An actual conversation heard at a school, between a set of parents and their child who is in the 5th standard- ‘Why have you scored 3 marks lesser than Arun? Last time you had scored 5% more than him.” The child’s reply was to look downcast and hang his head down in shame. The above is not by any means an unusual trend of conversations heard, especially in the context of schools.
The point of showcasing the above conversation is to highlight the fact that parents have become so heavily dependent on making comparisons between their children and others in all aspects. This is especially prevalent when talking about their child’s accomplishments in different areas. No effort is made to see what the qualities are the child possesses and what activities are best suited for them to pursue. This is heading to a situation with parents wanting their children accomplished and on top form for everything as well. This is, in turn, leading to so much pressure on the children and having a tremendous negative impact on the mindset of the students themselves.
Several recent studies conducted in cities around India have indicated that one of the biggest sources of academic stress come from parental pressure. With the fact being that the levels of achievement are going higher and higher each year, there is a greater amount of pressure on the parents who are also becoming increasingly competitive for their own child to succeed. Therefore, it is not only in the academic arena that children are expected to succeed but also in other areas like sports and artistic pursuits like music, dance and so on. This, in turn, is, of course, having a great detrimental effect on the children who struggle to be on top of everything.
All this stems from the fact that all children are expected to be of the same mould as each other. This means, often, one overlooks the uniqueness that forms the core identity of the child. Talents that should otherwise have been given great attention are being repressed because they do not conform to what is considered good by society. As the phrase goes ‘comparing apples to oranges,’ is exactly what is being done. Instead of recognizing that they are two completely different entities with their own distinguishing features and good points, it is akin to telling the orange to be more like the apple and chastising it when it fails in this impossible attempt.
So rather than putting down the child when they fail to live up to societal expectations of model children, parents must instead reassure their children that it is okay to not succeed in everything they do. They must also learn to recognize and harness the talents their children have without making it all as a competition. This will enable the children to become their best selves possible and live their lives more fully and efficiently as adults themselves which should be the aim of all parents ultimately.
Dr. Deepti Swamy (B.A., M.Sc., M.Phil., Ph.D)
Psychologist, Trainer and Researcher