Competition: the Wrong Motivation?

Posted: March 1, 2009 in Uncategorized

Is the whole overbearing-parents-putting-pressure-on-kids-to-turn-into-overachievers syndrome a Sri Lankan thing or an Asian thing as a whole?
Or is it regardless of nationality?

God knows though, I’ve known way more Asians who’ve been pushed to their academic limits than otherwise.
Maybe because of the relative job-equality over there no?
Like, it’s not considered low ambition if you wanna grow up to be a carpenter, there.

Here, ‘Amma I’m going to become a carpenter.
baasunai? Are you mad?
Look at Cousin so-and-so, if she can make it to medical college, why can’t you?

Aaah! Therein lies the rub, my friends!

Competition. It is the weapon most Sri Lankan parents I’ve come across have flung at their kids, to make them doctors, lawyers and engineers, as their plotting parental hearts most desire.

Of course, it’s with noble intention I’m sure, that they do this.
These jobs at the top of our local social heirarchy will give their kids money and prestige.
What more should a parent want for their child no?

But what of Passion and Happiness?
Shouldn’t children grow up to do something that they feel strongly passionate about? Something that brings them personal satisfaction?
Some are born lucky that they already have a passion for science or mathematics, that they may pursue whole-heartedly these popular paths of study.

But what of the others?
Those who dream of… Teaching? Writing? Photography? Painting? Fashion? Community service? A career in music?

Ah? Don’t talk nonsense, child! That’s very impractical of you, why are you always with your head in the clouds?
Aiyya so-and-so got a degree in maths itseems, did you hear? How proud his parents must be!

Wow. So is that how it goes?
A silent ultimatum: live your life the way your parents want you to live it, or else disappoint them and their hopes of one-upping other parents at public dinners with ‘guess what my daughter got-‘ and ‘my son is a graduate of-‘ chitchat?

It’s quite piteous, I feel. When children are made to choose between their innate passions in life and the conditional pride that their parents will have for them.

Why is it that I’ve found, so often, that parents here, obliviously or not, base their Pride for kids on the child’s academic level?
Doesn’t Pride for something or someone stem from Love?
Then what horrifying revelation does that make?

I’ve finally made it clear to Mum, after a year’s haggling, what I will do with my life, and we have reached an understanding and peaceful compromise.

But what of the hundred others, pressurized endlessly, faced with blatant emotional blackmail from parents longing to live their own dreams through their children, forced into a life that makes everyone around them but themselves happy?

Control. Parents need control, want control. Which is all well and necessary to a point. But total control over the course of another being’s adult life?
It is not theirs to possess.
Yes, we are yours, but you do not own us.

One of my favourite poets, Kahlil Gibran, put it most aptly,
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

  1. Serendib_Isle says:

    So true. This is more of a “subcontinental” syndrome; not Asian I guess. Our culture does not let go of the children even if they are married and gone; that’s the flip-side of our close-knit society. It’s great fun be together, but too much love can kill you, too.

  2. PseudoRandom says:

    Me like post! :DI think you’ll probably find this mentality in every former British colony. The British introduced the current hierarchy of jobs and in the 18/1900s, getting a job on the higher end of that scale was the only way of securing a stable life. Alternate careers were not an option. A lot of the nonsense in our society, we owe to Victorian England ;-).I think the ‘money and prestige’ isn’t the underlying driving force – it’s the perceived job security. Parents want to grow old and die safe in the knowledge that their children have a secure future. They can’t see a secure future in becoming a rock star.As for the passion and happiness…think about the kids you wrote about in your last post – imagine if they were allowed to do whatever job they wanted. Parents put down any ‘unusual’ ideas down to youthful fancy and ignorance about how the world really works. The problem is that nowadays the world doesn’t really work in the way they’re used to…hence the conflict.And as for the perceived job equality in the West…the fact that traditional diplomas have been upgraded to degrees shows that the situation is universal.

  3. Azrael says:

    Yeah I guess it’s to do with bragging rights of the parents, and the pseudo social status given to various jobs. Sometimes the parents might think that it reflects badly on their jobs as parents if the kids aren’t successful, so they tend to push towards, what they think of as the ideal job, and life in general.

  4. hijinx says:

    Funny how a friend and I were talking about this a day or two ago. I’m lucky that my parents are quite understanding about my strange lack of ambition.. but then there’s always the rest of the family with their “oh, that’s such a waste of talent…”The only thing left to do is not to spread that mentality to another generation, methinks.

  5. nikang says:

    Always and always loved the poem ‘Children’ by Kahlil Gibran. Parents MUST be MADE to read it!…ye know..its NOT only ‘education’ that they need control over, even life partners are chosen on levels, and only approved if he’s of a certain wealthy family and has a good paying job and a car. The personality and the good qualities dont matter much apparently!

  6. Lady divine says:

    some parents can be understanding…. but they do it with best interest in the child…. can’t really blame them coz sometimes they come from a hard life and want the kids to do well..BUT, there are parents who just want to push their kids to do well so they can boast about it.. and THAT I HATE!

  7. Makuluwo says:

    Very interesting stuff you’ve pointed out for and against the parental syndrome, guys. I know almost every parent does whatever with the best of intentions. I think the main problem is miscommunication no?It’s that in today’s generation more than any other, parents and their kids have failed to communicate their wants and needs with each other to reach a compromise. And very valid points you put across, PR! (:

  8. Celestial says:

    I hate how parents want you to do well in life in order to brag about it amongst your friends and such. I find it a lost cause really, because if one were to tell me about success of others and asking me why I can’t be like them, I’d look them straight in the eye and say, I am who I am, you can’t change me.Like the post. It’s mostly about competition. But there are the cool parents who allow their childrent to be their own. Hugs

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