Mothering pride at the expense of your child

Mothers sometimes do not realize that pride can end up pressurizing their children. On International Women’s Day, here is how you can motivate your kids in a healthy way

By Deepti Khanna

All mothers take pride in their kid’s achievements. But they do not realize that this pride can end up pressurizing them to perform better. In order to make their mothers happy at every examination, kids try and give in much more than they can and end up becoming rebellious, angry and even depressed when they cannot match up to the expectations. Here is how you could stay away from this and motivate your kids in a healthy way to perform better academically.

Dr Yusuf Matcheswalla, counsellor and psychiatrist, says, knowing the child’s true potential is the only way to avoid putting undue pressure on kids. “Parents should be able to gauge this on their own or with the help of an aptitude test. After knowing the kid’s capability, mothers should not have unrealistic expectations from their child. If the child is a 50 per cent type, he should never be compared to a child scoring 98 per cent.”

Dr Matcheswalla adds, “After knowing the child’s ability to perform parents should provide a healthy environment to achieve. All parents should do is to ensure the child develops and pursues his interest, as these days it is important for the child to specialise in some field or the other. Parents should provide the right environment to study well, talk and share experiences as and when necessary.”

Debarati Sen, a young mother, whose daughter Sagarika is studying in DAV Public school, Airoli, says, “I have never told my daughter that you have to come first in class or never do I bribe her by telling her if you come first I will buy you this. I think bribing and comparing are the worst things you can do to your child. But I never forget to appreciate her good results and the small things she does towards doing well in her exams.”

One of the unhealthiest ways to motivate is by comparison. Dr Varkha Chulani, clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, Lilavati Hospital, says, “If you need to compare, compare the child to his own past performance. That is healthy and reasonable. When comparing with other children the child may get the impression that no matter what he does, he is never good enough, since there will always be someone better than him.

What we need to impress on the child's mind is that he has to do better for himself and compete with himself. So today if he scored 35 on 50 in Math, in the next exam can we make it 40 on 50. This kind of initiative shouldering can be more motivating than comparing to a friend or a sibling.”

There is a very thin line between pressurizing and motivating. Very often mothers think that they are motivating their child but they do it in such a way that mounts too much pressure on the child. “It is very difficult to know when one slips into pressuring rather than inspiring. The parent is inspiring if the child feels that when he doesn't perform the parent will not get upset. A lot of parents threaten to withdraw love when the child gets less than expected. This is a clear case of pressurizing rather than motivating,” states Dr Chulani.

So what are the ill effects of pressurizing a child? According to Dr Matcheswala, “Pressurizing leads to anger, depression and rebellion in the child, which is unhealthy because all this is going to mar the chances of the child doing well in exams.”

Dr Chulani, states, “Pressurizing creates tremendous anxiety when the child sits for an exam. This freezes his ability and instead of doing well, he does worse. He becomes petrified of failure, of falling short, and with this weight on his shoulders he obviously would not do well. Excessive anxiety and pressure to perform leads to blanking out in exams, forgetting what one knows, writing half answers, getting cold feet during oral exams, etc. The ill effects can be severe enough where the kid withdraws from study altogether because he is so afraid of not doing well.”

Picture credit: BCCL

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Dr Rishma Pai


She is a consultant gynaecologist at Jaslok and Lilavati Hospital.

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