Are parents responsible for their children committing suicide?

Published: April 3, 2014
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Every year Pakistan has cases where young adults and even children commit suicide due to the pressure of getting good grades and being high-performers.

“Hum maaon ko sub kuch chahiye… sub kuch.”

(We mothers need everything… everything).

That is how disturbing certain advertisements aired on TV today are. They show a cross-section of mothers whose sense of validation and joy is dependent on their children becoming over-achievers.

Most of these advertisements are disguised with a ‘feel good’ message, the underlying message, however, is disturbing and sadly, a reflection of what our society’s parents are unwittingly morphing into – a race of achievement-hungry, hard-task masters who want their children to be their trophy to show off. The models posing as mothers stretch their necks upwards as a mark of pride and arrogance while the pressurised children push themselves harder and harder.

What do we parents actually want at the end of the day? A happy child who enjoys his school and college years, has friends and good social skills, is a responsible citizen, a good human and takes studies seriously?

If only the list would end there. But sadly, it doesn’t.

Children, from the day they are born, are our status symbols. And we tend to be misled into thinking that this is what good parenting is all about. There are certain types of body language parents display when they talk about their children.

Look around you at the times when someone asks another person which school their children go to, what the child’s hobbies are and particularly grades of the Cambridge International Examinations (CIE). If your kid got As and A-stars, you make sure to ask other parents what their kid got. But if your kid is a ‘shame to the family’ because he/she got Cs and Ds, you change the topic and adopt an unsaid apologetic stance.

The child is supposed to be super human.

He or she must play soccer, get all As, have friends, be in an elite school, be a member of the drama society, play a musical instrument and of course, his or her ultimate aim in life should be going to Ivy League universities or McGill.

That is why we gave birth to them right? So that they fulfil our unfulfilled dreams.

The pressure on these young people is often underrated but it can have devastating effects. Lowered self-esteem, psychopathic fear of failure and deep-rooted depression are some. It is worse if other siblings are achievers and one child is made to feel less.

Every year Pakistan has cases where young adults and even children commit suicide due to the pressure of getting good grades and being high-performers. Most top-rated institutes have such sad cases in their records.

A heart-wrenching case in point was a news story printed yesterday. A 14-year-old child from Malakand in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) shot himself because he had failed in his exams for the third time. This incidence is surprisingly not from an urban area. I am not implying that the bereaved parents of this boy were necessarily pressurising him. I do not know and it is not my place to comment. But generally, society is pushing children towards this.

Discipline is good and so is ambition. But everything has to have both limits and balance. And striking that balance is the key. Encouraging and even nudging the child towards a better future is good.

But what if your child is one who cannot get very good grades?

What if the child goes against the parents’ plan of ‘all sciences’ and wants to choose a social science majors?

What if your child is not a go-getter?

What if your child is not making you proud in the way you want him or her to?

What’s important is that your child, at any age or stage, is making an effort and is growing into a responsible human being who may tomorrow actually end up doing very well in life, whatever the grades.

But for that, you need to be your child’s rock. Celebrate your child’s achievements and make him see hope even in the face of failure.

They say no one loves you as selflessly as parents do. Today’s over-driven, over-ambitious parents may have to prove that by having realistic expectations and a better value system in which respect is not on the basis of schools and grades.

Farahnaz Zahidi

Farahnaz Zahidi

Farahnaz is a writer and editor, and has worked as the Features Editor with The Express Tribune. Her focus is human-centric feature stories. She now writes as a freelancer, and works in the field of marketing and corporate communications. She loves literature and traveling. She tweets on @FarahnazZahidi. Her work can be seen at chaaidaani.wordpress.com/

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Supriya Arcot

    Hmmm a good article for young parents. Today the need of the hour is to stay ‘connected’ to our children. Small and nuclear families are facilitating this requirement for parents to be the close ( and perhaps only ) confidate of their children. Children always try to impress their parents ( as they are their first link to the society ) and take pride in the words of appreciation ( acknowledgement at the least ) . Lets not ‘ live through our children ‘ . Its tempting to do that . “They should achieve what we could not become” . Thats the motto by default . Remember – mulching yields milk and pressure yields blood.Recommend

  • HNS

    I can so relate to this FzM ….. It’s even more disturbing if the parents them selves are over achieves all their life . It is impossible to believe that your child is not an over achiever according to the standards put by society…. But one advise for all parents whatever your child does he/she is looking for your support the child my not say it but it’s their in his eyes… Recommend

  • Shakir Lakhani

    “He or she must play soccer….”. Soccer is not played in Pakistan. Its equivalent, football, is played mainly by Makrani/Baloch people living in the Lyari district of Karachi. And most Pakistani parents have never heard of Ivy League universities or McGill. Otherwise, an excellent article.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Now, that was powerful stuff. When I / we look back because now we can, what comes to mind is that most of what you have said centers around the schooling system. Instead of asking the mother / parent ( human aspect ) to change, would it not be better for the schooling system to change its approach. This system has been in style for centuries…….. just because it delivers a reasonable product and churns out good money does not mean that it does not need to change. Your article clearly shows that the need is there.Recommend

  • Yesh I hate my parents

    As someone who had attempted suicide 3 times during my teens,I would surely attest that ‘some’ parents can drive their kids to eternal depression which can lead to suicide…

    I was unlucky to be born to parents who wanted their son to be the best in studies…But unfortunately,he always came 2nd in class…But they wanted him to come first…So they subjected me to torture in the name of discipline… Getting beaten by belt was an everyday affair in my house….If thats not enough,they made me kneel down in the street in front of my house and made my entire neighborhood watch the soap opera of me crying in the streets….But I could never beat that first ranker…I was never allowed to play,mingle with “average” students and forced to make friends with top rankers….

    Then after I did good in studies,got a good job in an MNC which had perks of going abroad…Where they happy?? No,they kept lamenting on how I’m dull,introverted,not physically appealling and dont have knowledge in worldly affairs….Couldnt they understand that it was they who made me like this??? Even after doing whatever u told me,you are rstill not satisfied with me….Even I never liked being a nerd at school and I eventually started liking as I had no other option

    After successfully dispelling suicide thoughts,I’m somehow alive still But I’m just breathing but not living the life as I wanted to be….

    WHY IS IT THAT PEOPLE DONT UNDERSTAND IF I SAY I HATE MY PARENTS??? Whats wrong in hating someone who sucked the life out of me?? Just because I share half of the genes??? Even mental abuse like this should be booked under child abuse and I wished several times that I might have been happier growing in an orphanage than here…Recommend

  • Not True

    Youre in denial if you think these trends are not picking up in the middle classes of Pakistan. Are you even aware the number of kids aggressively competing in O level A level based schools to get in Ivy leagues and top Canadian and UK unis (1000s of Pakistani children leave to study at these top unis every year). One only has to attend a school like beaconhouse or city to realise how intense the pressure has become these days everywhere.Recommend

  • Moalims

    yes parents are responsible for this. Moalims.comRecommend

  • Al

    I do think parents are responsible as the school (although I agree the current education system needs a major overhaul) is only trying to produce over achievers to show off their credentials. Parents can set the values and love their children for however they are. I used to be one of those naturally bright and intelligent kids who get by with little studying and achieve As or on a bad day or bad subject, B. I was more interested in my books (reading for fun), sports and an active social life. With both working, overachieving parents and a brother who despite his best efforts always made mediocre grades, pressure was on me and I was simply not interested in putting too much effort. I am a girl and some would laud my parents for encuraging their daughter to have excellent grades and a successful career but the physical and emotional abuse, taunts and belittling, being grounded by my baba for not ‘living up to my potential’, etc really made me not underconfident or gloomy but more rebellious and hostile. I started working but I was not cut out for the corporate culture and I had no desire to conform to social expectations of working at xyz company and having this on my cv. I’d rather be happy and do what I love. I found my escape. My husband supports me financially, I look after my baby and see to the house so there go my parents’ taunts that you will never make any man happy, you are just so difficult and headstrong. Wrong or right, this was my path. I don;t need my glory, little things satisfy me and that is fine. I may have had potential but my chosen path was one of creating a happy family and I am content with that. I attempted suicide at 17 and I know that was inexcusable and I put my parents through hell but so did they, before and after this incident.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Thanks for the response. My view simply was that, yes both are responsible but to change human behaviour and that too one which varies from person to person, is difficult ….BUT to try change a system ( i.e schooling system ) or even modify it so that it addresses this abuse, would be easier.
    Your story is not exceptional but I must admit and admire the way you confronted and overcame these issues.Recommend

  • Umar Farooq

    Firstly middle classes of Pakistan cannot afford O level A level. But I dont know your definition of middle classRecommend

  • Umar Farooq

    Parents are responsible for this.On the result day a student thinks more about how his parents wil behave with him if he got not very good marks than where he will got admission.Recommend

  • goggi (Lahore)

    Children…………by Kahlil Gibran

    And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, “Speak to us of Children.”

    And he said:

    Your children are not your children.

    They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

    They come through you but not from you,

    And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

    You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

    For they have their own thoughts.

    You may house their bodies but not their souls,

    For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

    You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

    For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

    You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

    The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

    Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

    For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.Recommend

  • https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=8559594100366660134#allposts Supriya Arcot

    Hey sorry man. you had to go through all that . We all carry our own private hell within ourselves .Recommend

  • Supriya Arcot

    In some cultures, the parents feel the more they censure , the more impetus the child will get to better himself . They fear that if they praise ( or acknowledge ) his achievements publicly then he might get a thick head. So lets not blame the parents totally . Their intentions in pushing the children are genuine ( in some cases . ) . The best way to avoid all this is to ‘talk’ to each other .Recommend

  • Farnaz Khan

    That is utterly besides the point. The author was mentioning the pressure laid upon kids, which can be translated into any context.Recommend

  • Swat wala

    Please seek some psychiatric help. They can recommend or prescribed medications that will help you overcome your issues. Perhaps counseling with
    a psychotherapist will definitely help. The phrases that you have used, shows you may be in the West. If you so, seek help through your medical insurance
    provider. There are govt. agencies that might help you. it is just a matter of taking that first step. And seeking help for your mental well being. Possible you
    may be suffering from depression. Which is common enough. People don’t even realized they are suffering from depression. But please take that step first step.Recommend

  • Lahori

    “Lowered self-esteem, psychopathic fear of failure and deep-rooted depression” ….. We should be taught emotions management as a society. I tried to commit suicide several times due to love at its extreme and loneliness. Worst form of depression killed me and my mom was busy in watching dramas and dad in politics. I left exams several times due to fear of failure and I’m still struggling with the language issue. My self-esteem and social skills are still pathetic, that’s why I can’t find a job. It is good if some parents are like that and expect something from their children, mine never bothered and were never even happy to see me top the college. Parents should encourage us by taking interest in our lives and also helping and guiding us how to deal with difficult situations in the light of their experience.Recommend

  • fahad

    well written, every child is in race court like a races of horses …they keep racing as they know this life is just like of few minutes…but behind this race their are social torn.of society and although of their parents too ….who cant tolerate unexpected results but they dun know dat luck is also be a part of life….Recommend

  • fahad

    we can understand forgive them….. anonymous ….i kow it’s difficult to forget…but their are more examples likeRecommend

  • Sidra

    Its very sad that you had to face all this in your life….I totally agree with you that there are at times we feel that we were not given liberty of choosing our career…..or being treated badly….but hate always nurtures hate …Thats what I have learnt in my life so …I kept aside all my childhood nightmares aside and gave my children the full liberty to do what they feel like…..be what they are…this gave me full satisfaction……..I am being considered a successful mother and also given the title of super mom….writing a diary helped me through out my life….it made me strong and people never came to know what I was going through…..this made me stronger….It will help you too….be confident and live your life…..we are born just once……Recommend

  • Marilyn Black

    Life is beautiful! Don’t waste your time on writing an essay Recommend

  • Kathy

    Oh, these issues are so complicated. It would be great if there were no suicides at all.
    Recommend

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  • Suzan

    I think that only parents responsible for their children committing suicide, because they must support, not punish for any stupid mistakes (bad grades, etc.)

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  • http://teflcourses.info/ Chloe Young

    parents have their own pressures (specially middle and low income families)…in very less time, they have to finish their duties…money is the main issue in this situation!!Recommend

  • Suicidal problems.

    I am currently 17 and thinking about a lot of this shit. And my parents trigger it.
    Sometimes, I adore them, brag about them to my friends. “My mom just got her teaching degree!” or “My dad is in Washington and met a famous viner.” and so on.
    Yet there are those days where if they blow off the hat, I am the one they target.
    Yeah sometimes I blow up too, but I have some sort of mental disability that my parents try to over look to try to see me as “a perfect child”
    Today I had another blowout with just my mom and brother, since my dad is on a business trip.
    It was a combination of her complaining about my dad like she always does, and my brother with his two spoiled kids, who don’t like to eat.
    I was getting annoyed, but I stayed quiet… until I saw my mothers day gift for my mom on the grown, covered in chocolate.
    I do art. So for mothers day last year, I painted her a picture of our beloved dog, who I swear is my only friend. It took me over a month to finish and she seemed grateful for it the day I gave it to her, then she threw it aside like an old paper towel.
    But when I found it on the floor I started crying. My mom, who woke up from a nap, yelled at me. I retaliated and my brother used the excuse once again- “Don’t act like a mental person in front of my kids.”
    He has seen my scars, and he knew about my almost attempted suicide two months ago.
    I ran upstairs crying and all I could hear was my brother and mom talking to each other how crazy I am and how they should call the cops to take me away.
    Where I’m going with this is that I completely agree with the fact that family can drive a person to their breaking point. I have had 4 suicide attempts since I became a teenager due to my families intolerance of my imperfection.
    All I can pray about now is that parents can take the time to just try to understand their kids instead of yelling at them or turning a blind eye to their problems, because I have known kids younger than me whose parents knew they were suffering, but coped with it by ignoring it.
    Maybe with this new generation of teens going into adulthood, they can learn to understand their kids depression instead of handling it badly…Recommend

  • brian6456

    It can be happen for many others causes also and i think every one have responsibility to stop the suicide. Not only the parents, others people also come to help the destroyed people.Recommend

  • nerdymates

    Totally agree with your statementRecommend

  • KAYEN

    I got taunts from my parents every day and I think everyone here knows what it feels like…when everything is n Your damn head and you can’t tell it openly to someoneRecommend