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Pushy parents: vile or visionary?

DEMONISED: Joseph Jackson’s reputation was tainted when it was revealevd he used to beat his son Michael

EVERY DECENT parent wants the best for their children. It’s only natural that a mother or father would want to encourage their youngsters to strive for success. But where is the line between healthy encouragement and relentless pressure?

Are pushy parents really seeking to ensure their child has a successful future ahead of them, or are they just attempting to live out their own unfulfilled dreams through their offspring?

There are many ways of looking at so-called pushy parents, yet very often, the media demonizes them as nasty control freaks, seeking to take advantage of their children. But would the Beyoncé’s and Lewis Hamiltons of this world be as successful as they are had it not been for the relentless encouragement of their fathers? No matter how society may wag their finger at so-called pushy parents, the truth is, many of these parents made huge sacrifices to ensure the success of their kids.

Matthew Knowles, father of global megastar Beyoncé, left his job as a medical equipment salesman to manage R’n’B trio Destiny’s Child. Giving up his job meant that the family’s income was reduced by 50 per cent, and forced the family to live in separate apartments.

ME AND MY GIRL: Matthew Knowles guided his daughter Beyonce to music stardom

His sacrifice was worth it, with Destiny’s Child going on to become a worldwide super group. And with Beyoncé fronting the band, she was given the platform to showcase the talent that led her to become a solo star in her own right.

Sadly, earlier this year, Matthew was dismissed as Beyoncé’s manager, amid claims that he had stolen money from his daughter on her most recent tour. The story whipped up huge controversy, which unsurprisingly painted Knowles in a negative light. It seemed that people quickly forgot how instrumental he was in enabling his daughter to become the global phenomenon that she is today.


The career of Formula One star Lewis Hamilton was inspired when his father Anthony bought him a radio-controlled car. Vowing to support his son’s ambitions as long as he did well in school, Anthony took redundancy from his position as an IT manager and became a contractor in order to keep his promise. At times, Lewis’ dad worked three jobs at a time and still found the time to attend every race.

PROUD PAPA: Anthony Hamilton steered his son Lewis to Formula One success

As Lewis’s manager, Anthony guided his son’s career, enabling him to not only become the 2008 world champion, but also the most popular Formula One star of the modern era.

Sadly, like Beyonce and her father, Lewis also parted ways with his father as his manager in 2010. But there can still be no denying that his career would not have reached the heights it has, had it not been for the sacrifice and dedication of his dad.

Hollywood star Will Smith is another dad determined to see his kids succeed. During a press conference in London last year, the Men In Black star said that his wife, actress Jada Pinkett Smith sometimes has to remind him not to push his children too hard.

“I do want to push my children to achieve, and every day, I have to remind myself – well, Jada has to remind me – that the family has to come first and the projects come second,” Will said. “That’s been difficult for me because the way that I’ve been able to achieve things and make things happen the way I want them to happen, is to adopt the mentality that nothing gets in the way. I mean, I did [the film] Ali with a broken thumb. I was like, ‘Let’s just pack the glove up a little tighter and keep going.’ I’ve always had that mentality.”


Will’s work ethic has not only enabled him to become one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, but also enabled him to guide his children Jaden and Willow to acting success too, with Jaden, 13 starring alongside his dad in The Pursuit of Happyness, and Willow, 11 teaming up with her father in the film, I Am Legend.

WORK ETHIC: Will and Jada Pinkett Smith guide their children in the entertainment industry

Willow subsequently embarked on a music career under the guidance of her parents, releasing her debut single Whip My Hair last year. Though many felt she was too young to be a pop star, many others felt that her hugely successful parents would be more than capable of successfully guiding their children through the entertainment business, as they both know it so well.

Another father who some may describe as pushy is Richard Williams, father of tennis stars Venus and Serena. In fact, Richard was such a big tennis enthusiast that he decided his future children would be stars of the sport before they were even born. He bought books and instructional videotapes, teaching himself and his wife how to play tennis so they could then teach their children – and that they did.

Nurturing his daughters’ talents from an early age, Richard moved the family from Compton to West Palm Beach so that the sisters could attend the Rick Macci tennis academy. But he later removed his daughters from the academy because of racial slurs they received from white parents during tournaments, and decided to coach them at home. In training, Richard would instruct his daughters to stand against a wall, whilst being blasted with tennis balls at rapid fire, so they could learn to defend themselves with their rackets.

VISION: Richard Willams was determined to make his daughters Venus and Serna tennis stars and his hard work has paid off

To some, his level of nurturing may be viewed as obsessive. But without his tenacity and perseverance within the white-dominated sport, as well as his drive to make his daughters a success, would they have gone on to become multiple Grand Slam winners? It’s doubtful.

Perhaps the epitome of a pushy parent is Joseph Jackson. Widely condemned for beating his children – a practice that was common (though, in retrospect, not condoned) amongst many parents of his generation – Joseph has long been scorned by the media for the way in which he disciplined his children.

But as the manager of his sons’ band The Jackson Five, Joseph, a former steelworker, instilled a strong work ethic in his children, which enabled them to become one of the most famous groups of the 1970s. Their fame provided the launch pad for lead singer Michael, whose phenomenal success earned him the title, the King of Pop.


Though Joseph’s legacy has undoubtedly been tainted by stories of his abuse towards his children, it cannot be denied that he launched the career of his late son – the world’s greatest entertainer.

Looking back at my own experience, I wish I’d had pushy parents. I was a very lazy child and my mum spoilt me rotten.

INSTRUMENTAL: Joseph Jackson (centre) guided the careers of his sons, who found fame as The Jackson Five

I did embark on many endeavours as a child, from piano lessons to drama school – but I never completed anything. And with my mum being so accommodating to my childish whims, I never felt any pressure to finish what I started – and therefore, never achieved my full potential.

It’s perhaps a lack of pushiness – better described as guidance – that causes so many of today’s youngsters to become wayward. Amidst the media’s never ending tales of youth crime/violence are the cries from the youths themselves and supposed youth representatives who cite “boredom” as the reason why some young people turn to crime. Perhaps if these kids were sternly guided into fulfilling careers by their parents, and not just left to their own devices, society would have more young success stories. Surely a pushy parent is better than an indifferent one?

Without the foresight and determination of such parents, many of today’s stars would have faded away into mediocrity and never graced the world with their presence.

It’s a huge gamble that some parents take when they decide to focus their lives on their children, and funnel all of their efforts into making their children successes. But as history has proven, when a parent invests their life into their child’s career, they can create a superstar.

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