I must be the best

April 27, 2018

By Zara Maqbool

Are you pushing your child too hard?

Yesterday, a teenager visited me for a counseling session. She was having a panic attack and her mother was worried to death. She had her Cambridge exams starting from next week and that had triggered the anxiety attack. I sat before her with a heavy heart as she shivered and sweated and cried about how she is always the topper in class and her parents and school are constantly reminding her of that. Her performance anxiety had kicked in to a point where her insomnia was kicking in. I asked her what it would be like to not be the best and she looked at me incredulously and said, “I don’t have a choice!’ Her school wants her to be the flag bearer to market their success and her parents want her to get in an ivy league eventually and between everyone’s demands, I see this beautiful teenager who should be thinking of clothes and make up and maybe her first crush, trembling with fear for the week that lay ahead. One of her friends had a nervous breakdown and another had started using drugs.

Be Perfect

As parents we all want our kids to excel emotionally، physically and academically. We all desire healthy functioning human beings. It is important to make them realize the importance of academics and how it can help them be financially independent adults. But its so important to strike the right balance between when to push the child in the name of motivation and when you push him too hard that he might fall off the cliff. And it’s literally pushing him off a cliff and I say this as I experience my clients feeling like that. This ‘be perfect’ driver is turning our young children into neurotic cases and we as parents are oblivious of how we are not pushing them to work harder but pushing them away from us. That girl who sat in my therapy room yesterday was an introvert, withdrawn and like a wallflower shrunken in herself and convinced she cannot reach out to anyone.  And the scariest part is that they feel they will not be accepted unless they are perfect. Getting an A was the condition for unconditional love and acceptance and a B doesn’t allow space for that.

Striking the right balance

Its important to drive your child to some extent, to motivate and inspire him but striking the right balance of this hard driving is needed. How will you know when your child needs encouragement but not forced to perform? Here schools can join hands with parents to communicate a single message of helping the child reach its full potential but not at the cost of the child running out of steam by the time he reaches adulthood. And maybe instead of pushing your child in the rat race and to compete with others, he can be taught to compete with himself to self-actualize in the true sense.