I’m ashamed of my children for being underachievers

The Japan News

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a female company employee in my 50s. My youngest child just finished taking the high school entrance exams. None of my children got into top-level schools in our area.

All of the children of people I went to school with went to college prep-oriented schools, then on to prestigious universities. Because they inevitably mention the names of these schools at every opportunity, I’ve decided to stop associating with them.

Even at the piano school where one of my children took lessons, it was the ones who were best at playing who went to the top schools and won prizes in competitions. I thought my child would never play as well as them, so I had them quit after 10 years of lessons.

I had always wanted to be able to boast about my children going to good universities, but it has turned out to be the complete opposite. I can’t help envying parents with exceptional children. I’m ashamed of my children for doing so poorly.

I hate fretting about the results of the entrance examinations, so I’ve kept some distance from others over these past few years. I see no change in myself ahead, but can I go on like this?

Y, Fukushima Prefecture

Dear Ms. Y:

A child is not an accessory of their parents. They are not an object to showcase the parents’ pride. And it is a huge mistake to try to measure a child’s true value by the school they go to or their result in a music competition.

What parents should most value is the extent to which the child can find goals that fit them and live a happy life. Parents should also make every effort so that their children can take the initiative and not give up when things do not go as expected, and that they grow into a person who shows compassion for others.

I believe the feeling you have of wanting to be proud of something is one that everyone has to some degree or another. Because that desire exists, we determine goals and make efforts to achieve them. We feel happiness from good results, but when we are unable to achieve a goal no matter how hard we try, we experience the bitter taste of failure and frustration.

What’s important is to make it a principle that we will accept both successes and failures. When we forget this, it becomes possible to end up rashly driving the child into a corner with one-sided, narrow standards, and then blaming them for their failures.

This will sound harsh, but when I hear of a mother bemoaning about being ashamed of her children just because of their entrance exam results, I think it is the children who feel ashamed of her.

Masami Ohinata, university president