Chronic parental pressure begins the day a child is born and it probably never ends. We want to do everything perfectly and ensure that we raise a successful child. Who doesn’t want an A-grader, class topper and a child who is flawless in every area of their life? In this race to raise a perfect child, parents push their kids to great lengths. Couple that with societal pressure and family expectations, Phew ! the stakes get raised. It’s painful to say that even in this day and age parents are pressuring their kids to the extent of psychological damage for the sake of grades. It is not wrong to push our children, but when it continues to a point where a child becomes fearful and disturbed, it leads to detrimental consequences for them.
Back home, I was surprised to hear that three-year-old children are prepped for preschool admission tests. 3-year-old ! If they are not good enough, they have to bear the feelings of rejection from the school and disappointments from their parents at a tiny age. In what world does this make sense… (Oh sorry I forgot… Our world!). In the west, the only reason why a child does not get accepted is because of space issues not because he is unable to write his numbers or alphabets ! and back home, it is shocking to watch kids go through this bizarre and complete unfair system.
This story is about a boy who is an only child. When he was 3, his mother started prepping him to go to a prestigious school in the city. It was established by the British and still retains those standards, so naturally, it’s choice number one on every parent’s list, and they dream of the day they’d be able to tell the society that their kid had been accepted. She would read books to her son, make him practice his handwriting, hired tutors and exhausted her every effort on him. Her whole day was revolved around that goal. He turned 4 and finally the day came. He gave the test and according to the school’s standards, failed. As you can imagine, the mother was severely devastated, and the poor kid got the beating of his life (not that his mother spared him during the prepping ordeal). She took out all her frustrations on the little boy. The boy was considered smart compared to other kids, but his mother was so clouded by her expectations and standards that she never saw his brilliance.
The mother felt let down by a 4-year-old child. She never looked at him in the same way and brought it up in every conversation to humiliate the child. According to her, she was trying to shame him so he remembers the embarrassment of failing and would always try hard. (I don’t know, who can understand such logic). She put him in a regular school and still kept her expectations high. She made sure his homework was done to perfection, and he had to top every year in his class. He had to participate in extracurricular activities and be a top-notch athlete.
That child is ten years old now. He has severe health problems not to mention so many psychological issues. His personality is shattered and doesn’t know how to enjoy being a kid anymore. This child has paused his life and doesn’t know how to move forward anymore. He has become fearful of every step he takes thinking he will disappoint his mother again.
I may be giving an extreme example but consider this, we are all doing this with our children in some mild manner, and it doesn’t take long to cross the lines. We get disappointed when they don’t make the team or don’t do well enough in class. When their teacher brings up an issue, we know how our behavior changes and everything revolves around the child’s problem. We all do it but it’s different when you display that disappointment to the child and make sure they feel ashamed. Moreover, the underlying issue is that you are hating the way this child is making you feel like a failed parent and that’s why we act out against them.
My friends, there is no pride in saying, your child goes to a prestigious school, gets certain grades and is an excellent athlete when inside they are suffering and looking at you with contempt. I would like to ask such parents,
– How successful are you?
– What prestigious school did you go to?
– How happy did you make your parents?
When you have not been perfect yourselves and couldn’t fulfill your parent’s dreams because of your limitations, how can you inflict the same pain on your children, knowing what it feels like? It does not give you the right to put your child through physical torture and mental trauma to achieve “Your” goals. It is one thing to push your child towards a bright future if they have the natural tendency to get there and another when a child has to fight tooth and nail to fulfill his parent’s ambitions.
Everyone comes in this world with dreams and plans that fail 80% of the time. We have to stop being so disappointed with ourselves. Parenting is hard enough, we already feel like failures every single minute and when a child fails, we feel they have validated those fears. There are families I know with children who failed year after year. They got so disheartened to the point that they got tired of apologizing to teachers and principals and left the child to their fate. Luckily when they were left alone, the children did well, and now they have honors and masters degrees. On the contrast, there were other families, who had very hard working children and today hold average jobs. It is not worth it, to push your child to a breaking point only to lose them in the end and fill their hearts with resentment.
There are no guarantees in life. The only way families get through it, is when we make the most of the opportunity given to us knowing that if it doesn’t work out, we still can carve out a new path when it is necessary. I sincerely urge all parents, provide the best tools at your disposal, guide your children well but more importantly teach them not to give up on themselves. Let them lead their own lives even if they are just 4. As parents, don’t take their minor setbacks to heart. They are meant to make mistakes, and the sooner they make them, the faster they will mature. They are not stupid or dumb; they are just learning. It takes time, and you have to give them that and be patient above all. As Dr. Seuss would say “A person is a person, no matter how small”. Treat your child with respect.
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