It’s not easy being a parent — we all want the best for our children; however, the pressure of using college admits as trophies is having a negative impact on the parent-child relationship. We find an increasing number of parents taking a hiatus from work or other responsibilities to concentrate all their energies on their child’s future. Caught up in this high voltage of ambition is the bright albeit befuddled 16-year-olds who are taking their baby steps towards their future. Multiple advice and strategies add to further confusion; there is no space for self-discovery, initiative and growth as one advisory is discarded for another and the net result is a haplessly confused distraught child.

Creating such a maelstrom of stress jeopardises your child’s learning process. The constant hopping around disrupts the child’s vision and unsettles them, making them lose focus.

It’s actually a good time to think — what do we really want for our children? An education that helps and motivates them to fulfil their potential, build their levels of confidence and endow them with skills and abilities to be able to contribute effectively and positively to society, is the answer. Also, the college admission process has to be more than rankings and trophies.

Not everyone is cut out for the deeply competitive Top 10 with the extreme work pressure. Would it help if the child experienced a ‘burn out’ and returned home on academic probation because of an inability to multitask and thrive under pressure? What if they continued to hang in there but graduated at the bottom of the class and were picked last for internships?

You need to ask yourself: Where will he be happy and grow? Where will she fit in and be in the top 10 per cent of her class? A college list based on these factors is always more realistic and usually results in a college experience that is motivating, inspiring and fulfilling. As we navigate this journey, let us instil in ourselves and in our children that ‘best’ is relative; as long as we can inculcate in our children an attitude to do ‘our best’ in every situation, we know we are on the right track.

Another crucial factor that needs to be talked about is the value systems we instil in our children. Humility, gratitude and thankfulness are things we tend to neglect in our cultural context — we rarely expect our children to thank parents, teachers or support staff for the many acts of kindness, help and privilege that form a part and parcel of our daily living. We ourselves take these for ‘granted’ and a ‘right’ and transfer the same to our kids. However, developed nations have a different take on this, and it is something all of us should actively learn and imbibe in our lives.

When your child studies in the developed world, the professors and employers will expect a level of humility and acknowledgement that you as parents must instil in the children. It will ensure that the student achieves the most out of the study abroad opportunity by fitting into the culture better, and he achieves personal growth from the experience as well.

It starts from being thankful to the people who help you in every single daily task and appreciating the efforts of others. Our success is never a case study in isolation — it is the cumulative effort of the multiple and myriad influences and support that make this journey tangible. Be it a domestic help, a parent, a teacher, a counsellor, a friend, a professor – acknowledging their contribution to your successes will not make your contribution less; instead, along with an increased level of engagement, it displays the sterling qualities of decorum, dignity and grace. It will ensure that your child is always greeted with warmth.

Parents need to understand this difference here and make sure the students realise it as well — a mentor is more likely to help you tomorrow if you have involved them in your work today and given them the appreciation that they deserve. Professors and colleagues in the top league universities will expect the same, so teach the kids to be humble and express gratitude willingly and wholeheartedly. This will form the basis for the networking that will be essential to their careers in the future.

Every child has a place in the sun, but their journey needs to be prioritised on their skills, interests and aptitudes — not ours. If you keep your eye on the bigger picture, it will be easier for your child to see it too.

This is a slightly modified version of an article originally published in The Economic Times. The original article can be found at