I Want to Raise Happy Kids : Not Just Miserable Overachievers

I see it everywhere. Parents cheering their kids on as they get trophies for participating and winning competitions that the parents have clearly done the work in. Kids exhausted and cranky from being over scheduled for classes in the name of all rounded development, exposure OR figuring out their talent.

We all agree we shouldn’t push kids for academics, but pushing them towards constant excellence in EVERY other field bears some thought too. 

Kids do not know what to do with themselves during free time. They can’t process failure, full of their own self importance. We unwittingly cheer for mediocrity while pushing our children to discover their hidden talents.

When I see dance/cooking competitions on Television with kids as young as 5/6 and parents of 6-10 year olds celebrating their kids’ accomplishment of being authors of stories they made up at bedtime. Kids gaining false confidence of talent when winning competitions that are rigged. Let’s face it, the pressure of the first is certainly not good for that young a mind and the second is a child’s ramblings put into a book with the parent having done ALL the work. Who truly benefits from this?

Constantly Reaching for the Next High of Success

I have been guilty of it too. We see our kids excelling at something and rush to show it off, challenge them more,  hoping they are the master in that field.

I see others like me taking something their kids enjoy doing, like building with Legos, or drawing or be good at engineering and start entering them into competitions or leagues. Thus taking away the doing just for “joy” and adding stress to it since of course now it has to be perfect before submission added to that the fact that one needs to work with team of different people, where they lose their own creativity and have to submit to the idea that’s best for the submission.

Why can’t we let kids be creative JUST for the sake of exploring? Free play has so much more to provide.

(I don’t know. If you do let me know in the comments below. I’m always open to seeing the other side of the coin.)

There is a fine line between providing your children opportunities and overwhelming them by teaching them that you need to get a medal in order derive joy from DOING. 

On the other hand, we have preschool teachers and parents who encourage others to hold their child back a year before starting kindergarten so that they get a leg up on the other kids who will certainly be younger since they would be MORE mature.

Where does that common sense of KNOWING that children are not mature enough to handle stress of a certain kind go away when you are pushing your child to get into gifted programs or competitions which add so much more pressure on the child?

As as Indian, I faced it quite early and consistently. My mom pushing me to get that one extra mark for a 100 score. Studying for hours at end. But then that’s all I had to do. I wonder how miserable I would be if I was in today’s world where I see kids doing 7+ extracurricular classes each week (more than there are number of days in the week), after a full day at school.

Both my children are quite perceptive and intelligent for their ages. I would imagine they both represent the average child and I see both being overwhelmed with the extra curricular classes or over activity. My daughter is too young to articulate the overwhelm. But my son says it time an again, ” I don’t get any time to just BE and PLAY!”

It disturbs me when all around me I see parents pushing children to go through TONNES of classes so they can explore their inner self OR stay away from gadgets. While I’m the first person to celebrate a child’s drawing or out of box thinking or grade or admission into gifted program (when achieved without hacking the system), I truly wonder how healthy it is for children that we as a generation are pushing our children to grow beyond their years.

And then we wonder why the younger generations are getting more and more miserable?!

People have forgotten how to JUST BE. How to be content with what they have in their hands. How to look at another and NOT wonder how I too can get that. How to be happy for anther’s naturally achieved success. It is a wonder why children today don’t know how to just play by themselves.

I won’t lie. I would LOVE for my children to be the next Einstein but only if they get to it on their own. I truly believe the talent within grows with time on it’s own, but happiness and how to enjoy life is something we need to teach by example. I imagine I would love my children to be amazing at everything they do. BUT I know as strongly as I know that I am breathing now, that a child that is PUSHED towards success can only learn to be on the GO, constantly wanting the next HIGH of getting that next medal or achievement. They will never learn how to be happy in the moment.

Empower Kids with the Contentment of Just Being

Life is stressful enough as we grow.

That first F. That first failure. That first heartbreak and many more. That job rejection. Those times when one feels looked down upon by the Success Gods. There’s enough of that without us setting them up for failure in the long run by handing them embellished achievements when they are young.

What we need to do, is teach them how to handle all those times when you feel the world is falling in within you and your heart is shattering into a million pieces.

I cry as I write this while coz I hope every single day that my child does not face any of the heart aches that I did KNOWING full well that they WILL, some day. And I pray that I give them the strength to handle them all. To know to be strong for themselves and those around them. Standing up when they don’t have the strength to.

Recently, a mother celebrated her child’s 60s while others were rejoicing their child’s 90s at school. Many questioned about my she needed to put it out there at all. I on the other hand wonder why so many of us don’t celebrate our child’s mediocrity enough? For every child has struggles they personally go through and achieve. I’m not talking about making it out of preschool. But that child who is struggling with anxiety issues or is shy. The child who got that C after getting tonnes of Ds or Fs. Not a celebration with a party or trophy but maybe just a sweet treat and a recognition of their hard work with a hug and a trip to their favorite place.

That’s how we show our children to process failures. That’s how we raise children to KNOW that they are enough within and they don’t need to constantly keep proving to those around them that they are worthy and talented.

My heart glows with warmth when I see a my son know how to respond to weird questions, bullying or teasing by friends. How deal with personal embarrassments and frequent embarrassments. It makes me smile inside when I am working and they play/read by my side, without any prompts or nudging. I feel pride when parents wonder how polite they are and thoughtful. Yes, we are still working on a number of issues but I know we are on the right path a lifetime of success, measured by laughter and strength.

With all that’s been happening lately, it is so much more important now than ever that we focus on raising a generation that knows how to just be happy and kind to each other. 



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