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With board exams results coming out for one board after another, it really is time to remind yourself – your child is a person with dreams beyond her marksheet.
It’s that time of the year when students await their results with bated breath. The Internet was taken by storm when it was recently revealed that the CBSE 12th results topper obtained a percentage of 99.6. As happy was I to hear of Raksha Gopal’s hard work and determination paying off so well, I had a thought. What about the children who don’t score that well? With the societal standards we have set for ‘success’ as Indian parents, how long would it have taken for most (if not all) parents to start comparing their children to this girl once these results were declared?
I then had a thought more dreadful than this. How long would it be till I opened the newspapers only to find that in the next few days, students had committed suicide due to poor results? Or even results that most would rejoice upon hearing but to them or their parents simply weren’t ‘good enough’? To be brutally honest, this happens every single year. Results declaration followed by disappointment and soon, fatal decisions by children.
College cut-offs are so unrealistic and ridiculous. Expecting a 99% and nothing less to get into the first cut? This has been on for ages and I remember the same situation more than a decade ago when I was applying to college! We may not be able to change this scenario soon but can surely, as parents and caregivers, work towards mental and emotional balance and happiness for our children.
Years of providing psychological therapy to adolescents has brought me closer to their reality and made me a part of their world. The pressures they face, from school and parents, constant comparison to peers, siblings or the neighbour’s kids, competition in today’s world to be the ‘best’ etc are unrelenting. I had a 13-year-old boy’s parents who were grooming him for IIT (as it was the parents’ alma mater) and were taking away his childhood in the process. The child attended so many classes and had no time to play, was unhappy and every time he asked for leeway he was put on a guilt trip by his father retorting, ‘all that we are doing for you and you are ungrateful!’
An 18-year-old girl was so scared that her classmates have their future goals ‘figured out’ and that she was looking at more of a creative pursuit than academic; in her fear she agreed to what her parents wanted, knowing fully well she wouldn’t be able to do so as it wasn’t in line with her personality or interests. She feared that her parents wouldn’t understand her at all and that she would fail in what they wanted her to do instead. This was giving her sleepless nights. She was soon insomniac, lost a considerable amount of weight and was constantly hyper and restless. It took months to help ensure a calm state of mind for her to even take the board examinations.
I urge parents to be the supporters for their children at this crucial time more than judges waiting to carry out instructions or directions post the results declaration.
Explain your expectations, the right way – Parents can surely have dreams and aspirations for their child but does that mean only their dream matters? Does it make the child’s dream any less important? Stop fearing what’s different and realize that your child’s dream and view for themselves may be different than yours and that it is okay! Tell them what you want and desire for them but also be open to the concept of their dreams and aspirations. Again – listen, process, understand – and then guide. Ultimately you would want to see your child happy doing something THEY love rather than miserable at something that YOU want.
Respect – This is paramount in helping your child deal with the real world outside the haven of school and home. If you cannot respect your child’s thoughts and emotions, the self-esteem you diminish for them will make their college and work life far more difficult than ever. They need to feel valued despite their limitations and comfortable in the knowledge that you accept them as they are. Children feel like mere puppets when parents impose their expectations on them – feeling that they are merely there to carry out ‘orders’ to chart their own life. One doesn’t need to give respect as per age and seniority but to each individual, especially one’s own children. How we treat them is how they would treat others. Humiliation and shame are NOT motivators for any child.
My day today flew by in a whirlwind of calls and messages from parents and students informing me of their marks. The outpouring of love and gratitude is overwhelming. However the key element I took away from today was simply this: As I received calls from so many students with some scoring very well and others not so well in some subjects, it’s important to remind them that they saw it through and came out the other side victorious. It’s not just the high scorers who deserve appreciation, but those as well who may not have the best marks, and that too with equal excitement and encouragement. Marks may be high or low but it is important to reassure them that it is not the marks one must be proud of but their own selves. They could’ve given up but they didn’t. That who they are, their talents and attitude is beyond a mark sheet.
Having students remind you of words you spoke to them, words of kindness or support or sometimes just being a person who listened when everyone else seemed too busy to give them time, was surprising. One doesn’t realize every day how much each conversation matters to young kids, how much they remember and how affected they can be through the words we choose.
So, celebrate the child and his or her effort, not a score. The child is more than a number. So much more. Tell them that!
Top image via Unsplash
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