Is there too much social expectation for growing kids?
With more accessible information brought about by the Internet, the current generation is more cognizant of the world they live in. This has greatly increased the competition for jobs and has placed greater scrutiny of the behavior of growing kids. Social expectation in the forms of academic performance, and extracurricular achievements piles up for adolescents as their parents, particularly those in Asia, follow the perceived ‘formula for success’ and devise training regimes without taking into account the wishes of their children. This has produced unbalanced and often unnecessary expectations, along with many unhappy memories.
The social expectation in terms of academic performance, created by the competition in the job market and exacerbated by easier access to information, is excessive and is an aggravated problem in some parts of the world. Students spend years studying for national exams that determine whether they will get a place at prestigious universities in countries such as China and India, and those who fail them will not be able to make a decent living. The mental burden on growing kids is particularly evident in the suicidal rates of students in India, which is thought to be the highest compared to other countries. Even in places like Hong Kong where the educational system is more attuned to that of the West, which is generally thought to be more lax, the social expectation at some schools still amounts to a pressure-cooker that puts kids in frequent unease about academic performance and their parents in constant, unabated anxiety about them.
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Another form of social expectation on kids that is excessive is in terms of extra-curricular achievements. Parents who want their kids to become successful often pack their timetables with classes, tutorials, and training camps. Competitions, awards, and recognitions form the basis for dinner table conversations for many and achievements are often compared with others as a benchmark. Very often, the kids give up the activities when they grow up and confess that they had been forced into picking up the instrument, the art or the sport out of social or parental expectations. They end up wasting their time doing something they simply did not appreciate, which could have been better spent otherwise. Social expectation often deviates from the particular interest of the kids, and is excessive and counter-productive in producing success.
Indeed, many successful people did not become so as a result of too much social expectations. Bill Gates dropped out of his undergraduate education despite expectations to get a good degree, which he could have had he continued to study at Harvard, in order to found Microsoft. Mark Zuckerberg also defied such expectations and set up his technological empire Facebook with few rivals. Similarly, knighted British cook Jamie Oliver did not go to university, nor did Justin Bieber, but their interests in their fields, food and music respectively, brought them achievements beyond the ordinary. Besides, success entails more than just being earning a lot of money or being famous. It could mean simply to be a conscientious and educated person living an ethical life; any lesser-known people spend their lives improving the livelihood of others in one form or another, and are very successful in their own right. Therefore, pursuit of one’s interest is a better driving force for a successful life, rendering much of the existing social expectations in growing kids redundant.
Upon scrutinizing our conventional understanding, social expectation found in contemporary society does seem a bit excessive. While it could be a good source of motivation in a moderated form, current state of social expectations to perform well academically and in extra-curricular activities is misguided in training teenagers.
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