Academic excellence has always been a symbol of pride and status in our society; however, it is a class divide among children that is completely driven by the adults. It’s bad enough that their future holds a cut-throat world where success is measured by how much money they make, on top that, undue parental pressure on children to score high marks and show excellence in every subject makes their mind a boiling pot ready to burst.
Parents, of course, envision a bright and happy future for their children, and the knowledge of how competitive it is out there, makes them push their wards to do well in every field. However, growing parental pressure on children’s academic excellence has become an area of grave concern. The number of suicides among children and the youth has increased exponentially, in recent years. Though Indian kids are spared off peer pressure unlike in the West, most of these suicides result from falling short of academic expectations set by their parents.
Why Do Parents Put Pressure on Their Children?
The dismal condition of our education system and the swelling volume of applicants each year is a stress point for most parents. Educational institutes are always in the lookout for the best and the brightest of the students to maintain their rankings, which ultimately percolates to the children in form of parental pressure. Protecting their child from a lifetime of regrets and heart-breaking rejections are a parent’s prerogative, however, sometimes they raise the stakes too high for children to cope up. Social standing is a big cause of parental pressure. Caring more about how the world perceives them, can render parents ignorant about the true talents of their children. Parents often generalise the definition of success and excellence, depending on how others are doing. Not only in academics, but children are also frequently bogged down by expectations in areas of their own interests like arts, music, theatre, especially in sports. Parental pressure in sports is unfortunately common, which ultimately makes children give up on their talents. Competitive exams, institutional elitism, and the race for a plush job have created an unhealthy culture in which children are getting stunted instead of flourishing.
Signs of Parental Pressure on Kids
Though based on good intentions, parental pressure is often mistaken as care and can have serious consequences on children. A little bit of extra attention can reveal alarming behavioural signs:
The Tell-Tale Signs of Parental Pressure in a Child
Children often reflect their fears in sleep. Examination fever or not being able to get sound sleep could be signs of parental pressure.
2. Seclusion & Cheating
Children under stress are more likely to shut everyone out. If a child stops talking about school or ignores to share important information like mark sheets, examination schedule, or school grades, it could be because they are scared to let their parents down. This fear can make children resort to unhealthy practices like cheating in examinations.
3. Lethargy & Loss of Interest
Constant fear of falling short of parental expectations can be tiring, leaving a child lethargic and disinterested. It is definitely a red flag if your child loses interest in an extra-curricular activity which he/she otherwise enjoyed. It could cause physiological symptoms too, like, stomach pain, headaches, diarrhoea, among others.
4. Late Hours
Parental pressure can push children into a panic-mode, keeping them stay up late into the night to achieve what is expected of them. It often hampers their retention power making the whole activity futile.
5. Bad Temper
When a well-behaved child suddenly starts to fly off the handle at slightest of instigation, it is time to pay attention to his stress levels. It is as true for adults as it is for children that stress causes anger. If the child feels that his efforts are not good enough for his parents, it can cause a great deal of stress resulting into bad temper.
Impact of Parental Pressure on Children
The signs that your child might be under parental pressure are not as prominent as signs of stress in adults. Unlike adults, children are not vocal about these symptoms mostly because they are conditioned into thinking that it is their failure that is causing the stress. Long-term subjugation of children to parental pressure can push them beyond recovery.
The Effects of Parental Pressure on Children
Here are a few dangerous effects of parental pressure on children:
1. Prone to Mental Disease
Children who go unnoticed while dealing with an internal tussle between expectations and capabilities, are more likely to succumb to mental diseases. Students often slip into depression or other diseases related to the mind, not knowing how to deal with it due to constant goal-setting by their parents.
Children, especially during their teens, often resort to self-harming activities to deal with parental pressure. Studies show that children contemplate suicide as an answer to deal with parental disappointment due to low scores in examinations. In India, especially, deaths caused due to suicide is unnaturally common among students, and no one needs to look farther than the news reports received right after exam results, to realise this truth.
3. Low Self-Esteem
Children mostly look at their parents for validation on everything they do, but if they meet with constant criticism from the other side, it most likely will create a negative self-image in them. This negative perception can transform into self-hate and hinder children from growing into well-adjusted adults.
4. Defensive Attitude
Constant parental pressure can create a defensive attitude in children. Fear of failure can stop them from taking up new projects or completing the ones at hand. It can create unhealthy defiance in them that can lead to dissatisfied adulthood.
5. Risk of Permanent Injuries
Children, who are made to bear the burden of excessive parental pressure while dealing with the physically and mentally taxing requirements of professional sports, are more likely to push themselves over the threshold. They tend to ignore the pain and hurt, causing permanent injuries.
As a parent, it is important that you create a healthy space for your child to flourish and excel in life. It is for you to discover your child’s strengths and guide him/her on how to enhance their talents. It is not necessary for each child to achieve academic excellence. Success is inevitable if you give your child the required support to pursue their dreams in whichever field they want, without instilling the fear of failure in them.