The Cost of Pushing Our Kids with Komal Shah
October 4, 2022
The Cost of Pushing Our Kids with Komal Shah

Parents have dreams for their kids. Maybe it’s that the child earns that sports scholarship that the parent didn’t get. Or that the child gets into the big four-year college that the parent couldn’t afford. Or that the child excels on the stage that the parent was too afraid to get on.

There’s nothing wrong with dreaming of all our children can achieve, except if we’re pushing them into something that is our dream and not their dream or even wishes.

There’s a cost associated with pushing our kids, and usually that cost is our children’s self worth and self esteem. Too often it’s our own egos as parents that get in the way of our child’s success.

Success looks different for everyone, and we need to let go of our expectations for our children and do what’s best for them.

Listen in to this week’s podcast and hear more from our guest, Komal Shah, about what this looks like and what the cost is of pushing our kids to meet our own expectations.

About Komal Shah:

Komal Shah is an educational consultant and thought leader on a mission to transform the world through conscious education.

After Komal spent five years in the Teach For America program as a middle school educator, she was left wanting more. She wanted more for her kids, all kids. To pursue this dream, she attended USC Marshall School of Business where she received her MBA.

Today she leverages her passion for education, business expertise, and her personal conscious living practices. Her plan is to shift outdated educational paradigms and transform the educational system for the betterment of all children.

Jump in the Conversation:

[1:30] – Why Komal is in educational transformation
[3:05] – Deconstructing what success is; is this good for all kids
[3:38] – What is success
[5:12] – Bringing consciousness to education – where to begin
[6:28] – Education is really personal for people
[7:15] – If your ego is connected to your child’s success
[10:30] – What’s the cost of putting your kids down a linear path?
[13:31] – Fear and scarcity mindsets
[14:11] – What does success actually mean
[15:15] – It’s not that the kid is doing well in the system; it’s that the system isn’t serving your kid
[21:15] – Komal’s Magic Wand
[22:14] – Maureen’s takeaways

Links & Resources



Maureen O’Shaughnessy 0:03
Hello fellow parents and educators. Thank you for joining me at education evolution, where we are disrupting the status quo in today’s learning models. We talk about present day education, what’s broken, who’s fixing it, and how. I’m Dr. Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your host and founder of education, evolution, micro school coalition, and co founder of active, I consult and train with schools and leaders who are fiercely committed to changing the narrative, reimagining the education landscape, and creating learning that serves all children and prepares them to thrive. If you are new, welcome to the podcast, please subscribe on our website to get it delivered to your inbox weekly. If you’ve been around a while, have you left a review?

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 1:08
Hi, Komal, it is so good to have you on education evolution.

Komal Shah 1:11
I thank you. Thanks for having me here.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 1:14
And listeners. today I’m chatting with Komal Shah, advocate for consciousness and education and author of raise your hand. So Komal, you and I know our schools have to evolve to serve all of our learners. I’m curious, where did this story of being involved in school transformation begin for you?

Komal Shah 1:36
You know, it’s a funny story, because honestly, I don’t think I would have ever thought I’d be here. But I actually started my journey in 2013, I joined Teach for America. So I was in that program for two years in Richmond, California, which is Northern California, and got dropped into a middle school math classroom and was told to teach. So let’s say there was a lot of puberty involved and things. But, you know, is interesting, because I had a very interesting educational experience where I was going through to kind of Blue Ribbon Schools, and I was told through my immigrant family, that education is life, and you have to be successful, and you have to get good grades. And so I never questioned it, I just thought, this is the pathway to success. But I think when you are now put in front of children, that you did your lead love, you start to question everything. And I think I was in a unique situation, because my students were from a low income background. And so there was just a lot going on in the community, there was a lot of poverty and gang violence and things that I had never experienced as a child growing up. So that definitely was where the spark kind of started is with just the love for my kids and kind of trying to have them learn in spaces that were not necessarily emotionally supporting them. So over those five years of teaching, and then leading a team of teachers, you know, was about deconstructing what is success? And you know, is this good for all kids? And is what worked for me work for everyone? And did it even work for me? Or did I think it worked for me? So that was kind of where my inner transformation per se started. And now we’re here and then the passion continues.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 3:35
I love it. So you brought up the word success? How do you define success?

Komal Shah 3:41
Hmm, I think if you were to ask me, the old paradigm, it would have been to be financially secure, have be validated by society and your parents, and to consistently achieve and strive for more, because there is no satisfaction. I think, now it’s about success, to me, is much more holistic. It’s about, you know, having those externalities but also having self love, and love for your community and impact and inner fulfillment. And realizing that the rat race will never end and I don’t have to become somebody I already am. And yeah, it’s taken a lot to get here. But I do think it’s taken a lot of unlearning. And most kids still have the old messaging message to them and unfortunately, many times by adults in their lives, including parents and teachers, because they themselves have not questioned if this is the right way.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 4:49
Absolutely. And we know traditional schooling is oftentimes this assembly line of academics, and it really isn’t about holistic. It isn’t about well being men The health statistics of our youth tell us that kids are declining rapidly, we have a crisis. So I completely agree we need to bring consciousness to education. Where do we begin?

Komal Shah 5:14
I always say, first, that systems are made up of people. And if we want systems to change, people have to change first. And so for me, the first thing is mindset. It’s having all types of adults really sit and reflect first on their own educational experience. And understand when are the times they felt shame in school? When did you feel pride in school? When did you feel successful? When did you not? How did you know? And then asking yourself as you’ve gotten older, you know, has that changed? has that shifted? Why or why not. So once we start the reflection process, then it is about shifting mindset for our own kids. And really redefining what success can look like. And I can sit here and give frameworks and you know, tangible things. But I think if we don’t change the mindset, then everything else is just going to be done, unintentionally, it’s not going to be conscious. And so it takes deep work to ask ourselves those questions of, you know, I went to college, do I care if my kids go to college? Why or why not? Right. And I think education is really personal to people. I think a lot of people take a lot of pride in their education, and they identify with that strongly. But I think we also have to ask ourselves, is that serving our youth, when we identify with it so strongly? You know, is it going to actually harm our kids, because they feel they need to also identify with that to be come? value in our world?

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 6:50
You know, I’d love to have you unpack that more, because I see that I see parents, so worried is my kid gonna go straight to a four year college? And it almost they’re using it as a marker to determine whether they’re a successful parent or not? And kind of missing the boat on what’s best for my child? What is my child interested in or ready for? So if a parent is really their ego is really connected to education? And that’s, that’s a sign that I’m a good parent, how can they start to be gentler with themselves? And maybe re think that?

Komal Shah 7:25
Good question. I think it’s case by case. I know that when I work with parents, you know, the question is, okay, you’re here now, you know, I think also personalizing it, I think a lot of parents are in jobs, but they’re unhappy. Yeah, it’s, it’s asking, are you okay? You know, and, of course, as a parent, you’re going to do anything for your kid, right? You’re going to be in that job, maybe that doesn’t make you happy, because you want to financially support your home. So I understand that I understand where there’s that, you know, passion, to just to, you know, provide for a family, but the asking those other questions right about mental health and fulfillment, and really unpacking that what was message to you, as a parent, even of what that looks like for you? And, and then it’s about finding other parents who can communicate that for them as well. You know, I think sometimes parents put a lot of pressure on them that they feel judged by their other parents in the community. But I think there are a lot of parents who are going through the same thing. So why are we not opening up those conversations that you’re not alone? And, you know, we don’t all as parents have to be in fear, right? That’s what drives the way we push our children is a lot of times it’s fear that our kids are going to fail. And so how do we overcome that? What does that look like? And I think a lot of parents need a lot of tools. They need a lot of support in in kind of navigating that. And to be honest, you’re going to grieve, not putting your kid down a linear path. That is the ultimate ideal way. There’s a lot of grief that comes with that because you’re now choosing to do something different and that feels uncertain and scary.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 9:16
I think the grief piece is one that we don’t hear very often. And and that’s okay. And that’s healthy. And there are times in our lives my divorce, I felt grief that that fantasy of mommy and daddy happily raising kids, you know, so I think sometimes we have to say for the better good, this is what I’m going to do and feel those feelings and in hindsight you can go Yeah, I’m so glad I was willing to go through that. Parents by secondary education are pretty alone. I I know as a mom, I had a lot of parents sitting next to me in ballet classes and stuff and a lot of conversation when the kids were littler and I think parents do they feel shame, they feel alone, they feel fear, especially as they’re getting ready to launch their child. And, and it’s at a time when teens are kind of prickly. Like you said, there’s an awful lot of puberty going on. And they’re not really communicating. So it’s kind of in a vacuum. So what would be some of the mindsets that are tools that you would want parents to have to navigate this really tough, important time?

Komal Shah 10:27
Yeah. I would say first, you’re not alone. So go find your tribe, go find the people who want that. I think there’s a lot of online communities you can seek out. There’s a lot of people you can follow on LinkedIn that are supporting the parents, I know that I’m moving and transitioning to supporting parents myself. So so feeling that I think also knowing that when you’re choosing something that’s not linear, that you’re not going to have all the answers. And so just being okay with that, and knowing that, I think the question and one thing I will I’ll push parents is, you can put them down the linear path, right of success, you can push the grades and the test scores and the achievement in the college. And my question to parents would be, at what cost? What would happen if we continue to do that, right, mental health is going to increase, your child may have more anxiety, as an adult, they may fall into perfectionist traps, they may feel deeply unfulfilled, they may keep changing jobs, trying to find something that gives them purpose. Right. So again, the question to parents is at what cost? What are we willing to sacrifice to put them down a comfortable and fearful path? And I think when we ask that question, most parents would say, Whoa, yeah, I don’t want that for my child. To feel all those things. I want them to feel a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Okay, if and this is a sacrifice we have to make to get there.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 11:59
Absolutely. I don’t think we unpack that. What are the consequences of just said, Hey, this is that trail? And says who? And why? And how does that pertain to my child? Who knows my child better than me? Why am I letting culture say, This is what’s best for my child?

Komal Shah 12:19
Yeah, and, you know, as human beings, we like belonging, it makes us feel safe. So to say no, even if it’s best for your child, for a lot of parents is, is very scary. And for some parents, they’ve been conditioned to never say no, right? It’s always a yes. So I think, also understanding that for many parents, it’s a deeply personal transformative journey for themselves, if they’re going to do this, you know, it’s, it’s not just for your child’s anymore, like, you’re gonna have to really look in the mirror and and have to navigate that. But again, these are the consequences if we don’t do it, if we want more conscious children who become adults and leaders of our worlds who really support purpose, and not just profit, and really care about their communities, and uplifting others and helping the homeless and doing all the things and spreading joy and love while it’s it’s our duty, then to really think differently about their educational experience to get them there.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 13:21
I completely agree. You mentioned fear. And to me fear and scarcity kind of go hand in hand. Talk to me about mindsets. Hmm.

Komal Shah 13:34
Oh, goodness. You know, one thing I’ve learned with mindset is it’s easily malleable. And we get really influenced by the thing around us. And something I found with schooling education is mindset for most parents is trying to intake as much knowledge but many parents don’t know a lot about the schooling system. So they may choose the school for their child’s but they don’t actually know, like, how do you even navigate it? Right? So they’re only in take usually of successes, a path, I’m in to get a grade, I’m gonna get a test score, like that’s how I’m going to be able to assess my child. So for mindset for me, what I usually push for is, okay, what does learning actually mean? Right? What is assessment actually mean? What does your kid being good in school look like? Is that true? And so with mindset, it’s actually looking at what your current mindset is and asking, is it serving your child because I think our mindset just develops as kind of our own educational experiences. But one thing I will say is developing that growth mindset, right? And you’re starting to ask yourself, Okay, if my kid is labeled as not good in school, am I going to take that for what it is? Or am I I’m going to say no, my kid is actually a learner and really curious. But the system’s not serving it with the learning that they’re currently providing, instead of being like, my kid is bad. How do I get them to catch up and do well in that class? Because the class must be fine. It’s my kid. That’s the problem. So a lot of what I tell parents is, it’s not that the kid is not doing well on the system is that the system is not serving your kid. Yep. And that mindset shift for most parents is not one they’ve maybe encountered, though. I will say, the pandemic has definitely push that thinking for a lot of for a lot of families.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 15:41
I agree. I think it’s on the forefront. But I’m kind of seeing people, let’s just get back to what we had. It’s like, wait a minute, we were just saying what we had wasn’t that great. And we spotlighted it. And now we want to just get back to that means it’s familiar. Comfortable does not mean good.

Komal Shah 15:59
Yeah, we love our patterns. And I’ve learned that sometimes our patterns are so on autopilot. They’re so unconscious. And until we make them conscious, then we’ll we’ll start to see it’s the same one, you’re driving to work every day. And sometimes you forget that you were on the road, or how you even got to work in the first place. And I feel for a lot of us, that’s how we live our lives. We never, we never stop at the stoplight and go Whoa, look at that tree over there. Maybe I should look at it more.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 16:28
Absolutely. Tell us about your book.

Komal Shah 16:32
So it’s called a raise your hand, it’s available on Amazon. And basically, during the pandemic, I was really internally struggling with my teaching experience and what I thought kids deserved in our educational experience. So I spent a year interviewing over 70 educators all over the world. Luckily, they were all home, also on lockdown. So it worked in my favor. And I was asking them about their own educational experience and what their lens was on the system based on their teaching or admin work. And I was able to get a lot of insights of my own teaching as well. And so basically, my book is on how our education system is based more on the external marketable success of the child versus their inner fulfillment. And what is it going to take to shift into a more conscious way of educating our children. And so I speak a lot to the problems we’re seeing around mental health. Then I talk about being authentic and working through trauma and emotional intelligence and unlearning some of those consciousness components. And then I speak a little bit about how we can even start and begin to get to a system that serves our kids. Well,

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 17:46
love it. That’s why I started my micro school to be human centered. Yes, yeah. And when we do when we take care of that Neuroscience tells us when kids belong and feel safe and cared for, we can get more learning. So it’s not an either or the both the and if we can become conscious, your work is so important to come. Thank you. Yeah, I’d like to pivot and just ask a couple of questions about you. Are you ready for some turbo time?

Komal Shah 18:17
Alright, let’s do it.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 18:18
Yay. What’s the last book you read?

Komal Shah 18:22
Atomic habits by James clear, changed my life started working out in the morning and meditating and doing all the good things.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 18:30
I love it. I love how doable it is and the strategies. Yep, that’s a great one. How about two inspirational folks you’d like to meet

Komal Shah 18:40
Dr. Shefali Sudbury, She’s the leader of conscious parenting. And a lot of her work, when a quote I love from her is our children are not blink easels for us to splatter our own paint on and really informed a lot of my work hoped to be her event in the educational space. And then, gosh, someone else i i really admire is Dr. Gabriel monta. He does a lot of work on trauma and children and how our society likes addiction and how we have to unlearn a lot of that to move out of that space. So two people I really deeply admire.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 19:20
Whoa, I want to look them up. That’s great. How about a TED Talk that inspires you?

Komal Shah 19:27
Who haven’t watched one in a while but one that resonates with me is the one of like your teachers, your champion. It’s by Dr. Rita Pearson.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 19:37
Yeah. Yes. Yes. Oh my gosh, she is such a force or was such a force. Yes, yes. How about a pet peeve of yours?

Komal Shah 19:50
So many. A pet peeve of mine. Probably the first would be just driving In the leftmost lane and not moving over on your driving 65, and I live in California, some drivers. So that’s the first one that came tonight. I feel you Yeah.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 20:13
How about a way that others can take steps to make schools more conscious and more humane? Who?

Komal Shah 20:24
First step, reflect on your own education? Really go in deep and ask yourself questions? What was success to you? Is that the same now? How would it look differently moving forward? First step, then we’ll go from there.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 20:39
Nice. What is something about you most people don’t know?

Komal Shah 20:45
Who I am deeply emotional. I think what I put out into the world sometimes is more of the I have it all together. But yeah, I definitely feel my emotions deeply and need a lot of time alone. And I’m hoping to consistently create that narrative of, you know, vulnerability is strength. And our emotions are important. And we don’t always have to have it all together.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 21:07
Amen. I’d like to end with a magic wand moment. So if you were handed the magic wand, what resources would you wish were readily available in all schools, to support mindful happy learners, and a healthy type of success?

Komal Shah 21:25
Valuing silence in a school system? In a school setting? If I could do a magic wand, it would be that we would value just the seeing, and play and joy instead of doing and so for me, it’s the it’s that feeling when I would enter a space. And I don’t know if that’s a tangible resource, but that’s the first thing that came to mind.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 21:49
Yes, I can feel that. Yeah, absolutely. Well, come on. I love what you’re doing. Thank you for being such an advocate for educational evolution and for being our guest today.

Komal Shah 22:02
Thank you, Maureen. It was such a fun time.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 22:04
Komal’s message really resonates with me. I had no idea when I created my micro school in 2013. How hard it would be to convince parents to look at education through a different lens. Personally, I just experienced my daughter’s both floundering in a variety of school models, to the point where I gave up and helped them graduate early. I had wished that they were going to schools that offered a little more support for my daughter with learning challenges, and a lot more freedom and empowerment for my daughter who is fiercely independent and very capable. But in the parents that I’ve met with, I’ve encountered a great amount of fear. And Kemal helps us understand why there are so many unconscious expectations in our culture, old messages that tell us we’re a good parent. If our child has a good job after succeeding and completing a four year college education, well alone baloney.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 23:20
When we unpack that message and look at who we consider to be a success today, we see that this is a myth. There are many people who are healthy and successful, but did not follow that traditional trajectory. And we see equally people who are miserable that did follow that trajectory. And this includes young adults who are strapped with horrific student loan debt, and working in thankless jobs buried financially. We have to take time to get conscious. We have to find like minded parents, and ask the questions that need asking. I’m excited that Komal has put these ideas into her book, raise your hand. The link is in our show notes. We need to redefine success if we want our kids to be healthy, and happy young adults who are contributing to society in meaningful ways. Komal said it well, when she said we have to support our youth having purpose and not just creating profit, and her magic wand which is a reminder to all of us. Can we create silence? Can we model just being can we have moments of play and joy without trying to accomplish anything without any devices involved? If we can build these moments into our lives and support our youth and doing the same, we can start to look at healthy and successful through a much more positive lens hands, and our educational system can be transformed to a human centered, proactive model. We can do this. Thank you for being a part of the education evolution.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 25:20
I know how challenging it is to make changes inside your own school or community. I’ve spent years working with schools around the world on creating learner centered programs. And it always struck me how much schools were able to get done with the right tools and guidance. If you’re ready to make changes like this in your own school, let’s talk and put together an action plan. Visit for a free 15 minute call. And let’s see if we’re a good fit for more work together. Thanks again for listening. To support the education evolution. Subscribe so it lands in your podcast app and gets out to more decision makers. Then rate and review it. For more information and shownotes go to education evolution listeners, you are the ones to ensure we create classrooms where each student is seen, heard, valued and thriving. We are in this together and we need you. Let’s go out and reach every student today. Thank you for listening, signing off. I am Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your partner in boldly reimagining education

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