A lecture I was giving finished a bit earlier than expected, so I started inquiring about my students’ educational background and the reason of opting for this particular subject of psychology. One of the students named Iqra told me her story that startled me a bit. She said she is the eldest amongst siblings and since her childhood her parents had a lot of expectations from her to become a doctor. She said that she was consistently under a lot of pressure throughout her educational career. She studied hard and secured an admission in pre-medical in intermediate, regardless of the fact she never wanted to become a doctor. She was just living her parents’ dream and trying to ensure their unnecessary expectations were met at any cost. Unfortunately, she couldn’t pass the entry test to enter into any medical college and that is the point where her parent’s conditional love came to an end. Both mother and father stopped talking to her and stopped giving her the love, care and regard that any child would need or want from his or her parents.

It’s been a year and the family’s attitude is still not right with Iqra. No one at home talks to her in a gentle tone. She has become secluded, lonely and is going on without parental love and positive behaviour while living in the same house. The whole incident has affected her physical and mental health. Now she talks less, has lost weight to the point of looking undernourished, is losing interest in her friends and fighting a war inside her to the point of questioning her existence in this particular family and their unnecessary expectations from her. Her hopelessness is palpable. So much so that she has isolated herself from her parents even further.

This is a story of one student, there are many more who are trying to live up to their parents’ unnecessary desires. Some are definitely successful and but the others cannot go through with it.

Why do parents want to get their dreams and desires fulfilled through their children? Don’t they see it causes more harm than good?

Parents need to brush off the frustrations from their own lives and pasts instead of transferring them onto their offspring, which in creates more disharmony in a child’s personality and mental state than is readily apparent. We parents want our children to be successful and they definitely should be, but not to the extent that they are burdened heavily resulting in mental and physical chaos.

When I completed my matric, my father brought me books of every other subject to see whichever subject would interest me and I opted for psychology, realising that my interest was never in pure science subjects and rather in social sciences and humanities. He gave me different choices along with a complete path-flow and I became the director of my own career and future. This is where the role of parents comes in. Children can be guided and given different possible directions with the whole world of choices open to them, but the child should be given the space to choose his or her own career wherever they feel comfortable and find interest in. When I interviewed Iqra a bit more, I got to know she can paint and has a keen interest to thrive in this field but her family always discouraged her from painting and would not let her apply to any arts college, which is another sad part of the same story.

The problem aggravates when parents associate love for their children with their perceived success. Parents’ love should never be conditional. This gives children a signal that it is the success that gets the importance and not the child themselves. When I was doing matric, I had to study very hard because I was an average minded student. My father would know that I would not be able to get good marks in exams, still he would always remind me that I am his beloved child and no matter what (passing or failing an exam), I would still remain his child and at the end he would hug and kiss me. He never conditioned his love upon my studies, success or career. Even after failing an exam one time, his love never shook from its original place. This is the approach every parent actually needs to adopt with their children.

Don’t get your desires fulfilled through your children; rather, give them a platform to grow, develop, prosper and reasons to come back to you.

The writer is a consultant psychologist.

This is a story of one student, there are many

more who are trying to live up to their parents’ unnecessary desires. Some are definitely successful and but the others cannot go through with it.