Parenting: The sky is (not) the limit! (http://dawn.com/2012/10/14/parenting-the-sky-is-not-the-limit/)

Arif had been tense since the last two months. As the top debater of his school, he had won many medals. His other passion was cricket and the school team was not considered complete without him. However, his studies suffered because of these activities. Although his parents proudly displayed the trophies and medals he had won, they never hesitated to show their disappointment with his grades. Finally, he decided to leave the school cricket team and did not enrol for the interschool debate contest. He wanted to devote all his time to his studies and come up to his parents’ expectations. On the result day, his teacher praised him for the improvement he had shown and urged him to keep up the effort.

“I was very excited when I proudly handed over my report card to my parents. I had more than 70 per cent marks in all the subjects, but to my frustration, they were still not satisfied.
Mummy was expecting a position and Daddy compared my result with that of my cousin. I feel I can never come up to their expectations. How can I excel in every field of life?” he asks with a sigh.

We, as parents, are seldom satisfied with our children’s academic performance. We coax them, urge them, nudge them and push them to do more, to improve. For us the sky is the limit! But do we ever stop to think and ask ourselves whether we are being fair to our child? Are our expectations from him/her realistic or are we over burdening our children?

Most parents become defensive and argue that they want their child to perform well for the sake of his bright future. After all, he is the one who will benefit in his future life from the success. But is it not true that a child’s achievement is also directly linked to the parents’ prestige? Does it not satisfy our ego to boast in front of our friends and family about our child’s extraordinary performance?

Parents have the tremendous power to affect their child’s emotional health and attitude towards life. Our opinion of him plays a great role in the child’s self-esteem and what he feels and thinks about himself. But sometimes, in our eagerness to see them at the top, we unintentionally harm their confidence and sense of worth. Instead of making a child feel that life is a race, which he must win to feel loved and wanted, we should make him believe that he is loved for what he is, not for what he achieves!

Shaista, a mother of three children, says, “My second son is the most intelligent among my children. He gets good grades although he studies less than his siblings. Previously, I used to scold the others, setting him as their role model. But I felt their grades declined over the years. Then I realised my mistake. Each one of my children has a distinct personality and all of them cannot excel in every field. After my husband and I drew a line on what were our expectations from the less brilliant ones, we were able to help them better. And now I feel they are improving. My youngest is a great sportsman while the eldest has a very creative mind. Their talents were nurtured once they were given the opportunity.”

Parents must learn to create a proper balance between asking or expecting too much from a child and not asking enough of him. We must understand that our expectations may become a burden instead of a boost for our children.

This does not mean that we should not urge them to improve their grades. But there should be a difference between nudging and pushing a kid. Our children are like tender saplings which need a correct amount of water and sunlight to grow. We all know that an excess of these will do more harm than help. By creating a balance between what we want from him and what he can possibly achieve, we can gently lead a child towards a better performance.

The “you have done well, but you could have done better” attitude is frustrating for a child. It develops a sense of insecurity and decreases self esteem. In extreme cases, the continuous dissatisfaction of parents can make a child rebellious and often his performance suffer. Impatience, haste and comparison with other children can do more harm than good.

So, instead of declaring the sky as the limit, parents should never make the academic performance of their children a matter of personal pride. By trying to understand their strong points and helping them out in their weaknesses, we can boost our children’s self-esteem, so that they cater for themselves with more confidence in their abilities when they venture out into the world to start their lives on their own.

 
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