Failure sucks. Sure it's cool to say we learn from failure and how failure is important for all of us, but that comes after you've succeeded. We live in a society where success is rewarded and failure, ignored. With the dawn of social media, we are now obsessed with more. More followers, more likes, more comments, more retweets, more sharing. More is the new adequate. We are also obsessed with numbers. From salary, to bank balance, to increment to fees to turnover; numbers have become a form of validation–at least that's what the society would have us believe. If you are rich and successful, you are superior. If you fail, you are inferior. Of course, there's no written rule to that effect. No school teaches this to a student and no parent tells a kid so. But whether anybody says it or not, that is the society we live in. News headlines praise the next billionaire and an actor's best performance. No one cares much about what happens to the failures.
And we live in India. With a population of 120 crore, you'd have to do a lot to really stand out. Getting into a good school is tough. If you manage that, then getting admission into a good college is possibly tougher. Once you've achieved that much, good jobs are scarce. Ultimately, there are a lot of people vying for very few seats in schools and colleges, and even after completing all of that, the job market is tough even for the winners. Let's not even talk about foreign educations, Ivy League Colleges and dream jobs for our kids on Wall Street.
My point? We live in a cut-throat competitive world, where, unless you come from a rich, well-heeled family, life is tough. Who can then blame a parent for not wanting the best for his child? For worrying about whether his kid will top the exams? Or if he will perform well on the stage? Everyone wants a bright future for his child. And even if you think your kid is the next singing sensation and can afford to take it easy on studies, did you see the competition on Indian Idol Junior?
As parents, we've seen a lot of the world and how it works. Within our family, friends and colleagues in a smaller circle, and in the world at large, we know how important it is for our children to do well if they have to live a reasonably happy life. We've seen the struggle our parents went through – in an archaic, pre-liberalisation era – to bring us up and give us the best education they could afford. Now that we're parents, we know how different things are today from the time when we were kids. To be able to give our kids the best, we, as parents need to slog hard at work.
Given the kind of effort we put in to ensure that our kids have the best of everything possible, it's only natural for us, as parents, to have expectations from our child. From the various extra-curricular activities in and outside school to studies at school, we hope and pray that our child does well. It thrill us no end to see them succeeding and failure is always tough to handle. It's only natural. But remember, the way you handle success and failure with your child will form the basis of how he handles success and failure in life. While success is easy to handle, it's the disappointments that test our skills as parents.
Here are three rules to handle disappointments:
Rule #1: Participation matters over performance
If you don't participate, how will you win? Going to the stage is half the battle won. Standing up in front of an audience is pretty much like actually winning the battle. Whether your child freezes up and starts bawling on stage shouldn't really matter. This is the toughest part for us as parents. We see other kids singing songs on stage to an enraptured audience, while our own kid has just frozen up. How do you then tell yourself that it doesn't matter? You don't have a choice. Learn it. Say it. Believe in it. Your child is more important than one measly performance. If you reject him based on one performance, you send him the wrong message. So say it after me: It. Doesn't. Matter. Landing up on stage is the victory.
Rule #2: Celebrate participation
Since your kid landed up on the stage, reward him. If he jumped into the game to play, reward him. Every level of participation must be rewarded. Choose your rewards accordingly. Whether it's a pizza or a toy or a new gadget or anything that your child wants and is within your limits, it's important for him to know that his participation has worked and was the right thing to do. Even if he didn't do well in his performance, he knows he's doing something right by participating and that's why you've rewarded him. So learn to swallow your disappointment and reward your kid for participation. He is a winner irrespective.
Rule #3: Learn lessons
Now that you've seen your kid's performance, you should know what his fears and apprehensions are. If you don't know, talk to him and ask. Tell him it's okay that he failed. Try and set up new games and new things he can try to get over his apprehensions. Show him that you've moved on and so should he. You could even try the same activity yourself. Stage fright? Call your friends, host a party and talk to them standing up on a chair. Show your kid it's no big deal. Build that confidence in your child.
Every kid is different and so is every parent. These are just three rules that have helped me. What has helped you?