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Thursday, 22 January 2015

Be completely honest - Ask your counsellor Q&A column

[The following column answered by me appreared in the Deccan Herald Education Supplement of January 22, 2015]

Dear Madam,
My son is in the 8th standard. He is intelligent, smart and loving. However, he is a little stubborn and a sore loser. If reprimanded, he revolts. He doesn’t approach his studies systematically and is not keen on taking anything seriously. He depends on his intelligence to deal with his subjects and just glances through the study material. He likes music, books, general knowledge, sports and technology. I am not comfortable pushing him but I don’t want him to be irresponsible either. We sent him to an alternative school but it didn’t work out. Is there anything that he can take up according to his inclination – something in art, drama, music – and come back to formal studies as and when he feels like it? 

Dear Parent,
I am not clear from your letter as to what kind of school your son is in right now. You said that the alternative school didn’t work out. So is he being home-schooled now? After being in an alternative, non-formal, totally flexible environment, it is often difficult to adjust to the mainstream form of education. I am not saying it is impossible, but it requires a lot of adjustment and a lot of focus on social skills.

You say you are uncomfortable pushing your child. Analyse where this discomfort is coming from. Sometimes, children need that push to stay focused. It is great that you are focusing on his positives and trying to encourage him to find and follow his passion, but children need to know that parents are in charge. That parents are in control of the plane of his life, and that his plane is not just flying on auto-pilot. So, I do believe that either extreme (of too much pressure on the one hand, and no pressure on the other hand) is not beneficial for the child. I think we need to find a balance and learn to be able to face pressure, because in the real world, he will have to face varied situations. If he has never learnt to deal with any pressure early on, how is he going to develop the skills to deal with it later? All the best.

Dear Madam,
I am currently studying in the first year of my B.Sc course. I had initially aspired to study MBBS. I find it very hard to focus on the present scenarios and keep worrying about my future. I wish to take up CET again this year but since my concentration levels are extremely low, I am depressed about it. Please guide me.

Dear Anonymous,
I have written a lot about fear of exams in this column in the past, and you can find all the past Q&A in my blog It may be useful for you to spend sometime going through the blog because this question has been dissected in it from many angles. There is also an article on demystifying exam anxiety on

What happens often is that our fears about the future block up our working memory and therefore don’t let us focus and concentrate. So, it would be helpful for you to try and articulate and write down what your worst fears associated with the exams are. That way, you don’t need to hold them in your memory and can just put them down on paper. It may also be useful for you to talk to someone you trust about these fears, and if you cannot find someone with whom you can be totally honest then take the help of a counsellor. 

A counsellor will help you understand those fears and also help you gain new understanding and perspective in a safe, confidential space. If you are apprehensive to reach out to a counsellor face-to-face, or do not have access to one, call the Parivarthan Counselling Helpline at 080-65333323. This is a free helpline, primarily for youth, where you can gain immediate access to a counsellor who can support you in a completely confidential manner. All the best.

Dear Madam,
My son is six years old, studying in the first standard. I am receiving complaints that he is a restless student. He talks loudly and giggles when he finds something funny. He finds it hard to concentrate for a long time. He doesn't behave like this with all teachers but does so especially with the class teacher as she is quite soft. He is intelligent, good in studies, talented and has a sweet loving nature. He is not violent and submits to punishment quite well. But his behavior is a matter of concern. Please help.

Dear Florence,
Your son seems to be a normal 6-year old kid, who gets restless and who laughs when something is funny. Neither of these are inappropriate. 6-year olds often have a limited attention span. Sometimes, even we adults find it hard to concentrate for a long time. If the teacher is not able to get him to do what he needs to do in class, then the teacher needs to relook at the techniques she is using. Especially, if you say he only behaves that way with one teacher, then maybe the teacher needs to do something about it. His 
behaviour shouldn’t be a matter of concern. 

Teachers would prefer for all children to be submissive, quiet and obedient because that makes their life easier. If a student is challenging the teacher’s style, it is not necessarily a problem with the student. He may just be testing the limits and pushing the boundaries, both of which are important skills to have in real life. Sometimes as parents, we need to take the feedback we get from teachers with a pinch of salt. We need to remember that they need to deal with many children and therefore would prefer conformance on all fronts. That is not necessarily in the best interests of the child. All the best.

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