Every child is born a free soul with infinite spirit and is unique in his or her own way. But all too soon, these young minds succumb to the societal framework of school and academics. No sooner does the child learn to walk and talk than parents begin planning for admissions in their city’s “best” school; the term “best” implying a school that can guarantee 90 percent marks in the board exams.
Einstein famously said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” Every child has their own innate abilities and interests. Yet schools have a fixed curriculum and every child, though unique, is mandated to follow the same set agenda as everyone else in their class.
Academic excellence- a status symbol
Unfortunately, academic excellence has always been a status symbol in our society and all too often, parents tend to generalise the definition of success and excellence based on a comparison with other children. Success has come to be measured by how much money one makes and children grow up thinking that the sole aim of education is to score high marks. The underlying idea here being this will allow them to enroll in good colleges, which then is a ‘proven’ way to land a well paying job.
Recently, board examination results were announced, and I needn’t mention the anxiety that unfolded behind the scenes – both in the minds of parents and children. As soon as results were announced, social media was flooded with congratulatory messages from parents, schools and coaching institutes for children scoring 90 percent and above. Most schools and coaching institutes also publish huge advertisements in newspapers with pictures of their toppers.
But what about those students who scored less than 90 percent or managed maybe only 60 percent? Does that mean the child scoring 60 percent did not put in hard work and hence does not deserve to be acknowledged for putting in his or her best? There is nary a parent, friend, relative, school or coaching institute that posted a child’s picture who’d secured less than the “magical” threshold of 90 percent.
Academic brilliance creates a class divide among children
By no means am I suggesting we should not celebrate the achievements of our children who excel in academics; recognition and praise definitely boost their morale and self-worth. However, we certainly can appreciate our children’s efforts irrespective of their marks. Academic brilliance creates a class divide among children that is entirely driven by parents and their expectations.
In doling out selective appreciation, we are setting the stage for the child who scored a less astronomical percentage to doubt their own capabilities. He or she needs more empathy from parents – an assurance that efforts count the most and not just grades. Parents should reinforce the fact that they are proud of their children’s successes and failure, as long as they are learning every step of the way.
Appreciate the efforts, not the results
The biggest mistake parents unknowingly commit is appreciating the results rather than the efforts. “Good boy” or “good girl” is a vague way of appreciating your child. Instead of saying, “Smart girl you paint really well,” try saying, “I see you have put in so much thought and hard work in this painting.” By doing so, you are ascertaining your child does not depend on appreciation of end result, and therefore he or she will direct their focus towards putting in their best efforts.
It is time parents accept the fact that marks are only a reflection of our child’s interest in a particular subject and not necessarily a measure of their brilliance. There may be children who are just happy being who they are and are not ambitious about marks. In any case, there is no guarantee that a child scoring higher marks will be happier in later life or that someone who scores lower is condemned to only a half fulfilling life.
Do bear in mind that your child’s happiness matters most and not their marks. Celebrate your children, their presence and their talents; accept them for who they are and not what you want them to be.
Results, marks and academics are but one facet of life and are not all encompassing. Education is a lifelong process and it is very different from academic learning. Let us change the way we view academic success and happiness and start aiming for quality rather than quantity. Let your child discover the purpose of their life, and in that journey, keep appreciating their relentless pursuit of finding themselves, their own true worth and happiness that they can revel in.