“Nurturing in a competitive environment”- 12 February 2017

My last piece on ‘benefits of controlling parents’ fetched some good feedback. One lecturer requested advice on ‘nurturing children in a competitive environment’. Perhaps this was a statement made by an anxious parent about the current scene of high competitiveness in seeking higher education in good colleges and the concerns of providing a good future to their kids. This reflects the mental state of many parents perhaps. Yes, these are extremely challenging times for parents and children alike. There are numerous issues that flood the mind and the issue is a highly complex one yet it can be simplified for our understanding. The matter has three sides to it, first, from the angle of the distressed parents, the second is from the perspective of children and third, of the reality that exists today in our city.

Let us take the third issue first. To say that the present system of school education needs major revamping will not be an understatement. Its primary focus is on teaching of curriculum and not character development as moral education has been discarded like a piece of antiquated furniture. Besides this, the school system is not child-centric and hence does not focus on the uniqueness of the child but wrongly focuses on the ‘attainment of marks’ in examinations. Secondly, most of the schools in our ‘beloved city’ are encouraging students to enrol in coaching centres, declaring themselves loudly as being ‘incompetent’ of teaching effectively. Strangely, all the coaching centres are focused on a few career choices of ‘engineering, medicine, law and chartered accountancy’. A girl with her good father was looking for a good tuition in English language but in vain. Similar is the case with subjects such as pure science, commerce, psychology, acting, art and design –the list is long indeed. This lop sided picture of career-making in the city is a curse in a way. This restricts the thinking of parents as well as those students who do not want to choose any of the above four choices, as they are made to unnecessarily feel inferior, isolated and doomed. With such an all-around frog-in-the-well mentality, we forget the age-old dictum that a ‘fish cannot fly’, an ‘elephant cannot climb a tree’ and a ‘tortoise cannot run fast’. But that is what we are promoting!

The second aspect of the psychosocial reality is the advent of smart technology that has disrupted life like never before. Children and adults alike have fallen victim to this malady. Addictions of social media and internet have taken a heavy toll on the psychological and spiritual health of the people. This issue is proving a source of headache for parents and guardians alike. Today’s parents cannot dismiss this reality as it draws attention right from infancy. I have seen parents proudly declaring the competence of their one year child on the smart phone! Their pride is short lived as it becomes a nightmare very soon.

Parents would do better to begin the process of training as early as possible. They need to take a larger picture of reality, not a local but a national and global one. An awareness of various opportunities in different types of career and their prospects will be great. Children too need to be encouraged to make themselves aware of the same. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the student in school subjects, hobbies, and his/her personality is very important. That is where the scope for excellence lies as the potential lies in the strengths of the student. When a choice of career is made with all this in mind with many rounds of open discussions between the student and the parents a correct decision may be taken to the satisfaction of all.

Behind all this process lies the ability of the students to think for themselves their interests, their personalities and their career goals. So encouraging mental processes, such as, ‘independent thinking, rational thinking, making wise choices, setting goals, decision making, and good habits such as, discipline, ability to concentrate, emotional restrain, and daily prayers and meditation, is vital for parents to understand and implement in their nurturing practices from childhood. This may sound like a tall proposition but who said parenting was an easy task! Parents need to be ‘smarter, swifter, sensitive and skilled’ enough to counter the negative influences of the ‘peer group, external environment, Google uncle and the smart phone’ on the child. Parents need to be open minded, well read, and display themselves as a good role model to their children. You cannot preach what you do not practice. One child said, ‘tell my mamma to stop her ‘WhatsApp’ chatting and to give me food on time’.

Parents can make many mistakes which is not a crime if it is acknowledged and worked upon. Allowing the children to make mistakes and helping them learn from it is also an important aspect of mental growth. Keeping a positive mind, with an attitude of solving-the-problem will help, instead of being critical, judgemental, imposing unrealistic expectations, dominating, being abusive, aggressive and comparing your own child to the neighbours!!


Parents are not ‘perfect people’ and cannot expect children to be perfect too. Hence the aim is not perfection but excellence in at least one area of life and goodness in all others. There is no simple recipe for parenting but a continuous conscious process of comprehending, thinking through, developing and growing with the growth of the child.

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