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The Pressure and Pleasure of Parenting

William Zou


George Bernard Shaw was once approached by a young seductive actress who cooed him in his ear: "Wouldn't it be wonderful if we got married and had a child with my beauty and your brains?" George Bernard Shaw who was hardly a handsome man replied: "My dear, that would be wonderful indeed, but what if our child had my beauty and your brains?" The actress who did not need much persuasion just sped off.

Family is the oldest social unit in this world. A miniature society. And it is the duty of each generation to pass on the torch of civilization to the next.

Parents love and cherish their children. Or should. A loving parent would be prepared to sacrifice anything for the well-being and happiness of his children. Sadly, modern materialistic influences and pressures have made the burden of parenthood greater than ever before.


External Pressures

Many parents work away from their children and only return home after office hours. The nature of their work requires them to be time conscious and they are rewarded according to their work performance. Additionally, children are exposed to a wide variety of expectations, consumption patterns and demands by their peers in school or the media. These create great pressure on parents, many of whom seem unable to cope with the psychological demands.

Generally, parents place worldly expectations on their children as well. They feel a sense of failure or inadequacy if their children doesn't live up to them. There is great emphasis on materialistic attainment and scoring points before their friends and neighbors. Sadly, these children fall victim to constant psychological pressures. Children are encouraged to excel in their studies, to secure high-paying jobs, to climb up the social ladder, and to accumulate as many wealth as possible.

For most parents, the pursuit of wealth and success are far more important than the attainment of virtues such as gratitude, honesty, integrity, kindness, consideration, and tolerance. They are under the impression that success means the ability to conquer and quell opposition, ignoring the need to establish an inner harmony with oneself. This process actually takes happiness away from their children. It is also why many, if not, most parents are unhappy with their current jobs.

Whether the children have the interest or not, they are expected to attend various activities to overload their daily schedule, under the misguided belief that such activities are very important for success and happiness. There is nothing wrong with pursuing healthy activities if the children are interested, have the required talents, or if they are meant to enrich the child’s awareness of themselves and the world around. Of course, cultural activities and accomplishments are necessary to make a human being more cultured. It is also natural for parents to see their own features and characteristics reflected in their children.


Reframing the Mind

It is necessary to differentiate between what is important and what is not. Success and happiness do not lie in mastering such accomplishments alone. Parents should not place their children under such pressure - to be brilliant beyond their capabilities, to be leaders when they are not ready for leadership, or to be staring athletes when they have no sporting attributes. As a result of unrealistic goals, children are prematurely pressured into a world of adult pressures and responsibilities. The outcome: the are always tired and listless. They are not able to enjoy the carefree life of childhood. These pressures gives rise to emotional insecurity when they reach adulthood. Children deserves their childhood life. Let us not transfer our ambitions to them and rob them of the life they deserve.



Parents should be aware of the potential within their child - of what they can accomplish in the future in their own way, and in their own good time. After all, that is what good parents should do. Children are not mature enough to recognize their own talent.

There is no such thing as a "useless" child. Every human being has talent, some potential. An academically "illiterate" child may be born "natural" in swimming or cooking. Therefore, it is the duty of parents to recognize what a child is good at, the aptitudes, skills, gifts, or talents, and encourage the child to develop them for the good of society and the child’s sense of fulfillment. It would be even better if parents can train their children according to their mentality to do something which they can do for their living.



Many parents worry that their children are disobedient. They worry that their children will not care for them when they are old. They also fear that their children will bring shame and unhappiness through their misbehavior, thus spoiling the good name of the family. The truth is, one cannot expect immature and inexperienced children to be as dutiful and loving as their parents. The value of parents and their love will not be realized until the children become parents themselves.

Some parents have given their best to educate their children and teach them good values, but these efforts have been thrown out because of the stubborn and rebellious nature of their children. There are also incorrigible children born to the best of parents. In this case, parents shouldn't be remorseful because they have done their parental duties. Parents should develop an understanding to change what they can and to accept what they cannot.

Parents also place demands on their married children, who have their own problems, and are themselves under tremendous pressure in society. When parents complain about their children's ingratitude it only succeeds in keeping them away due to guilt and shame. But, if parents develop the virtue of equanimity, they will remain calm and not make undue demands in their children. This will bring a greater degree of bonding between parents and children.

A person with limited wisdom may think that his children and wealth belongs to him. But even he himself is not his own, what more to speak of children and wealth. How can he believe that he owns them when he cannot control or prevent the uncertainty that his children and wealth will undergo?

Khalil Gibran has written a few meaningful lines for parents to contemplate, as to whom your children are:

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.

You may give them your love,

but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may strive to be like them,

but seek not to make them like you.


Modern Parents

One of the saddest thing about modern society is the lack of parental love for their children. When a couple gets married, they usually plan to have a number of children. And once the child is born, parents are morally obliged to care for them to the best of their ability. Parents are responsible to see that a child is not only satisfied materially, but psychologically and spiritually as well.

Material comfort is secondary when compared to the importance of parental love and attention. There are many parents from the not-so-well-to-do families who have brought up their children well with plenty of love. On the contrary, many rich families have provided every material comfort for their children but have deprived them of parental love. Such children will grow up devoid of any psychological and moral development.

Confucius once said, "The father who does not teach his son his duties is equally guilty with the son who neglects them." This makes parenthood a sacred task, and no parent wants to live with regrets about what he or she "should have taught their kids." Still, there is great satisfaction when parents imprint the best in themselves on to their children and doing whatever they can to give them a heads up in this competitive world. Even though sometimes they fell short in some areas, they did the best they could.