10 September, 2016

Are you setting up your children for failure?

Spare the rod & spoil the child is a well-worn slogan, from the past.  It’s import & context is now largely lost. Most of us have spared the rod & I fear we are spoiling our children. While the use of corporal punishment is long past, we have turned far too indulgent for the child’s well-being.

Today is the best time to be a child. Parents fawn over their children and do their every bidding. So, today, there is not anything that the children will not be able to make their doting parents do for them. It’s a happy situation for these kids, right?

The answer is – No.

Pampered Little tykes :  Children from families where they have got everything on a platter would not have developed many life skills.  Firstly, they just do not know how to adjust – for they have always got what they wanted!  These kids have not undergone any hardships… many of them have not even travelled in trains and buses. They have always been chaperoned in cars. They have always travelled in the cool confines of AC coaches in trains or have just flown from place A to B, in an airplane. 

These kids have also got the best shoes, a surfeit of toys, books & other knick knacks - so much so that, even when they get an expensive gift like a playstation, these children don’t go ooh-aah. They are quite blasé even about things that the parents have spent time, effort & money to get them. Nothing excites these kids any longer.

Indulgent parents :  Parents have been indulging their precious little ones in the notion that they are giving them a head-start in life.  They put their children in fancy schools & spend small fortunes on their activities, classes & tuitions.  Parents these days don’t spare any effort to give their children that head-start in life.  They eagerly put them in Cricket/ football coaching classes – never mind the expenses. Their children can expect a full-fledged pro kit right at the start, which even a professional player would have been  proud of!  I have seen children kitted up so nicely, that it would appear they represent the district/state, when they have just about joined the classes !

Also people plan to send their children abroad – even those with comparatively modest means.  But educating children abroad is an extremely costly affair.  Many children are not able to land jobs when they complete – hence the situation is far from pretty. This takes away a significant portion of their accumulated wealth, which is not desirable considering the fact that people need to be cognizant of their own retirement needs.  The retirement period these days has become pretty long – between 25-30 year period.

Maladjusted children :  While the parents are doing everything with good intentions, there is an unintended consequence of their largesse.  The children, due to their privileged upbringing, have not experienced the hard knocks of life. They have been largely insulated from the hurdles which for normal children is par for the course. Many of them develop a chip on the shoulder attitude, which does not help anyone in life.

Since these children have been getting everything very easily they tend to have lower thresholds of patience, perseverance  &  hard work,. The drive & the burning desire to excel and come up in life, is largely missing. They already have everything, so why bother - would be their thinking.

 It’s not their mistake. They have turned out that way due to their charmed existence till that point. So the advantage which the parents are trying to confer can actually turn out to be a bane for the child.

Some parents may be thinking  - my children are from well-off backgrounds too – but they are doing well.
True. But the 80:20 rule applies here as well. 80% children  tend to be adversely affected when they are cocooned in luxury; 20% will be able to adjust and make the grade.

A litany of woes :   There is another problem, when the parents are putting their wards in “International “ schools.  Some of these children tend to develop inferiority complex after comparing themselves with other kids in their class/ school.  Even children from well-off families tend to feel poor as many of their peers are from richer households!  Children are actually upset that their parents are not taking them on foreign jaunts, every summer vacation!  And the fact that their parents own only an “ordinary” car rankles, as opposed to the Jaguar, BMW or Mercedes Benz, like the parents of their friends. The list goes on. They are unhappy with their shoes, birthday parties, their bags etc. They are poor by comparison!

There are also instances where children have started seeing their parents as “failures”, just because their parents are not CEOs, Executive Directors or business owners like that of their classmates!  That is so very unfortunate given the fact that parents have been trying to do their best for their children and are helping them to put their best foot forward!

Financial woes : Frugal living is not something these children have been taught. They have been weaned on brands and the high life. When they start earning their living, they will find it extremely difficult making ends meet -  for years. Their progenitors will have to extend life-support for them – for a many more years. That is all the more depressing for these children & their self-worth is undermined. Many parents have helpfully bought houses for their children;  they need not even work towards that!

Also since they live the high life they need to earn very well, their savings need to be good too, to take care of their goals. All these continue to exert pressure on the children and there is a level of tension which hangs over them like a pall of gloom.

Conclusion  :  Parents are overwrought when it comes to their children.  Considering the problems we have discussed, parents would probably do well to stay grounded & act sensibly when it comes to their children’s needs. They can ofcourse give them the creature comforts, but not overdo it. They can give them a good education. But a good education does not necessarily come from a snooty institution.  It’s a fallacy that educational institutions are exploiting to the hilt!

By exposing their children to the normal life that people live, they would be preparing their wards for properly integrating into the world as a productive citizen.  Indulgences & gifts should be measured and should be ideally linked to some outcome, to bring out the competitive spirit. Any money ( including pocket money ) given to them should be within reasonable bounds. Parents should not become an ATM for children!  All children should be put through the experience of using buses & trains.  I have heard that children of Godrejes used to travel by the same school bus as other children! 

In all this, parents will also do themselves a favour as they would not need to demolish their hard earned savings in Quixotic expeditions, thinking that they are helping their children “start life with an advantage”. A bit more discipline  & strictness – would do the parents a world of good!


Parents need to understand that, by being doting parents, unwittingly they may be setting up their children for a lifetime of underperformance & failure - which is in fact the last thing they desire!

Author - Suresh Sadagopan    |   Founder   |  www.ladder7.co.in

Image courtesy of Graphics Mouse at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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