My 14-year-old niece is the firstborn in my brother’s family. She feels immense pressure to excel in academics, due to an overly-achieving family.
Both parents are pursuing doctorates in their respective fields.
Her father is a physician, and her mother has built a solid reputation in law and governance. Both teach part-time at public universities.
She’s called Naomi, and has just received her 2022 KCPE results. She missed the elusive ‘400 mark’ by 45 points.
Man, she is devastated. I’d understand why.
My brother is stern, strict and pushes for excellence in everyone around him. Lots of times at the cost of personal freedom and friendship.
Burdened with a busy schedule, Naomi’s parents would miss most of her school’s parent-engagement events.
I’d often be the parent at Naomi’s top-rated private boarding school. It did not come cheap. Often, her father would remind her of ‘How expensive that school is’ and, ‘Set a good example to your brother’.
The younger brother is in 6th grade – and cared little if she scored A’s or E’s.
Poor Naomi performed well throughout, but this kind of pressure robbed her of her dream marks at her final exams.
At this point, she was not overly anxious of the kind of high school she’d attend, but struggling under an overwhelming feeling of failing her successful parents.
Worse, her cousin in a derelict, poorly-staffed and equipped day school had beaten her by 20 marks – at a fraction of the cost!
Naomi had a shocker question for me: How do I apologise to my parents for failing my exams?
I stuttered a little, and thought of three possible answers:
- You Come First
Please congratulate yourself. You are mature enough to know that a personal failure may affect other people. Like, not attaining a grade may hurt your parents. That’s something.
Apologise to yourself, too – for messing up your peace of mind.
It’s all about you, not other people. This is a personal milestone, the first – and the success of shortcomings do not overly affect other people. Just their expectations of you.
At this point, you come first. Are you happy with the results? Sad or disappointed? The lessons lie in what you feel about the results – not the actual results. If you gave your best, walk tall and be proud.
If not, there will be new opportunities to make amends.
- Failing is Part of The Journey
It’s ok to fail. We don’t always succeed. Sometime we fail also.
But we should never lose our hope. Failing a test doesn’t mean that you are an idiot and know nothing or haven’t studied anything.
You studied but you still failed in the test only means that your mind couldn’t grab the things easily like the other people. Just a little more hard work and focus than before turns it around.
Failing at something gives you some kind of boost to do much better than before. But some people don’t think like that. We should have positive thoughts regarding things. Then only, we can live this life happily.
You will be fine.
- Parent’s Love Can Be Stern-Faced
Your parents are the only people in the entire world who actually want you to be better than they are. They love you unconditionally, no matter how strict they are.
They are concerned about you, and perhaps upset and could mistake a low grade with irresponsibility. Go talk to them.
Face this situation with pride, it’s your life, you are responsible for it. Even if you struggle because of the results or because of your mistakes, it’s still you who will suffer, so ultimately the words from your parents should not affect you.
Say: “I failed, not because I didn’t do enough, or because, what I did wasn’t enough. It’s my life’s failure on one front, I will come back stronger and better.”
Show them some commitment to improve, and be better.
Now, fellow parents – listen up.
These situations are not solved with one-off pep talks. Students need constant assurance by deeds and overall commitment to their wellbeing.
One sure way, is timely payment of school fees and upkeep for them besides demanding job schedules.