My father is a pediatrician who also writes books on parenting. Growing up, I often pored over his books, and even now if you ask me how to deal when a baby is suffering from colic or a child is throwing a temper tantrum, I would be able to give you a detailed doctor-approved answer! However, one thing I especially loved while researching parenting was looking at the psychological aspect of parenting. And how raising a child could impact their mental state and the way they approached situations for the rest of their life.
I don’t think people quite realize how important upbringing is in shaping a child’s psychological worldview. Nurture counts for so much of our personalities. I have always been a type-A personality who put a lot of pressure on herself to get the best grades, to plan out her life according to a schedule and to aim for a future that was all set for success. However, that was because of my innate nature rather than any pressure put on me by my parents.
The more I grow up, the more I realize how much my parents truly cared about my happiness. When I was in high school stressing about my grades, it was my parents who told me I’d be fine no matter what. When I went to college back home in the UAE and was unhappy with the social life there, I was encouraged by them to go study abroad. And when I visibly bloomed and felt much more at home in Omaha, it was my dad who despite wanting me to stay as close to the family possible, told his baby daughter to go pursue her dream and transfer full-time here as a student.
I often see people’s parents including other extended members of my own family putting pressure on their kids to be the best, to be number one. To be perfect in everything they do. I think the end-result of all this pressure is mental burnout. Seeking perfection is pointless because it is impossible. Your kids will fail at some point. And that is perfectly fine. What you should teach them to do is to rise up after they fail. That’s what’s important at the end of the day.
If you keep telling your kids they need to be winners, they grow up viewing life as a competition. They think of success as a destination rather than a journey. They may win a lot of competitions and be the best because their parents told them to but every time they’d come second or third, that would be seen as a massive loss rather than a learning experience.
I distinctly remember telling my parents, both well-off doctors, belonging to a family of other illustrious doctors, lawyers, engineers and professors, that I wanted to pursue journalism and communications. These were fields that would clearly not be very stable and definitely would not provide me with the same comfortable lifestyle my family had enjoyed over the years. All my mom and dad told me was that as long as it was my passion, and I worked hard to excel according to my own standards, I could pursue any line I wanted. And now I’m the happiest I could be. I love my major and am excited to see what the future holds for me!
This is why I truly believe that as a parent, your first job should be to ensure that your child is mentally in a positive frame of mind. You should definitely teach your child skills they need to succeed in the world, but also teach them that failure is not the end of the world. If I do get the chance to become a mother, I would definitely tell my child to aim for the stars, but every time they’d lose a game or get a bad grade, I would still be proud of them for doing their best. As long as they truly care, and you can see them put in the effort in everything that they do, kids should be taught to embrace true passion for their interests as opposed to blindly chasing success.