I have nearly perfect grades (4.4 GPA) and my parents are still disappointed. How do I cope with this?

I’m a junior in high school. God has blessed me with great intellect, and so I put in just enough effort at school to pull all A’s. I do not cheat; my grades are well earned.

I spend all of the resulting spare time practicing music (flute, church organ, piano, recorder), being involved with local government (working alongside elected officials), working (teacher/secretary at a music school) reading, hiking, studying the faith, etc. I love the Church and my life revolves around my faith in Christ. My parents know this well. I am considering majoring in theology. I want to devote my studies, and then my life, to Christ. I am not disrespectful, I steer clear of the drugs/sex/alcohol scene, I have a good rapport with all of my teachers, I stand up for what is right (like battling a popular, yet highly abusive and vulgar teacher) and I actively evangelize. I am an altar server and thurifer.

Yet, my parents are never satisfied with me and are ALWAYS disappointed. As soon as I think I have met their approval standard, the standards rise. For example, today I told my mom that I am academically ranked # 24 out of 300 in my high school class. Her response was, “So twenty-three people are doing better than you. You are lazy. You could be number 1, but you don’t try hard enough.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love school as well as all else that I do; I just want what I do to be enough for them, to be satisfactory. I understand that this is how they keep me focused on success, but is it worth it at the expense of my happiness?

I feel like I’m filling a bathtub that grows as I fill it or walking up a flight of stairs that keeps getting longer.

How do I cope with this stress? Are my parents too strict? Am I not applying myself? Should I honor my parents (10 commandments reference) and continue chasing after their elusive approval or ignore them when their prodding goes beyond all sanity?

Your parents are too strict. Me and my parents are in a similar situation. I was valedictorian at my high school, got a near-full scholarship to one of the best schools in the country and graduated from there, and am now in pharmacy school also on a scholarship. Never did drugs, got into legal trouble, slept around, etc. Parents still always have something to complain about with me.

However, with my situation, it’s not so much they think my scores aren’t good enough. To them, school is the only thing I do right. Everything else they have a problem with. My personality, my interests, my friends, etc.

Buddy, you can’t teach old dogs new tricks. Your parents will continue to be like that when you’re in grad school. Trust me. It’s best to become independent of them ASAP and become friends with people who actually appreciate you as a person instead of your performance.

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Does your school have a counselor or spiritual director? I’m sorry to say something that sounds so simplistic, but an Internet thread cannot possibly resolve a problem of this magnitude and complexity. I hope and pray that you’re able to find a way to honor your parents while setting healthy boundaries. It can be a tight rope to walk, I know!

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Seems like they are tiger parents. Pretty typical in my country (asian culture). It’s heartbreaking to see my friends struggle with this, but we are adults now and it seems to get better.

Best thing you could do is to take care of your health and wait till you’re independent. Respect them but you are not obligated to be the first in everything.

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Thanks. It is just hard to even consider detaching from them now because they threaten to force me to quit my job, be stuck at home (it’s not like they even let me go past the driveway in the first place), take away my musical instruments (my coping/calming method), make me look bad by sending “Luke can’t manage himself so please baby him” emails to my teachers etc.

It’s hard to watch other kids try to be half what I have become, still fail, then get a pat on the back from their parents for merely trying. Meanwhile, I have a 4.4, I just finished a term on my school district’s board of education (which means I was on TV every 2 weeks and represented 28,000 students), I was freshman & sophomore class president etc etc… but apparently I’m on track to become homeless.

I need some sanity.

Already seeing her (guidance counselor). She gives me the same advice that you have about setting boundaries. The problem is that they provide my home, food, transportation and much else. They are more than willing to take those away on my 18th birthday. I come online just to get my thoughts out and make sure I’m not the crazy one…

I have many Asian friends with tiger parents and I see many similarities between my parents and theirs. The “never enough” mentality is killer.

Firstly, I want to say congratulations on your ranking. #23 is absolutely brilliant.

Your parents are awful. They’re in the wrong, not you. I’m sorry to say that no matter what you do, or how hard you try, you will never be able to please them.

I’d recommend looking into the ‘grey rock’ technique, if you’ve not heard of it. Talk it through with your guidance counselor.

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