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By Sushama Kirtikar -

Statistics show Indian Americans rocketing off the charts of financial success. The national median family income is $38,000, whereas that of the Indian American family is $60,000. Forty-five percent of employed Indian Americans hold professional or managerial positions. Tangible rewards are plain to see. Success, power, financial security and prestige are at one’s fingertips, by dint of sheer hard work. In the final analysis, do these erstwhile qualities beget happiness?

Sushama Kirtikar
We, as a community have much to be proud of. We, as a community have much to beware of, as well. Raising the bar of expectations is a wonderful motivator for most children, but not for all. For some, it acts as a hindrance, a classic setup for failure. If we pigeon hole all children into the expectation of academic excellence, we are doing them a disservice. We negate their individuality, unique strengths and creative facets by pushing them in directions that we deem best, from a biased parental perch.

With their agonizing need to please and seek approval, youngsters bend under parental pressure. Numerous are the times that an adolescent has sobbed in my office, “No matter what I do, it is not good enough for my parents.” Numerous are the examples of youngsters switching majors and fields of study after 2-3 years of undergraduate school. At youth conventions, you hear ‘20-somethings’ speak of their initial foray into engineering or medicine, simply to abandon that route to go into graphic design or visual arts, etc. “Beta, you must be a doctor, lawyer, engineer or accountant,” they mimic their parents’ desi accent, with exasperation.

What drives parents to create such a cookie-cutter generation? What drives parents to dismiss or ignore their child’s pleas of consternation? Is it a genuine wish to see their child taste the same success they have? Is it a fear-based compulsion to ensure their child doesn’t lag behind? Is it tunnel vision? Is it a hunger to live vicariously and piggyback on their child’s successes? Is there a price to pay for such drive to excel? What comes first: the child him/herself or our vision for them? What matters more, their well-being, or our dictates?

By no means am I suggesting rewarding mediocrity or condoning sloth. There is a balance to be found between turning a blind eye to underachievement and driving in a spur to overachievement. We cannot squeeze nectar out of a walnut. Listen, see and know your child’s interests, aptitudes, abilities and passions. Assert your experiential wisdom, express your own desires for them, make suggestions and then sit back for their response. Arrive at a win-win solution.

“But, I want only the best for my child,” begs a beleaguered father. Agreed, who doesn’t? That is the reason it is even more crucial to balance what the child aspires, and what you want for him/her, with a sprinkling of reality. It is easy to fall off this mental balance beam. It requires great concentration and single-minded focus. No one said being parents was going to be a walk in the park! No one said parenting was a treacherous trek in the wilderness, either. It is a challenging trail, yes, not an impossible one.

Sushama Kirtikar, a licensed mental health counselor, can be reached at (813) 264-7114 or (727) 586-0626, or e-mail at

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