On measuring success with children.

We all want our children to succeed and excel in education, sports, arts and to achieve above their peers (often even their cousins). When children come home with good grades we celebrate. The reaction is somewhat converse when the results are poor. In our reactions, we forget the child’s state of mind; their pressures and their feelings.

We thirst for our children to consistently deliver positive results but we fail to see the negative impact on them. We as parents are in a race and scared of being left behind. When children meet their peers, they are one – nobody is higher, nobody is lower. They can be kids and behave like kids. They don’t talk about school; they don’t talk about what they are learning or not learning, they don’t talk about who achieved what. Yet, when parents meet, the main point of discussion is education, schooling, standards, and what is right and wrong for our children.

We need to take a step back and reflect what we are doing to our children. Not everyone is of the same mould; not all children are academic. Some  have talents in art, literature, whilst others in sports or music. These should be respected and encouraged, and not demoted by our obsession with academia. Some children may not have found their niche interest yet – but that’s okay – lets support them in finding their feet instead of burying them in books.

Children that undergo private schooling do not guarantee them top grades, entry to top colleges, universities or land them dream jobs. The ‘ideal’ world we are trying to push our children into, may not be ideal for them. When I put my daughter, Simran, in the Swaminarayana Hindu School people questioned me, “Why not other schools?”. Although she has developed academically, her cultural maturity is what we valued the most. We felt this school provided a suitable mix for her and this is what we felt was right, for her. Vedant, our son, on the other hand is different in so many ways to Simran, so maybe we’ll adopt a different path for him.

North London, it seems to me, is unique. I feel there’s a lot of pressure on children to attend, what parents perceive to be, top private schooling and weekend full of extracurricular activities. If you don’t, you’re missing out! These pressure bubbles are created within our own community and it’s our children who suffer. We Indians want to achieve higher standards and so fuel the demand for private schooling, tutoring and external classes. It’s not until you have children that you fully understand the pressure of securing a place in one school let alone three or four. The cost of registering for schools and prepping children for assessments runs in the thousands. Waiting lists for external classes can be up to two years. Tutoring fees are extortionate. In this hugely pressured environment, I feel there are three ways parents can go:

One group spends vast amounts of money on private education and tutoring because they don’t have time.  Another group cannot afford tutoring and are spending time teaching their children themselves.  The third group of parents have come from abroad. They may not fully understand current teaching trends and are reverting to expensive tutoring as a safer option, despite their growing financial burden.  Private schooling does not lead children into top universities or careers as compared with state schooling. A child can do well if given the right support, guidance and a positive and balanced environment.

How much time are we really spending teaching our children about our culture or spending time with grandparents?

Is it time to wake up and start listening to our children? Is it time to re-prioritise family dynamics? Is it time to make bold decisions and leave the rat race? Are textbooks the answer to providing the child with a balanced and wholesome upbringing for this evolving world?

I know many parents feel the pressure – let us be open and talk.

By Heena Solanki