By Farahnaz Zahidi
April 3rd, 2014
(We mothers need everything… everything).
That is how disturbing certain advertisements aired on TV today are. They show a cross-section of mothers whose sense of validation and joy is dependent on their children becoming over-achievers.
Most of these advertisements are disguised with a ‘feel good’ message, the underlying message, however, is disturbing and sadly, a reflection of what our society’s parents are unwittingly morphing into – a race of achievement-hungry, hard-task masters who want their children to be their trophy to show off. The models posing as mothers stretch their necks upwards as a mark of pride and arrogance while the pressurised children push themselves harder and harder.
What do we parents actually want at the end of the day? A happy child who enjoys his school and college years, has friends and good social skills, is a responsible citizen, a good human and takes studies seriously?
If only the list would end there. But sadly, it doesn’t.
Children, from the day they are born, are our status symbols. And we tend to be misled into thinking that this is what good parenting is all about. There are certain types of body language parents display when they talk about their children.
Look around you at the times when someone asks another person which school their children go to, what the child’s hobbies are and particularly grades of the Cambridge International Examinations (CIE). If your kid got As and A-stars, you make sure to ask other parents what their kid got. But if your kid is a ‘shame to the family’ because he/she got Cs and Ds, you change the topic and adopt an unsaid apologetic stance.
The child is supposed to be super human.
He or she must play soccer, get all As, have friends, be in an elite school, be a member of the drama society, play a musical instrument and of course, his or her ultimate aim in life should be going to Ivy League universities or McGill.
That is why we gave birth to them right? So that they fulfil our unfulfilled dreams.
The pressure on these young people is often underrated but it can have devastating effects. Lowered self-esteem, psychopathic fear of failure and deep-rooted depression are some. It is worse if other siblings are achievers and one child is made to feel less.
Every year Pakistan has cases where young adults and even children commit suicide due to the pressure of getting good grades and being high-performers. Most top-rated institutes have such sad cases in their records.
A heart-wrenching case in point was a news story printed yesterday. A 14-year-old child from Malakand in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) shot himself because he had failed in his exams for the third time. This incidence is surprisingly not from an urban area. I am not implying that the bereaved parents of this boy were necessarily pressurising him. I do not know and it is not my place to comment. But generally, society is pushing children towards this.
Discipline is good and so is ambition. But everything has to have both limits and balance. And striking that balance is the key. Encouraging and even nudging the child towards a better future is good.
But what if your child is one who cannot get very good grades?
What if the child goes against the parents’ plan of ‘all sciences’ and wants to choose a social science majors?
What if your child is not a go-getter?
What if your child is not making you proud in the way you want him or her to?
What’s important is that your child, at any age or stage, is making an effort and is growing into a responsible human being who may tomorrow actually end up doing very well in life, whatever the grades.
But for that, you need to be your child’s rock. Celebrate your child’s achievements and make him see hope even in the face of failure.
They say no one loves you as selflessly as parents do. Today’s over-driven, over-ambitious parents may have to prove that by having realistic expectations and a better value system in which respect is not on the basis of schools and grades.