Burden of expectations

Amal Chatterjee
9 min readMar 11, 2023

Source : Google photo of the burden of expectation

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Synopsis : We as parents tend to expect our children to become a doctor or engineer or a musician and push them in that direction but often the child wants something different so you must guide him with tact and compassion to become what he wants to become. Not all children can take pressure well and some may react negatively often with tragic consequences. Ideal parents notice the limits of their children early and give them all the help he needs to become a successful person who excels in whatever he does.

We have all felt at some time in our life, the burden of expectation from our parents, from our teachers and even from the people who live in our community or from the church affiliated religious people who can at times tend to put pressure on you to be like them.

Basically it starts at home where your Ma or Pa demand that you get up early, eat breakfast and get ready for school to wait at the curb for the school bus because the bus does not wait for you. This is a constant pressure that children face every day because kids hate to get up early especially when the weather is cold. Also the kids who are rapidly undergoing biological changes in their body have a different rhythm of life than those who are adults so they may stay up late watching TV and sleep more than others so it is hard for them to get up early.

The parents demand that the kids keep their room clean and in order so they try to instill a sense of discipline and cleanliness when they are slovenly and messy. You see this in Hollywood movies when the kid says sorry my room is a mess but does not make any effort to clean up the mess and develop good habits.

When they grow up and join the armed services as some do , they find out quickly that they are punished for their slightest infractions by doing push ups on their knuckles or more severe form of punishment so they learn to be clean, prompt and disciplined because that is expected of them. The fear of punishment and humiliation in front of others can be a strong motivation to shape up and learn discipline in the armed services but it does not teach them what is right and wrong. That is learned at home from parents who usually are their role models although some parents fail in their role for various reasons resulting in the development of a wild kid who does not listen to anyone so becomes a deviant causing social problems for himself and others. Many sociopaths and serial killers have very murky family history growing up in a dysfunctional environment.

But today I would like to focus on the topic called the burden of expectations that we all have faced sometime in our life when our parents put pressure on us to do our homework promptly, do our studies and do it in order to excel in our class, complete our assignments given by our teachers on time and make a good presentation in school. When you get very good grades, the parents show their approval and say that it is expected of you. They expect you to go to a good college where you get a good education that prepares you to meet all your challenges that inevitably we all face in the wider world.

This is the worry that all parents have so they want you to prepare yourself for the future when you will need to get an employment somewhere to earn a living, raise a family and settle down. They want you to succeed in getting a good education and learn some marketable skills in the process so that you can live independently when you get a good job. They worry what will happen to you if you do not get a good education and how you will make a living when they are no longer around to support you. This is fundamentally the main reason for their expectations from you.

The pressure of expectations may vary depending on the sex of the child. Moms are stricter with their daughters whom they expect to be chaste, with good manners and good morals so they bring them to their church or temple where the priests try their best to teach them the morality and good behavior but whether they succeed is a different matter. It is not unheard of that the pastor’s daughter runs away with the village boy when her hormones start kicking in but mainly to escape from her home of strict parents where she feels suffocated by all the rules and their expectations.

In some culture the parents adopt a very lenient attitude toward their sons who do not like to go to school or who drop out because they start forming bad habits of drinking, smoking or even drugs that they learn from the company they keep. Parents watch helplessly because their sons do not finish high school so they worry how they will be able to earn a decent living. All parents expect their children to be financially well established but the pressure of girls is always more in some culture and less on boys who do not listen to their parents.

There is a movie called Dangal meaning fight in Netflix that you can watch that shows how strict a retired wrestler was on his two daughters and how he forced them to get up at 4 AM every day for very rigorous training to become a wrestler later. They cried and hated the strict regime of training and tasteless food but their training continued so they became champion wrestlers and won numerous awards, medals and money. One them would become the national champion who won gold medal during the Commonwealth games but their training was so harsh that that will make you wonder to what length some parents will go to fulfill their own ambitions. This movie was made by Amir Khan and is based on a true story.

So I open up this topic with a question. Should parents push their sons and daughters so hard so that they can meet their parent’s expectations? When does such expectation become a burden too heavy for their frail shoulders and why such parents do not ask what their kids want to be?

Some children develop natural talent for music or sport or biology while others may be good in math or chemistry. The school teachers are the best judges of the ability of their students so a good teacher often propels a student in a direction where the kid succeeds because he likes his subject. His parents encourage him or her to participate in science or math competition or in extempore debates where he wins and brings home medals that the parents proudly frame to decorate their living rooms. Others encourage them to compete in sport events or chess competition if the kids have a natural talent that the parents help develop by giving them all the opportunities and introduce them to a talented coach.

But pushing a kid hard in a direction he or she may not want to go may have negative results so their teachers are in a better position to judge their aptitude in a given field while the parents can provide him the tools he needs like books, a computer or musical instrument. Such parents pay for tutors and lessons if the kid has a natural talent who needs a little professional help to reach his goal.

A tone deaf kid cannot be a musician and a dull kid who can’t add two plus two and do mental math cannot be a math wizard. Pushing them in a wrong direction by the parents or their teachers can only result in their dropping off from school and go their own way that may lead them to a life of drugs, alcohol and sex or worse.

This where we the humans are so different from the animals. The lioness feeds and protects her cubs with her life but she also starts to train them to hunt as they grow up. Once she feels that her cubs can survive on their own, she chases them away.

We cannot chase away our children even if they do not meet our expectations so we continue to try to help them by giving them extra help they may need in their homework or in their weak subjects. We buy them all the books they need and give them computers so that they learn how to use it. Most parents I know will sacrifice a great deal so that their kids can go to a good school and later a good college.

Often the kids do not realize how much their parents have sacrificed their own needs and aspirations so they fail to show their gratitude to them. They keep on demanding expensive cell phones, lap tops or fancy clothes because they compete with their rich school mates but do not realize how difficult it is for the parents to meet all their demands.

There was a great man born in India whose parents were so poor that they could not even provide him with a kerosene lamp so as a kid he used to study under a street lamp. He was very smart and passed all his exams at the top of his class and later he became the President of the most prestigious college in Kolkata called the Presidency College during the British colonial period. He never forgot how difficult it was for him as a child so he helped many talented poor kids with scholarships and other forms of help. His name was Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar.

My father who lost his father to a snake bite when he was just a child was put in a foster home of a priest who knowing that he was very smart, sent him to a good school where my father excelled in his studies and graduated from high school with a gold medal. This brought him to the notice of a British officer who saw tremendous potential in him and hired him as a clerk to serve the British Raaj.

Later he passed the tough accountancy exam to become an accountant and served in the tribal area between Pakistan and Afghanistan besides many other places in India. The British Government recognizing his ability honored him with a silver medal minted in London with his name etched on the rim. He was so humble that he never told us about it but I found his medal accidentally and brought it to frame it in my house here in the Philippines. My father was lucky because someone noticed his high IQ and sent him to school.

Many children are not so lucky. They may have talent but do not get the help they need when they need it so they remain mired in poverty never to fulfill their dreams. They do not get the attention they seek while growing up so they seek the company of wrong people with bad consequences.

So the role of the parents is very important in the development of a child as a credible being with good moral values and ethics. But to put the heavy burden of expectation on his frail shoulder when he is growing up from his childhood to adulthood may backfire if not done with tact, wise counselling and compassion. Give him all the help he needs but do not push him hard so that he can find with his own effort what he likes and what he does not.

Let him make the choice in what direction he wants to go. Your job as a parent is to encourage your child to seek his full potential without pressure.

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Originally published at http://aumolc.wordpress.com on March 11, 2023.

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Amal Chatterjee

I am the village bard who loves to share his stories.