Parents, Don’t Push Your Children

“I am in Indian foreign services. I want my son Arnav, 5 years, to learn 5 languages by the time he is 10. He is currently learning Mandarin. How soon should I enroll him for Spanish? After all, I don’t wish to push him!”

Parents, Don't Push Your Children - Support Your Children - To Do Well

Dr. Paul, our Psychologist, was horrified. This man who is already pushing his child is proud that he is so caring that he does not want to push the child. Sarcastically she asked, “Is this in addition to normal schooling or instead of?”

The sarcasm was lost on him; “No! No! This is just part-time. I have realised how important languages are for a career”.

That day I felt like dropping all my etiquette and asking him, “What the heck are you trying to accomplish here?”

Dr. Paul was certain that he had lost some promotions/foreign jaunts because he was not fluent in some required language and actually asked him that. He was embarrassed but said, “No, I could not get the posting because of departmental politics”.

For our next scheduled talk for PTA of one school, we prepared a talk on ‘Parents pushing the child’.

Some excerpts:

Why do parents push children?

  • Parents are in a great rush to guarantee their child’s future; yet if asked, nobody can rightly explain the ultimate reward. They just keep repeating (to others as well as themselves), “I am doing this, just to provide my child with the best opportunity to succeed” without any discernible goal post.
  • We all know that children today are smarter than their age but parents inadvertently start treating them as semi/adults too early and push them along in the process of growing up. They overlook the fact that their children have been given too much of responsibility and are being pushed too hard.
  • In the parental rat race (his son is doing Abacus; mine is smarter and should also learn Abacus), they do not notice that child has too little free time for relaxation and play.
  • They confuse/translate their own passion into child’s passion and genuinely feel that they are ONLY doing what their child wants to do.
  • They forget the fact that each activity that child is put through should be FUN! Aren’t we having schools that proclaim, ‘Learning is fun at our school’? For parents each activity is only for a goal, an achievement and fun quotient is forgotten.

Some tips:

  • Children are blessed with 12 years of childhood. Let them be children! Like parents complain to each other ‘I have my hands full. How can I handle even this?’ They should also realise that children have their plate full of activities and fun and free time are conspicuous by their absence.
  • Listen to your child if he/she wants to quit a particular activity? Block some time to be spent together each day, even if it is only for ten minutes. This will help you understand your child’s needs better and give your child the opportunity to tell if he/she wants to quit an activity.
  • You can understand that you are pushing your child excessively, when
    • The child loses interest in an activity, which was very important to him/her earlier
    • The child has less interest than usual in attending classes and doing homework or you start getting memos from teacher.
    • Child develops physical symptoms like headaches, giddiness, stomach pains, etc., which have no clinical basis.
    • The child becomes restless, tired and agitated.

And now to confuse you further:

One research shows that “New research dismisses fears that children encouraged to take extra classes feel stressed and says they do better at school and reap benefits in later life.”

To each his own – I would just say and request

Be supportive, but not pushy: Offer praise and show interest by attending the activity, but let the child change interests based on his or her desires.

Dr Chander Asrani, father to three daughters and grand father to one, is a post-graduate in Family Medicine. He has over 35 years in clinical practice, launched www.growingwell.com in 2000 and since then has been writing on various subjects. Know more about him at about.me/drasrani.

  • Dr.Asrani this is a very informative post. You are right. The parents push the child to learn so many things at the same time, which the child is unable to cope up. He/she is already burdened with the assignments given by the school. Parents should not be over ambitious .The children should have some breathing space.

  • Thanks Ms Menon. Unfortunately I am witness to scores of such parents (being in clinical practice). It is another rat race altogether 🙁

  • So true… let children be children… after all the childhood will never come back. Today with so many career options parents need to think beyond IAS, MBBS and IIT and let kids bloom on their own.

  • S N Rao

    Very true sir. Theoritically we know that we ought not to push a child too far. But we are at a loss as to where to draw a line.You have mentioned a few red flags.Surely this could help us to identify them and check ourselves.