Growing up becomes a lot easier when your parents let you be your own person, have their expectations in check, and see to it that there is no pressure to perform well and above your capabilities. In this rat race of marks and competition, they should see to it that the environment that their kid shares with them is a safe space, one where they can communicate their fears and anxieties without any pressure or the feeling of their parents judging them.
With parents always wanting the best for their children, it might be tough for one to do so and let go of their expectations. We tell you how you, a parent, can get started.
Why can't the love be unconditional?
A child must feel safe in their parent's presence which is why it's important to have them rest in the latter's love. Why must parental love be conditional? We shouldn't be seeing a situation where parents will only shower an endless amount of love and call their kid the best and brightest child in the world only if they perform well. Long story short, when you become a parent, you sign up for unconditional love. Children must always know that they are secure in their parent's love, irrespective of what happens to them, and will always be loved regardless of their performance in exams or areas where they’re tested.
Getting to the root cause
A child's performance has more to do with what's happening to them and less about their parent's expectations. It is absolutely crucial that parents find out what the problem is and why is it taking place. Does their child not understand concepts, are there learning difficulties involved, any bullying taking place, or are they growing through a difficult phase—puberty, and having trouble processing emotions? There are so many reasons. Parents should get to the root of the problem instead of looking at it from a, ‘I wanted you to get 90%, you didn’t get it, so I love you less’ perspective. One can’t do that to a child because you’re putting so much undue pressure and making them feel that their parent's love is conditional.
And this becomes a problem
This is not good because lifelong behavioural issues creep up when a child grows up. These include people pleasing, them having anxiety, wanting to be perfect, and having panic attacks. These are all reactions that people form when they grow up and that’s why they come to therapy to deal with it and find out where it’s coming from. What they don’t know and realise is that it all stemmed from the conditional love their parents gave them in their childhood.
Where do parents start from?
Parents have to begin from a space where they love their children the way they are. And make peace with how their kid performs in studies, sports, their sexual orientation, choice of partner, etc. As mentioned earlier, a parent loving their child under conditions sees them mould the latter into a certain way and not allow their personality to flourish.
There are two things that they must do. The first is breaking their past unhealthy cycles. A parent's expectations is something that they’ve learnt, maybe because their parents dealt with them in this manner and had demands. They feel that since they couldn’t do it, they'll make their child undergo the same. It's important for them to break past trauma cycles and if possible choose therapy before becoming a parent. A lot of children may be traumatized because their parents have been through trauma. The second is acceptance. If the kid isn't good at math, so be it. Look at what they're good at and nurture it, without any expectations. And if we're speaking about expectations, parents should expect love for love, and if they don't get that they should communicate with their child.
How can parents do their bit and help their children communicate this better?
As a parent, one needs to understand their child and realize that they’re at an age of their lives where they’re still learning how to manage themselves in the world and come to terms with things such as failure, disappointment, fear, shame, humiliation and a whole lot of other emotions.Your child being reluctant to come and tell you about their failures is a big red flag. You have to be a safe space where they can come and tell you why they failed without any hesitation.
Parents can bridge this communication gap by taking the first step. This is because they’ve lived longer, and have more experience, knowledge, and wisdom to impart. What one must also remember is that there are so many things that the parents pass over. If you, as a parent, had shortcomings and push them on your kid, it’s not going to work and the kid is going to feel worse. So never do that.
With inputs by Sherene Aftab, founder of Serene Hour Counselling & Career Advice Consultancy