Sunday, November 29, 2009


Vinita Dawra Nangia

During a casual chat a colleague mentioned he had been an average student whose disillusioned father had at best expected him to man a grocery store. Today, as he handles a coveted position with The Times of India, he reveals how in his mind he is still trying to prove his worth to his father all the time.
Another colleague, whose bureaucrat father wanted him to follow in his footsteps, confesses he spent the first few years of his professional life trying to prove to his father how a job in the private sector has its own charms, even if not the security of a government job.
A friend who works with a private sector bank actually took a break from his job to take up teaching assignments in a couple of reputed private institutes. Later he admitted this was nothing but a subconscious attempt to prove to his father that even though he couldn’t get into an IIT, he could still teach management students!
Those who have stopped trying to prove their worth to Daddy are people who feel they have gone beyond expectations and whose parents have acknowledged that in so many words. Apart from that, deep down each one of us is more often than not trying to prove ourselves to our parents.
If so many of us grow up struggling with our parents’ notions of us, perceived or real, it becomes incumbent on parents to be extremely careful how they project their expectations and desires onto children.
There was a time when it was the most natural thing for parents to expect children to fulfill their own unachieved desires or to even follow in their footsteps. I can understand why a businessman would expect his children to grow up and take over the business. But I cannot understand why a politician would want his child to be a politician, a doctor expect a child to grow up into his profession, or a bureaucrat insist his child appear for the Civil Services exams at least once!
I even know a child who attended his father’s college briefly just to please his dad, before going on to the institute he really wanted to study at! While at one level, this may seem sweet and rather the act of an ideal son, can you imagine the pressure on the poor child?
Why are we in the habit of foisting the burden of our unfulfilled desires onto the next generation? Why do we feel obliged to decide for our children what we want them to do or be in life? In doing so, we assume that our child is our mirror image and wants exactly what we want of life. Or, worse still, when choices and desires obviously clash, we choose to believe we know better than our children!
The many factors apart from genes that go into the making of a person, along with evolution ensure that the next gen is totally different from us with shifting goalposts and a better idea of what they want from life. It would be foolish to assume we can impose dreams and goals onto them. Our dreams and desires must either be fulfilled by us or end with us. As simple and brutal as that.
With her years of experience as celebrated Principal of Delhi Public School, Dr Shayama Chona, now President, Tamana and author of Effective Parenting, says, “Everything in life is a payback. You give back to your children whatever you hear, see or experience yourself. Parents should really leave them alone to achieve their potential. Do not impact kids with what you want them to be. Understand what they want to achieve and give them the confidence that their parents support them for their desires and goals, rather than for fulfilling their own needs. Indeed families that give more importance to their children’s thoughts and ambitions achieve greater success with their children.”
It is equally important to be sensitive when telling off children or criticizing them. One has to understand that the effect of something we may say casually may become a lifelong albatross round the child’s neck. In his desire to please and inborn instinct to meet his parents’ approval, the child may carry the burden of an unfulfilled desire or an unmet dream all life through…
And then he could be a super achiever occupying a most coveted position, and still be thinking, “Hey Dad, I made it! Err, do you agree with me…?”

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