I consider myself to be lucky because my parents never pushed me into the rat race to be the best in everything. All they wanted for me was to be healthy, happy and content in whatever I was pursuing in life. These days when I look around I see children being pushed into competitions and parents trying to fulfill their lost dreams through their children. While education and extra-curricular activities are vital, pressuring young ones to be the perfect children is certainly unhealthy for their wellbeing.
Children in our society seem to have a schedule busier than a country’s President. Weekdays are filled with long hours at school and tuitions at home or different coaching centers. Weekly, monthly, half-yearly, yearly, quarterly, the tests seem never ending. Every child is engaged in the race to get admitted at the best school, the best college and eventually the best university. Weekends are reserved for music, dance, art, karate, religious studies and so much more. When does a child get to breathe or have a space of his/her own? Entertainment is also limited to internet and television which cause more harm than good. In five to ten years if these children grow up with various issues such as depression, PTSD, behavioral abnormalities, who would be blamed? Cartoons are never the substitute for outdoor activities or leisure and neither are videos on the internet. What is needed is for parents, teachers and guardians to pay close attention to what the children really wants or is capable to achieve.
Often children are compared with others which harm their self-confidence. So the neighbor’s son scored a perfect ten, congratulations to him but it doesn’t mean your son or daughter who got less than ten is not bright or good enough. Everyone has their own potentials and no matter how much you try to cram into their brains, you won’t be able to magically change what they truly are. Parents they should believe in their children and nothing works more as motivation or inspiration than a parent’s words.
In Singapore, primary school students don’t have to sit for exams because as their Education Ministry has stated, “learning is not a competition”. Finland does not let its students to sit for any exam until they turn 18 years old and till the age of 7, all children do is just play at schools. This may sound like a fairytale but it is true and Finland has been ranked to be one of the best in educational performance. Compared to these two, Bangladesh has a long way to go to reform its social and educational system.
During a recent interview, Dr Mekhala Sarkar, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, National institute for Mental Health, shared some important information on child psychology with us. She said that children have the same psychological elements as adults and it is wrong to think that since they are young, they feel or comprehend nothing. Their emotions may not be as structured as their adult counterparts, but they certainly become disturbed when unnecessary pressure is imposed on them. It is important to listen to children and respect their opinions. By doing so, they will grow up into adults who in turn will learn to respect others’ wishes. Coercing, bullying or forcing them into doing things against their wishes is wrong and proven to have negative impacts on the children.
The Hollywood classic film ‘Dead Poets Society’ had one character named Neil Perry who was a young boy with a love for theater. Torn between this and his father’s disapproval of acting, Neil ended up committing suicide. This may just be a story but many young people out there are suffering the burden of their parents’ wishes and watching their own dreams get shattered. Parents have every right to decide about their children’s lives but the children’s opinions also matter equally.
Nobody can be perfect and the very word has no concrete definition. Something may or may not perfect but to you it may feel so. Imagine a world where everything is in perfect circles, squares and rectangles, wouldn’t we miss out on the beauty of waves? So if a child stands first in class, he/she doesn’t also need to be at the top of everything. It is not wrong to try to excel but everyone has a capacity and should not try to go beyond it. We need to teach our children that success and failures are part of life and it is okay to stumble and fall.

The writer works at
Bangladesh Post