12 July, 2017

Helicopter Parenting - Shielding kids from disappointment

(Image via Google)

The IB results were declared last week.  The Secondary School places allotments came through yesterday.  The HKDSE results are expected today.  Results always bring to the fore the ever-present fascination with numbers – the attribution of a number that classifies an individual as a success or a failure. 

Do these numbers serve a purpose other than to make kids more conscious of setting a certain bar for themselves, if they fall below which, they deem themselves to be failures ?  Why ? 

As parents, giving credence to numbers and achievements can be attributed to the fact that these are undeniably associated with their futures and careers.  But, the current education systems in most parts of the world have made parents re-align their attitudes towards priorities in raising kids.  Elements like self-identities and self-worth are increasingly being determined based on achievements and external recognition. 

Somewhere along the way, helicopter parenting has become a common thing where everything is timetabled, set by parents who also consider it necessary to shield kids from disappointment and pain of failure.

The Secondary School place allotments were declared yesterday.  One could see parents running helter-skelter, in sheer desperation, to other schools, if their child had not managed to get into a school of choice while the students in question themselves, meandered rather aimlessly, looking lost and doomed.  This brings me to my next point.

What kind of future generation are we raising ? 

It is only too frightfully common to see parents intervening in situations to the extent that the youth of today doesn’t have to, doesn’t know how to face problems head on and try solving them themselves.  If homework is forgotten, one of the parents or the help at home rushes to school with the said book.  On one of the forums that Macadamia uses, for researching on universities, she found quite a number of parents posing questions on behalf of their 18 year-old children, claiming that their children are not old enough / mature enough to pose questions by themselves.  Are we not setting the youth up for failure by over extending support to this extent ?  Are we not erasing those lines of accountability that are associated with / drawn by a youngster’s own actions, thus teaching them a life lesson in responsibility ? 

Parents nowadays don’t want their kids to come face to face with failure of any kind.  The other day, during the Parent Teacher meeting, I came across a few parents who did not want their kids to know how they had done at school because the kids would be disappointed.  While part of me understood the kids being disappointed, part of me was quite bewildered at this parental logic.  It left me wondering if it is that bad a thing for kids to experience disappointment.  Is it ? 

Pecan has experienced not being able to attain what he set out to achieve, on more than one occasion.  Last year, he was pipped to the post in the finals of a competition, giving the phrase ‘so near yet so far’ a new meaning.  Recently, he narrowly lost out on being the Head Prefect at school. 

Macadamia was stonewalled and lost out on an UK university because of being underage.  Now, despite the gruelling hours she put in, she is in a situation where her first choice of university hangs in balance because she fell short by 1 point in her IB results.  She does have her backup plan but is still having to battle it out for her first choice.

Disappointments, letdowns, discouragements – all these are part of life.  I personally think it is very important for children to learn that disappointment is an emotion that is normal, is experienced, and what is most important is not to dwell on it, but to learn from it and move on.  Kids need to learn that falling is a normal part of the life process but the more important thing is being able to get up, dust themselves off, and face the future, head on, again. 

Kids can and should be protected only so much, for, there will come a day when each one of them will have to meet the future head on.  After having protected them from failures all along, after having shielded them from hurt and disappointment all along, what will it be like for them, if they are suddenly expected to learn about facing disappointments after they are 18 ?

As parents, I think we would stand our kids in good stead if we focus on cultivating in them, qualities of hard work, perseverance, resilience, endurance, flexibility, toughness, strength, empathy, adaptability, responsiveness, and being responsible global citizens of tomorrow.  Society needs to start focusing on character and as parents, it is time we started teaching the next generation the true meaning of responsibility and accountability, respecting their interests and leanings, rather than use kids as mouthpieces or receptacles for our own unfulfilled dreams and ambitions.  

While we are at it, we need to let them experience the falls that are a natural process of growing up, for to learn to get up, dust themselves and get ready to face the future is way more important a life lesson than conveniently handing it to them on a platter.

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