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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.