Parental pressure and stressed children

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By Dr Jagannath Patnaik, Vice Chancellor, ICFAI University, Sikkim;
Eminent Educationist , Motivational Speaker and Spiritual Mentor

Do we do everything in our power to encourage achievement or do we do everything in our power to let our kids fall flat on their faces ? Have you ever been so troubled of failing at something that you decided not to try it at all? Or has a fear of failure meant that, subconsciously, you undermined your own efforts to avoid the possibility of a larger failure? The answer is- failure is not the absence of success, but a

Failing a subject can be disheartening but it is a good opportunity to review your academic progress. If you become infected with Covid-19, you’re being evicted from your apartment, you have lost wages and so on. It could become a lesson in being careful about what you wish for not about what happens after failing a subject. No matter what you’re going through, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it may seem hard to get to it but you can do it and you will soon see a break in the clouds!

With the declaration of the board examinations results, what every parent should know is – it is just exams and numbers, it is not the end of the world. Success depends on  what one chooses to do with their resources, the actions they take- examination scores are not the be all and end all of the definition of success.

Parental pressure on their children to do well in the board exams is intense. There have been many incidents in the past where students have committed suicide during exams and on the result day. But what can be so extreme that students decide to end their lives?

Students are more stressed than ever – this is a rapidly growing problem throughout the world. Fear of failure among children has assumed epidemic proportions. This has caused children to experience debilitating anxiety ahead of a test, sports competition, or a recital. This hinders students from giving their best.

There has been a concerted effort in recent years to protect children from failure to safeguard their fragile self-esteem. This seems logical – failure is unpleasant. It tends to make you look bad, you have negative feelings of disappointment and frustration, and you often have to start again. In fact, India has one of the highest suicide rates among people aged between 15 and 29. Although the reasons are myriad but failure in examination, unemployment, and depression are some major reasons why people end up taking such extreme measures. Added to this pressure there are those parents who place mountains of responsibility on their children. One can only imagine what the child goes through.

The best time of the student’s lives which they should be enjoying and cherishing  becomes unbearably overwhelming for many parents. Parents want their children to reach great heights and end up adding more stress on their students. But it becomes an either-or statement- both parental expectations with undue pressure, peer comparison and the inability to cope with a new environment are among the factors that tip students over the edge. Indeed it is an elephant in a room that everyone avoids. The state of academic parental pressure on our children is such that every hour a student commits suicide. Depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorders, disruptive behaviour disorders and several other mental health issues are what students suffer from.

Everyone here understands that there is no worse fate than failure. Parents want the best for their children. They oft dream of their children attending the best of universities and later securing a most respectable job in modern society. They work and earn so that they can provide for their child. While a secure and happy family environment is considered a basic necessity for healthy growth and development, there is a fine line between caring and caring too much. Parental pressure has led to the most debilitating scenarios.

The constant pressure to score good grades and get into college can ruin the joy of teaching and learning. It breaks my heart to see students depressed, stressed, ill, exhausted, neurotic and unable to appreciate an honest, well-earned A or B+. Too many internalize the implied judgment of their teachers and anxiety of their parents, and as teenagers are already abusively self-critical.

Obtaining high grades in school/college, to be at the head of the class, undertaking additional study to expand knowledge and fulfilling the expectations of their parents are all pursuits that Indian children are expected to achieve but many parents see failure as a source of pain for their child instead of an opportunity. Parental pressure and Material success leads to feeling bad about yourself; so then how do you overcome such negative feelings?  Excessive parental pressure on students does little to improve a child’s grades, rather it destroys a child’s self confidence and instills a fear of failurestress and make him or her realize that exam is  the end of their career.

Dealing with a child who has performance anxiety or an incredible fear of failure is not as difficult as it sounds. In my mind, as a parent, you need to let your child know that with success, there is always failure. Failure is a part of life. You build on failures. You need to let them know where you have failed in life, as a person. You need to share with them your life experiences, where your failures have been and how you’ve built on those failures to create a success. You can’t have success in life, without failure.

A little disappointment can actually benefit your child — as long as you teach him how to bounce back from it and cope with failure. The irony is that disappointments are actually beneficial for kids. Learning to deal with setbacks helps them develop key characteristics they’ll need to succeed, such as coping skills, emotional resilience, creative thinking, and the ability to collaborate. Parents see failure as a source of pain for their child instead of an opportunity for him to say, I can deal with this. I’m strong.

We must understand that adolescence is the age when a child needs to be handled with utmost caution and understanding as it is the character building age. Besides, the child too is curious to experiment. They are still immature and that immaturity makes it difficult for them to handle the stress that is suddenly thrown at them. Unlike other countries, peer pressure does not seem to feature in the list of woes of an Indian student. A compelling need to excel in academics coming from the family, often tending to abuse, does cripple the student’s morale and is one of the greatest causes of failure and breakdown.

Unfortunately, as the world puts increased pressure on kids to be winners, and parents feel compelled to enable them in every way possible, we’re seeing more and more kids becoming distraught over even the smallest misstep.

As a parent, it’s very important for you to address the problem quickly – and get your child back on track before he or she becomes completely derailed. This is a double-edged sword. We want kids to challenge themselves, but not at the expense of their life.

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