Let's Learn to Embrace Differences | Milaap

Let's Learn to Embrace Differences

We've all seen the Sharmaji Ka Ladka memes and jokes that do the rounds every now and then. "Sharma Ji ka ladka" (that is Mr Sharma's son) is the perfect, ideal, kid and all parents aspire that their children are a mirror image of this Sharma Ji’s son.

This blog post raises a few questions that I came to ponder upon after meeting all these kids all across the state of Tamil Nadu. Two of the important ones would be - ‘Why do some parents feel the need to compare their children with another?’ ‘Why can’t they just accept them for who they are?’' By saying that one person is doing this and another is doing that, not all children are going take that comparison as a motivation. I met a number of kids throughout my one year stay in the districts of Tiruchirappalli, Thiruvarur and around. They shared with me their biggest concerns in life and the pressure they face in society.

Kids enjoying a sunny afternoon in a village in Tiruchirappalli district

One sunny day, out on the field the field-officer and I were finding it difficult to figure out the way to members' houses. We asked one of the members to come and guide us and had to wait for her to come. While waiting, we ended up becoming an audience to children playing in the street. It was just after their final exams had finished and all of them were free from all the tensions of school and studies. That is when they spotted us and started asking me who I was and where I was from. After a brief introduction from both the sides, they asked me to join them in the games. “Okay, but you would have to teach me. I don’t know this,” I told them politely and they agreed right away.

Kids playing a traditional board game in a village in Thammampatti town

We struck up conversations while they taught me the games. “You must know good English, right? Can you teach me a few words?”, asked Geetha. She wishes to become a philanthropist someday, “but my father says I should try to become a doctor,” she said, “because my uncle’s daughter wants to become one.” I understand there are things that parents think are best for their kids based on their experiences in life. And many times they try and force these experiences on their kids.

‘My daughter is pretty good at studies and so I am going to get her to study for medicine.’

‘My son isn’t good at studies, so I think we would have to spend a lot of money to get him into an engineering college.’

‘I just want her to do simple graduation as later she needs to take care of the family only, right?!’

‘He just needs to get a job to feed his family, so studying something which would fetch him a job is good. Engineering is the most desired field these days.’

‘I always wanted to become a teacher, but could not study. I want my daughter to fulfil that dream for me and become a teacher.’

The above are the statements that the parents usually adhere to when talking about a suitable career choice for their kids. I agree there would be no one more worried about our futures and happiness other than our parents. And whatever they do is based on what they have experienced their lives. But it must be understood that not all kids study in the same way and not everyone can become doctors or engineers. One may think that comparing them to others is a form of motivation, but in reality, it’s not. Making kids feel like a disappointment isn’t going to encourage them to improve themselves or reach their full potential. By making them conform to the way you think has the chance of killing their passions and reduces their confidence. Just because another person's child has reached a good moment in life quicker than your child doesn’t make your kids any less accomplished or someone for you to be ashamed of.

I feel very happy when my mother sometimes supports me and listens to what I feel like doing in future,” said Geetha. She is very understanding for a child her age. “Our parents have two daughters and one son, and I understand the financial responsibility for them. Still, they are letting me and my sister study, unlike the others who prioritise their son’s education over their daughters’. And so I think I should give medicine a try, at least for my parents letting me study,” she exclaimed while braiding her sister’s hair.  

Geetha and Sumathi while talking about their dreams and family issues

It really helps when you start appreciating the best in your children rather than making them feel embarrassed about their shortcomings. Tell them that it’s okay and they will make it however hard it may seem, rather than comparing her or him with the neighbours’ kids. One must always think about what the kids actually want and need, not what you think they need because everyone’s kids in society are doing it. Most importantly, talking to them about their dreams, wishes and fears despite what the society might think or say will give the children confidence that you have their backs.

Every human being needs their own time to fulfil their potential. By rushing them and comparing them, they’re not going to magically speed up and become the ideal child that you want. For some, it is easy to ignore pressures from comparisons, but there are some who end up so impacted by them; they lose their self-confidence. This can lead to really negative consequences.

Kids in a village near Namakkal chatting and relaxing outside their houses post-school

Humans are not all the same. Why would you want your child to be a replica of someone else? Why not push them to be more like just themselves? When it comes to looks, studies, athletic abilities and more - everyone is different and unique. So why not encourage them to hone these differences and uniqueness?