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Reflections on Modern Parenting

Updated on December 27, 2011


There was a time when children went to school during the day and spent all evening playing outside. The world was simple and a child didn’t have to boast of being from a rich family or having a father who owns 10 cars to appear cool. There was no cable television with shows from all over the world showing glossy lifestyles, some more appealing than the rest. There was no need to fight for the 0.1 per cent marks by which they missed the position of class topper. IIT and AIIMS were phrases they learnt when they were well into their teens.

That time has passed. Things are different now. While days are still occupied by school, evenings may be devoted to trying to reach the next level of Gameboy or in the coaching classes. In school, there is a constant need to be cool. You have to be rich, beautiful, extremely talented or academically excellent, and if you are none of the above and just an average school kid, going through school consists of a mix of being invisible to other kids and being taunted and whispered about.

You have to be like Hannah Montana or Alex Russo (the current hit girls for the tween set) and if you are a Western rock music illiterate (even though you are an Indian folk music fan), you may be immediately branded as a “loser”. On hitting 14, three hours of coaching classes have to be crammed in so that one can ultimately get into a good college and the competition in the entrances is so intense that most aspirants have to face disappointment.

But there are certain things which haven’t changed over the years. A child is still a child. His or her needs are still the same. Only the things that the world demands from him or her have changed. Accordingly, the way of parenting the children also needs to change. Back in the olden days, when parents treated their kids harshly, sometimes even resorting to hitting and beating, it wasn’t that big a problem because children had a simpler life.

Considering the social and environmental changes that have come about over the years, it is only practical that, as things are getting harsher, more competitive and more cut-throat in the outside world, things should get easier at home. If children are treated the same way today as they were years ago, it would only add to the pressures they are already facing and, if the pressures exceed a certain yield point, they will suffer from a nervous breakdown.

The Norm

In certain cultures, such as in China, tough parenting is the norm. A child’s talent is refined and tweaked to perfection in order to help them survive in a competitive environment, but at times, the treatment can be too harsh for the child’s benefit. Some incidents mentioned in Amy Chua’s book, Tiger Mother. For example, a mother rejecting a daughter’s card as she would only accept a card into which some thought and effort had been put.

The expression of love was rejected and a better artistic endeavor was demanded. The parent may be thinking that she motivated her child to work harder as an artist, but the impact may be such that this memory may linger in the child’s mind way into adulthood, and make him or her abhor art forever.

Outrageous

On the other hand, in certain cultures, such parenting may be considered outrageous. But the good news is that even in such countries, children grow up to become successful individuals and the nation concerned continues to be the world leader in almost all fields.

However, this does not imply that one can allow their children to spend hours with the TV or computer in the name of giving them “freedom” and then expect that the children will grow up to get foreign degrees and at least two Nobel Prizes. The fact that the world out there is extremely demanding must not be forgotten by parents in their attempts to provide an easygoing environment for their children at home.

In view of the needs of a child or teenager as well as the brutal competition prevailing in today’s world, the most balanced form of parenting is what is termed as “authoritative parenting”. In this form of parenting, a parent is an authority in the child’s life, a good role model who helps his or her child to set goals and strive to achieve them. But, at the same time, a child’s needs and interests are placed above everything else and never does motivation turn into coercion and doesn’t drive a child too hard. It is only through balanced parenting that we can give rise to a well-balanced future generation.

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