Parenting: Are we setting our kids on a course to an early burnout?

Let's pause for a moment and do a quick reality check. In our eagerness to make our children young virtuosos, do we go overboard?

By Asha Iyer Kumar

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Published: Thu 14 Dec 2023, 7:13 PM

Last updated: Mon 29 Jan 2024, 7:36 AM

Dear Parents,

The last thing I want this column to be is a limited-course meal with a take it or leave it option. I want it to be a salad bar, with a lavish spread of healthy thoughts for two generations (of any age band) to mix, match and ingest appropriately. The fundamentals are often familiar, but they need to be reminded time and again like menu cards that serve as pointers to what choices one has. The platter is ours; what we fill it with depends on what we want, and in how much quantity.

Taking the food analogy further, our children are not very aware of their appetites or how much they can digest. The responsibility of filling their plates, therefore, falls squarely on us, and it is vital to know what materials will go into the foundation of our children’s lives to make them strong and resilient.

Let’s pause for a moment and do a quick reality check. In our eagerness to make our children young virtuosos, do we go overboard and fill their plates with more than they can consume? Do we wish to make them masters of all trades and drive them from class to class (sometimes to keep them off our backs)? Do we make them learn things that they don’t have an inclination for, but do it because we don’t give them a choice?

Admittedly, a multi-disciplinary resume is the demand of our times, which is what we are assiduously trying to create for them, but in doing so, we might be setting them on a course to an early burnout. I have come across parents who sign up their children for activities that the latter may not have keen interest in, but the young ones are presented with dire life prospects should they refuse to comply. “You will fall behind”; “You will not make the cut”; “You will not do well”; “You will not succeed” — how many times have children been fed with these innocuous-sounding but damaging prophesies?

It is not easy to determine what our children have a flair and innate capacity for, and the best way to know is to try and test by initiating them into different things. However, we need to be aware of what they take to with ease and joy and what they do with resentment. This, especially, applies to extra-curricular activities, including sport. A discerning parent will be quick to realise the child’s resistance owing to lack of potential and interest, and will not hesitate to switch to new ideas and pursuits to enhance their child’s overall proficiency.

A tabla teacher recently cited how a boy of eight attended his classes dressed in his karate outfit because he bolted straight from a martial art to musical setting, and how his basic propensity was for the former. The teacher, eventually, got the parents to see the truth and bailed him out of what wasn’t part of his natural bent.

Spotting our children’s talents will take time and we must give them the freedom to choose what their non-academic pursuits will be. It is important to check frequently if they enjoy what they do and be ready to change the game if they show serious disinterest. Of course, children will exhibit laziness and will need some coaxing, and they will also be inconsistent, but those are not traits restricted to children. How many times we have been there and done that in our journey to adulthood! So, let’s cut them some slack. Until next, happy parenting.

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