Stories of celebrities like Hema Malini show how parents map out their children’s lives for them even before they come into this world. But how fair is that?
Watching an interview with Hema Malini on television the other day set off a train of thought in my head. According to her, even before she was born, her mother had decided that she would be a dancer and later on, an actress. Although she was very tactful in her replies, it wasn’t hard to figure out that her mother had controlled and manipulated her daughter’s life. Like many parents, she was probably living vicariously through her children and pushing them to achieve all that she probably could not.
Is it fair to map out children’s lives for them even before they come into this world? Are we justified in robbing them of their childhood? Venus and Serena Williams’s father had decided that the two of them would be tennis players and started coaching them from a very young age. Roger Federer was handed a tennis racquet at the age of three. As an educationist, I come across scores of parents who are constantly pushing their children to excel and have already planned their entire lives for them. Anything less than absolute perfection is simply out of the question. Making mistakes is considered nothing short of a crime. Many children then grow up not viewing mistakes as learning opportunities.
Is this really the kind of mindset we want to encourage amongst our students? Do we want them to mature into level-headed, strong and competent individuals with the ability to carve their own niche in life or forever be tied to their mothers, figuratively speaking? Independent decision-making should be inculcated from an early age and children should be taught to face the consequences of their actions. As Newton’s third law of motion says, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Children should be taught cause and effect and should be encouraged to experiment and learn from their mistakes as long as they are not endangering their own or other people’s lives.
Venus and Serena Williams’s father had decided that the two of them would be tennis players and started coaching them from a very young age. Roger Federer was handed a tennis racquet at the age of three.
If we shelter them or protect them from the consequences of their actions or are always ready to bail them out, they will never mature and learn to make their own decisions. Instead of leading them by the finger and making their decisions for them, we should give them the independence and the autonomy to lead their lives based on their choices and decisions. Giving direction and focus is one thing but controlling your offspring like a puppet means stunting their emotional, social, mental and psychological growth for life.
Why shouldn’t children be taught to follow their hearts? Why does every second Asian offspring have to be a doctor, lawyer, engineer or a dentist in order to be deemed a success? When we maneuver and manipulate our children’s lives for our selfish reasons, we are depriving them of their precious childhood. At a very early age, we are tampering with their self-esteem as they are driven beyond their endurance and pressured into becoming clones of their parents. At a very young age, we start making comparisons between siblings, fostering sibling rivalry in an attempt to goad the weaker sibling into working harder.
At the tender age of five or six, children are forced to face rejection and made to feel they are not good enough. They are brainwashed into thinking that academic excellence is the end all and be all of life and in order to succeed, they have to excel and keep excelling. The noose becomes tighter and tighter around their necks. Quite a few revolt and go completely off the rails when the pressure becomes too much to withstand. Those who have strong nerves keep going while those who fail to cope crumble under the pressure and stress.
Parents should try and keep their expectations realistic and not let their ambitions weigh their children down. They should provide focus and direction to their children in life but not become puppeteers, manipulating and controlling their children’s lives and treating them like dummies. Give them love, support and encouragement to enable them to fly when their time comes so that they can single-handedly and confidently determine the direction of their flight in life.
The writer is an educationist and can be reached at [email protected]