Holding his report card, Ravi stood outside his house trying to figure out what his mother would be doing. He then tried to tiptoe into the house and go to his room. However, his mother spotted him and called out to him. She took the report card and started going through it. The poor marks that Ravi had scored made his mother very angry. She crumpled the report card and slapped Ravi hard.
When a child fails in exams, along with the child, parents also feel extremely upset and sad. In this state of emotional turmoil, without considering the reasons for failure, which may not necessarily be due to the child’s lackadaisical attitude, parents sometimes resort to actions that may be wrong, just as Ravi's mother did.
Let’s look at five things you should never do after your child has failed in the exams.
1. Do not lay the blame on the child: No sooner do parents come to know that their child has failed in the exam than they start blaming him for his poor performance. Fingers are pointed at every habit of the child, like getting up a little late in the morning, playing a few minutes beyond sunset, or spending a little extra time in front of the TV. The child’s failure is attributed to all these factors.
No child prepares for an exam with the intention of failing. Like adults, children also need some entertainment and me-time for themselves. Blaming a child can fill him with a sense of shame and make him internalise his shortcomings.
2. Do not resort to hitting: Some parents are so upset and enraged by the news of their child’s failure that they can’t prevent themselves from picking up the rod. In their anger, they beat the child black and blue. In fact, some parents get so angry that they beat their child at the slightest provocation.
While young children are too immature to understand the impact of failing in exams, grown-up children resent being touched against their wishes. Hitting not only causes physical injuries and emotional scars, but also reinforces to the child that it is okay to use force when someone makes a mistake.
3. Do not make comparisons: When a child fails in exams, parents often resort to comparing the child with her peers or other high achievers. They tell her how ashamed they are of her poor performance and how by failing, she has dashed the hopes they had pinned on her.
Comparing and belittling a child lowers her self-esteem and self-worth, and makes her feel unwanted. If comparing the child becomes a parent’s habit, it can lead to the child developing a carefree attitude and distancing herself from her parents.
4. Do not label the child: After a child fails in the exam, or proves herself incapable of securing good marks, some parents often resort to labelling their child as ‘good-for-nothing’ or ‘stupid’ or an ‘idiot’. They make statements like, “Why are we wasting so much money on you?” or “If you had been friends with good students, things wouldn’t have come to this.”
Over time, when parents resort to using such words, a child starts believing what the parents are saying and begins viewing himself as such.
5. Do not refuse to engage with the child: Often, parents and family members of grown-up children refuse to talk or engage with them after they have failed in the exam. They order the child to stay in her room, cutting her off not only from themselves, but also from the outside world.
Think of yourself - if you have failed in a project, would you want your boss to yell at you or talk gently to you. Similarly, when a child fails, he also feels upset about the failure. It is very important that parents understand that their child is feeling low, and be gentle with him, and encourage and motivate him to perform better. Tell him to focus on the future performance and not on the past failure. Shouting and screaming at the child is counterproductive, and takes away the motivation the child has to study. If parents are keen on improving their child’s performance, they should involve themselves in the child’s studies to enable him to perform well. —*Dr Ravi Samuel.
A child who has failed in exams needs the support of parents to overcome the crisis and disappointment she is going through. Leaving a child to be on her own can make her feel depressed and unwanted. In extreme cases, it may also lead to the child committing suicide.
So, stand by him and try to limit the emotional and psychological impact of failure on your child. At the same time, talk to him and try to analyse the reasons behind the debacle, so that he prepares well and does better the next time.
*Dr Ravi Samuel is one of Chennai's eminent psychotherapists who offers mental health therapy through his URClinic.
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