A lot of parents will do anything for their kids except let them be themselves. — Banksy, artist
Quite often, students come to me to discuss their career options. As a teacher it is my first and foremost duty not to demotivate them when they share their, at times, far-fetched plans with me. I realise that nothing is impossible in life but it is also my responsibility to give them a reality check whenever I feel that they are wasting their time, money and effort trying to attain an impractical target.
Often, I have to bear the brunt of being blunt. Parents of such students call me to complain about my ‘demotivating’ attitude towards students. It wouldn’t be a hyperbole if I claimed that one or two even threatened me to stay away from their children.
In all such instances I have observed, during my discussions with the wards and their parents, that the child is by and large unfamiliar with the route he/she has charted. Somewhere down the line, he/she has been propelled in the direction by an aspiring and over-ambitious parent without taking into account the strengths and weaknesses of the child and without taking into consideration the child’s aptitude.
Some of the standard statements parents make while giving directions to the child regarding a particular profession are: ‘The jobs in this field are high paying’, ‘This is an upcoming field’, ‘This is a highly prestigious profession’, ‘My brother-in-law is so and so and successful (financially), so I want my son/daughter to follow in his footsteps’ and so on.
I ask them if they’ve ever questioned the child about his/her preferences. I’m countered with the same platitudes, ‘They are children ma’am. What do they know about jobs and the market scenario.’ My imploring, that children these days are well aware of job prospects and should be given the opportunity to explore for themselves, falls on deaf ears. I try to supplement my argument with examples of my own daughters. We never interfered with their choices and gave them the leverage to follow their passion. ‘Do what you do best’ was our only advice to them.
If you think it is only the uneducated lot that pressurises the child to become this or that, you are sadly mistaken, for the educated lot fares worse. Many a times, I’ve heard professionals and educated parents say, ‘My child will be an IAS officer.’ I can’t resist asking them ‘How can you decide on the child’s behalf?’ or ‘I want my son to become a doctor’. My question remains the same, ‘Does the child too want to become one? Have you asked him?’ and as always, I earn the disdainful look from my respected colleagues!
Being a writer, parents often seek my guidance as to how to inculcate reading habits among children. Before I can reply, they are quick to point out the kind of books they want the child to read, biographies, autobiographies, self-help books would do but not fiction. I recommend them to let the children decide what interests them. Let them develop into readers first.
Books or career, learn to respect their choices.
(The writer is associate professor, English, SD College, Ambala Cantt .)