Updated: Mar 30, 2021
Come March, and I spend a lot of thought on issues related to our children’s year-end academic assessments. In the several years that I have been a children’s coach, I have seen the exam mindset of both students and their parents undergo a significant change. More and more parents are now accepting the idea of academic grades not being the sole factor that determines their children’s future. While the shift in attitude is welcome, there is still a lot of grey area that neither the students nor their parents have been able to clear.
For starters, although parents have recognized that their children need to learn life skills in equal measure to be successful people, they are still unable to let go off their penchant for grades. It hugely matters in their grand scheme of things, and as a result, exam pressure is now more masked and covert than it was before.
Children are made to believe that success is a lot more than coming out tops in academics, but at the same time, they are given a thorough dressing down should the latter fail to meet their parents’ expectations. Yes, let us admit, a chunk of us still has mighty expectations from our wards, no matter how vehemently we deny it.
Of course, parents have altered their views to some extent, but I am still concerned that they are unable to chart a clear course for their children outside of their academics. A number of parents who aver that they have recalibrated their beliefs about exams and have now begun to advise their children to ‘look beyond exams’ are themselves not clear about what the phrase means.
We all concede that our children need more than grades to survive the challenges of a new world, but are we even clear on what those tools for survival might be? If yes, are we also capable of teaching them how to manoeuver through the maze of difficulties?
A youngster, who is a sophomore at the university, recently made a shocking revelation to me about a number of students in his campus inflicting self-harm owing to demands of various kinds on them. A majority of them find self-harm as a means to release their stress, I was told. What appalled me was the fact that parents were often oblivious to these acts of their children who were away in universities and hostels. The pandemic and the physical distance have only exacerbated the situation.
The scene is not very different in families that stay together either. Parents are still unaware for the most part of their children’s struggles. From academic anxieties to peer and parental pressures, our children are grappling with a lot more than we might be aware of. It might be easy for us to label them as ‘unmanageable and incomprehensible’, but what we fail to understand as parents and guardians is that we still cannot shrug our responsibilities by pleading helplessness. Neither can we be overly imperious in the way we tackle them. A happy balance is not easy to achieve, and we still need to labour a lot to get our young ones off the ground and hoist them into a safe future. Needless to say, our task only got tougher with the nasty influences that they come under inadvertently.
The only way we can resolve this issue is by first deciding what we want for our children. I must stress, for them, and not from them. Second, by considering what our role in determining their goals for life should be. They may be young and immature, but it doesn’t mean we decide their goals and design their future. Instead, we would do better by helping them set their objectives for themselves, for which again, we need to be clear about our own priorities in life.
When these two things are ascertained, guide them down the set path with sagacity and patience. Our lessons to them can come only from a source of value-based living that we ourselves practice. It is a sad truth that many of us are clueless about what we need and want in life, and some soul-searching and self-analysis will go a long way in finding solutions to our children’s new age woes.