productive and disciplined. This rushed childhood creates undue stress that many psychologists believe can have devastating effects.

Children who suffer the stresses of adulthood will also exhibit the ailments of adulthood. More and more children are suffering stress-related health problems, like ulcers by the age of seven, and they are experiencing sleep disorders and bedwetting. Suicide and depression, once restricted to adults, have found their way into the child’s community. To complicate matters, many children have blocked their learning skills because of anxiety-promoted memory lapses and an exaggerated fear of failure.

Single parents and two-career families often push their children as hard as they push themselves. These children develop a feeling that they are unworthy of their busy parents’ time and feel rejected when their parents leave them behind with multiple sitters and caretakers.

Many parents seek to create “super kids,” pressuring their children into becoming premature adults and making them overly competitive. Ironically, in their eagerness to create an academic prodigy, overzealous parents often create an underachiever. When these children fail to live up to their parents’ expectations (which are often unrealistic and created by media hype), the children become so anxiety-ridden that they cannot perform.

Dr. David Elkind, author of The Hurried Child, advises parents to let children be children. His research suggests that students are more likely to have academic success if they are not hurried through their early childhood by parents who overestimate their competence and overexpose them to academic pressures.

Children have a heavy burden to bear when they feel that their performance is connected with the love they receive, and they are letting down their parents if they are not successful. These feelings even carry into their adult careers.

How do we avoid hurrying our children through childhood?

Remember that play is an important part of childhood. Pure play is needed to reduce stress, foster creativity, and experience joy. Adults shouldn’t turn play into work, and they shouldn’t try to teach children during their play period. When parents must leave their kids with others, they should tell their kids that they are going to miss them and that they wish they didn’t have to go away.

Remember, it’s impossible to accelerate emotional maturation. Children may act grown up, but they don’t feel grown-up. They may speak “adult,” while their feelings are crying “child.” In the final analysis, childhood is a significant part of life, and it should be respected and valued. Kids are entitled to their childhood, and we shouldn’t hurry them through this stage.


  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.