5 Ways Parents Unknowingly Increase Academic Stress

Early this year National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) invited suggestions to reduce the academic burden of the students. Students’ distress around academics and career is increasing at an alarming rate. With students’ suicide making news parents are more cautious than ever. Though we might not be directly pressurizing our children to study, we might still be building academic burden on them unknowingly. It’s time for us, the stakeholders to be aware of these subtle ways.  As one reads the article Solutions seem obvious but not easy. Implementation will require honest self analysis, tremendous patience and willpower. The scope of the word “Parent” extends to Teachers and Primary caregivers.

  1. Expectations of Parents: When kids hear their parents state their wishes for their future; it creates an impression that they have to perform at a certain level. Parents conversing about their anxieties for child’s future may convey to the child that marks in school/boards are directly proportional to future success. For example a child hearing her Father saying to the Mother “If she doesn’t get admission in good college, does she have a future” creates a negative impact on the child and builds pressure of academics.
  1. Discussion of career from a very early age: A seemingly harmless conversation at homes is asking tiny-tots what they are going to be in future. If parents are highly qualified kids also receive advice to be like their parents. For example a 4 year old gets to hear “Be a Good Doctor like your father”. The contribution of parents to such conversations and repetitiveness makes an impression on the child of what is expected of him. The child by himself starts taking stress about studies which may/may not reflect in the grades.
  1. Comparisons: Being more encouraging and supportive of a better performing child signals that marks are important for parents’ approval. Comparisons could also be among cousins too and these are very subtle. Simple statements like “Wow, your cousin got through IIM” can be damaging if a child already has low self worth. Even comparisons with former performance (“Pichli baar to jyada th. Is baar kya hua”) can create fear of falling short of expectations in children. If their grades are falling try to explore the reasons with compassion. This applies to teachers as well. Conversations with peers discussing your anxieties and fear around your child’s performance could be very stressful for the child if heard by them. If your child is not doing well in class even a simple statement like “I am not putting any pressure on my child but I hope she scores good” can be significant. Not only do the children start feeling the pressure, their self esteem maybe damaged too. Low self- esteem is often one of the core beliefs of persons who present with symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  1. Performance gets rewarded, efforts don’t: As a society our opinion of the input is informed by the quality of outcome. In fact many a time efforts are discouraged if end results are not satisfactory. As parents we unwittingly extend the same approach. Rewarding our children only when they score well implies that Marks carry value while their efforts don’t. This discourages a child and in worst cases might incline them towards using unfair means to score. In future endeavors this can be a serious handicap.
  1. Parents Attitude towards Work and Life: We are affected by our environment. Parents stress affects the mental status of the child. Seeing parents worried and anxious about their own career and lives, kids today have started wondering “Is this the life that awaits me after so much of hard work?” This decreases their motivation to study and perform.
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About Dr. Mona Choudhary

After MBBS, I did my MD(Psychiatry) from PGIMER, Dr. RML Hospital, New Delhi now a Centre of Excellence in Mental Health. As a Consultant Psychiatrist I view my clients as persons and not merely an illness to be fixed. I assess and treat various mental health disorders with the goal of making my clients more resilient. My current focus of work is Parental well being and guidance as it can significantly improve quality of life and shape our kids to withstand pressure and excel in their lives.
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21 thoughts on “5 Ways Parents Unknowingly Increase Academic Stress

    1. Very enlightening article . We as adults don’t realise that our behaviour and body language are observed very closely by out children. We should be clearly aware that our actions have consequences on our children.

      1. Thank You Suresh for taking out time to read the article and give your feedback. When parents become aware phenomenonal change can happen. Also looking forward to finalize the date for ” How to prepare for Exams” session with kids appearing for boards.

  1. Thanks Dr. Mona. This is really worth sharing.
    👍
    Specially the fourth point that we should focus more on efforts rather than result as it will prove to be a motivational factor in long term.

  2. So true Mona! Nowadays we parents ‘subtly’ and not very conciously put pressure on our kids….given the academically inclined and performance demanding schools.

    Parents like me oscillate between – kids should explore their talents, aptitude and follow their passion to unleash their potential
    And
    – a ‘safe and tried and tested – non risky’ factory line of students from schools and colleges will get our kids to be in ‘good profession with good salary for a better cateer and financial base in life’

    Good to read this thought provoking pointrs ! Thanks 🙂

    1. Thank you for your encouraging feedback. I really think we are saving enough to allow our children to follow their passions. Even if they “fail” we are there as cushions. I write “fail” cause by whose standards do they fail and who defines success. Success is so individual. We should have a dialogue with our kids on what success means to them before they start buying what media and society is selling

  3. It’s very important that parents and teachers make the children enjoy the journey of learning rather than lay too much stress on end results.

    Great blog that clearly guides us to be kinder to the children.

    Thanks a lot!

  4. Yeah definitely this article is very close to reality

    We unknowingly put pressure n after observing our life dey definitely question if this much efforts r necessary or more has to be done
    Dey should be taught if happy life is necessary or successful according to the criteria set by others.

  5. Well stated Mona!

    As grandfather, I keep reminding my daughter about these issues but it doesn’t register easily (till I raise my voice in the interest of my granddaughter ) .

    I’m forwarding this article to a few others and hope they attempt sincerely to benefit.

    Issue is that nearly everyone wants their kid to be Einstein while kid may be interested in sports or fine arts or something else. Yes, we have to guide them but should not build unnecessary pressures. Already our education system is doing that in large measure.

    Thanks for putting things in right perspective by putting them in words.

    1. Thank You Papa. Thank You Ma. You both have lead us all by example and your blessings continue to guide us. Your praise is loved and cherished deeply.

  6. This is very thought provoking article for parents Mona. Good job. Parents need to understand that how unwillingly they are putting pressure on kids of their desires and expactions without contemplating that life’s goal is to be happy which can’t be achieved by pressurizing or comparing kids or measuring their success on the base of marks and job.
    Keep writing…..

    1. Thank You Mausi. You are so right that goal of life is to be happy. And happiness is so individualistic. Let us shed our mass definitions of success.

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