The Super Kid Syndrome: Are We Killing Childhood?
Haven’t we all, at some point in time, wished we were a kid again? To go back to those beautiful, precious days when we fluttered around like a butterfly, without any stress or tension? But will our children, after many years, be able to recollect their childhood with so much of fondness? Maybe not.
We live in a world where only success matters. All of us are in this constant race, striving to outdo the others. And we drag along our children too, expecting them to run at the same speed. We want them to read and count before they can walk; become class topper even in kindergarten; become disciplined, self-sufficient and productive even before they can speak for themselves; excel in every activity understand every single subject the moment it is taught and score 100% in every exam. Put simply, we want them to be “super kids” and not “normal kids”.
According to leading mental experts, such unrealistic and undue pressure causes extreme stress in children, which can have devastating effects on their physical and mental health.
Stress in children can be categorised to three:
Positive stress response
This is an essential and normal part of healthy development, characterised by brief elevation in the heart rate and hormone levels.
Tolerable stress response
A result of more severe and long-lasting difficulties like loss of a loved one, trauma etc., this activates the body’s alert systems to a greater degree. Tolerable stress becomes tolerable when family members and friends help them overcome it.
Toxic stress response
This occurs when a child is subject to persistent, strong and high-levels of stress. Prolonged activation of the stress response systems can hinder the normal development of brain architecture and also other organ systems, leading to stress-related diseases and worse, cognitive impairment.
Continuous toxic stress can cause permanent damage to the child’s physical and mental health and cause multiple complications including developmental delays, heart diseases, diabetes, anxiety, depression, behavioural problems, insomnia and substance abuse.
The Super Kid Syndrome
Many parents want to create “super kids” out of their children. They force the child to grow up faster, take responsibility and become premature adults who are overly competitive. However, when they to live up to the unrealistic expectations of their parents, they become so anxiety-ridden that they fail to perform. The high-stress levels, constant pressure and the fear of failure hamper their ability to think, understand and function normally, which in turn leads to disastrous results. To complicate matters, they may also subconsciously block their learning skills and suffer from memory lapses. In other words, in the attempt to create an overachiever, parents often end up creating an underachiever.
What happens when they fail? The burden of failure and the guilt of letting down their parents will start gnawing them from within, which in turn can lead to health problems like persistent headache, insomnia, bedwetting, anxiety, depression and suicidal tendency.
Children who undergo stress during childhood may exhibit ailments of stress even in adulthood. Besides, the feeling that “I am a loser who can’t live up to expectations” can haunt them their entire life.
Another thing what parents should never do is compare their child with a sibling or a friend. Not only does crushes their morale and confidence, but also causes problems like
The child starts feeling inferior when he or she sees someone performs does better. This can lead to poor self-confidence and stubborn, defiant attitude.
Envy, jealousy and rivalry
Comparing your child with others will instigate unnecessary rivalry, anger, envy and jealousy towards the other.
Children will stop trying to do better because they feel that no amount of effort can win them their parents’ appreciation.
Child’s own talents will be lost
In the effort to become good at what others are good at, the child will lose interest in the talents he or she is born with. Finally, they end up not being good at anything.
Distances from the family
Constantly putting them down will make them feel that they don’t matter to their parents anymore. The sense of belonging will fade and they will start detaching and distancing from the family emotionally.
Comparison stays in the head forever
Continuous comparisons, even if unintentional, will not go away from their mind. This can even affect their personality and behaviour in adulthood.
Too much of stress can either lead to overeating or kill the child’s appetite. This can in turn cause multiple health problems including tiredness, digestive disorders, decreased immunity and obesity.
Dangerous ways to de-stress
Children turn to people who lend them support, without realising what their intentions are. They might resort to dangerous habits like substance addiction or fall into the company of people who may exploit them in various ways.
So what should you do to make your child perform well?
Let children be children
According to Dr. David Elkind, author of book “The Hurried Child”, advises parents to simply let children be children. His research suggests that children are more likely to perform well academically if they are not hurried through their childhood by parents who overestimate their competence and expose them to extreme academic pressures.
Identify their talents
Children are born talented. If one is good at academics, the other might be good at singing. It’s important that you identify their talents and tastes, and encourage them to do what they love to do.
Children are not means to realise your dreams
Most often, parents see children as the means to achieve what they could not. This attitude can spell doom for the child. Each individual has his or her talents, capabilities, dreams, aspirations and a mind of their own. Remember, they are your children, not your replicas.
Realise the fact that children are not super kids
No one can excel in every thing. The same applies to children as well. It’s fine if they can’t perform well in certain areas. You can always encourage them to do better.
Marks don’t decide how talented a child is
It’s fine if your child can’t score a straight 100 in every single subject. Low marks don’t mean lack talent. Instead of demotivating and scolding them, encourage and support them to perform better.
Never compare your child with other children. Would you appreciate being told that you’re not good enough?