Parenting plays an extremely important role in all our lives. The person that we grow up to be, is determined to a large extent by the kind of environment that we were exposed to. The creation of this environment is in the hands of the people around us. The biggest influence on our minds when we were young, were our parents. Hence, parents have a crucial role in shaping our personality and also ensuring that we are ready for all the challenges and problems that we face later in our lives.
One of the biggest decisions in any person’s life is the choice of career. When we choose a career, we have a certain idea about how we want our life to look like 20-30 years down the line. It is a fact that most of our career choices are ascertained to a great extent by the narratives that were propagated to us or conditioned in our brains since a very young age by our parents. Our parents’ worldview, in turn, is shaped by their individual experiences.
However, the problem starts at the point where parents start imposing their personal experiences on their children. This problem is especially showing its demonic face in our country.
India has a burgeoning middle class that is the driver of its economy. The unique characteristic associated with the middle class is its overwhelming ambition and aspiration. They want to break the glass ceiling and enter the upper echelons of society to achieve the goals set by capitalism. These goals ultimately manifest themselves in having all the riches of the world or just enjoying a lavish livelihood, breaking away from the travails of the daily struggles of middle-class life. So, it is extremely common for the Indian middle class to invest heavily in the education of their children to ensure a better lifestyle for themselves at a later point, or as it is told, to ensure that their children lead a ‘happy’ life.
Happiness has always been associated with wealth. So what have been the practical implications of this behaviour? Well, it has lead to a labour surplus in the engineering sector. How did that come about? As a commonly held view in our society, engineering is associated with a respectable career and high salary. However, that is a complete alienated view from what the reality of modern India looks like.
At an earlier phase of Indian development, more engineers were indeed the need of the time because of the booming IT sector and lack of professionals. This led an entire generation to grow up with the dreams of engineering. Those who couldn’t achieve that dream vowed to achieve it through their children. A host of engineering colleges coupled with coaching centers looking to mint money opened up in the country. This has taken us to a point where India is creating an extremely huge number of BTech degree holders. That has created a crisis in our country because jobs are limited. If 50 engineers are competing for one post, then the company will choose the cream of the crop. Those chosen are mostly those individuals having some degree of voluntary initiative to enter the field. Even if individuals pushed by their parents manage to enter the field, they can’t innovate and hence face career stagnation.
What Indian parents don’t understand is that pushing their children towards a field would only lead to despair and zero happiness.
I’m not even talking about the moral aspects of forcing someone to do something against their will. Even practical measures don’t match up. What I am proposing is not a “3 idiots” like dream scenario where everything falls into place, just because you have passion. Passion needs to be coupled with hard work to create something good. However, the will to do productive hard work is only in those fields in which we have an interest.
Therein, lies the problem with Indian parenting. If you force your child to do something that you are passionate about, it will amount to nothing. The imposition of our lived experiences upon our children have two big harms for them- First, they are not able to relate with your lived experiences as they are alien to them and hence find themselves confused and secondly they are not able to tune in with their interests because your expectations and worldview pulls them back. Even extracurricular activities are being imposed on children nowadays to fill the void in the hearts of their parents.
What is the solution then? It is relatively simple. Just let them be. Period. Let them be exposed to whatever they are attracted to. Try to introduce new concepts to them but don’t impose these concepts. Allow your child to make sense of them. If your child likes Physics and History, let him/her explore both these subjects. Just because you feel this combination won’t add to anything productive, don’t disturb someone’s natural tendencies. Liking these two subjects helps to create a three-dimensional individual with an analytical as well as a critiquing brain.
In conclusion, it won’t be wrong to say that the key to being a good parent in modern times is to stop taking yourself seriously as a parent. This is not to say that you don’t help out your child when he/she needs it. What it does imply is not to make yourself a central figure in their lives when they don’t.
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