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Pushing kids to reach their potential is a given for parents but how do you know when it’s too much? A new Pepperdine University study suggests parental pressure can have a negative impact on a child’s grade point average.

The study, published in the Psi Chi Journal of Psychological Research, surveyed 158 parents and 70 middle school students and focused on parental involvement and expectations.

The study found that when healthy, positive expectations are communicated, a child’s grade point average (GPA) is strengthened. Not surprisingly, parental pressure was found to have a negative impact on GPA. So when and how do expectations turn into unhealthy pressure?

“Parental pressure can present itself when expectations are above the abilities of the child, or when they involve behaviors that cause a child to feel stressed,” says Pepperdine student Madison Weir, who worked on the study. “Children can feel academic pressure when they lack confidence in their abilities, feel their parents are never satisfied with their performance, fear coming home with their grades, or feel as though they are untrusted and disappointing in their academic output.”

Created using the results of the Pepperdine study, here’s a list of dos and don’ts for parents hoping to have a positive effect on their kids’ grades without putting unhealthy pressure on them:

DO celebrate both the big and small victories. Show your children that their success is something to be proud of!

DO explain the importance of school and communicate honestly about your expectations.

DO tell your kids that with hard work, they have the ability to accomplish anything they set their mind to.

DO identify progress and the habits that led to it. Focus on how they’ve improved and remind them they can do it!

DON’T do your children’s homework for them. Give them the confidence they need to find the right answer.

DON’T compare, and don’t let them compare! Self-improvement is more important than the score a classmate got on a recent science quiz.

DON’T focus on their weaknesses; maximize their strengths instead.

DON’T let your children believe that their worth is decided by their grades. Make sure they know you love them regardless.

Showing interest in your child’s academics by offering personal guidance or support from a tutor, attending school events and showing you care about what they’re learning about are all great ways to get involved. The more involved you are (minus the heavy pressure), the more supported your kids will feel.

—Erica Schindler is a junior at Fairfield University studying digital journalism. She lives in Scotch Plains.