Parental Control

Indians are going global today. With the Internet, parenting books from western experts and frequent travels abroad, Indian parenting is influenced by western ways. Nuclear families are the norm these days where house rules are much more relaxed. Kids these days have more freedom while growing up. Many of the ‘rules’ are discounted for them.

Parental Control - Western Influence On Indian Youth - Indian Parenting

We do not impose our ideas on our kids. We have ‘talks’ with them to try to convince them to see eye to eye. We encourage them to have their own opinions, seek their view on matters of family and keep them involved in every family decision. We strive to make them bold and confident to face the world. We give them as much exposure as possible. We want to see them independent. Most of the families do not differentiate between a girl and boy child and inculcate equal dreams in them.

We hesitate to scold or use cane; we do not co-sleep with our kids, our kids go to international school with western curriculum and culture. They have friends whose ideas and culture are much different from ours. For families staying outside India, western influence is much more in the lives of their kids. They are exposed to the concept of dating, moving out of parental home for college, mixed families with step relations and other such western ideas. This is a shift in paradigm.

The real story begins when they grow up to be all those that we wanted them to be. They grow up to be bold, independent and confident. They have strong opinions. They have higher exposure, they are open-minded, and they are open to other cultures and religion. They begin to question some of the cultural and societal fundamentals. They begin to see western way of living as the norm.

What happens when parents lack foresightedness – giving kids all the freedom while growing up but interfering in the major decisions of their life? Kids growing up with western culture but expected to conform to Indian traditions is infamously termed as “American born confused desi”. I hope this is not the way going forward for all our kids, even though they are brought up in India.

Will we, the Indian middle class, be able to handle this? Will we be able to allow our kids to explore their individuality? Will we be able to see them experiment with their life and allow them to fail without interfering? Will we be able to allow ourselves to let our kids decide which career path they take – not one of the typical Indian career path, doctor or engineer? Will we be able to allow our kids to choose a partner of their choice? Or will we still have a say in our kid’s choice of life partner? Is a life partner from the same religion too far-fetched for our kids, as we had wanted them to be open-minded? Also, have we planned for our retirement? Are we planning to move in with our kids when we are old, because that’s what is Indian society norm?

Family values, respect to elders (which mostly equates to doing what elders say without questioning them), joint family structure, being a part of larger community usually driven by religious beliefs are some of the basics of Indian culture. Are we passing this on to our children? If not, how fair is it to expect these out of them when they grow up?

Is there a gap in the way we are raising our kids versus what we expect from them? Do they know our expectations? Or is it right to have expectations from our kids?

Divya Rao is a mother to a 4 yr old bundle of joy. She has one eye set on growing her career and the other watching and enjoying her little one grow up.

  • Ashok

    Well written article Divya. 🙂

    As the famous saying goes .. As you sow so shall you reap. Children are ‘impressionable’ and they absorb what they see around them. I think, like you rightly pointed out, the “growing up” phenomena doesn’t apply to the kids alone .. it also has to apply to the parents.

    • Thanks for leaving a comment Ashok. It is very important as parents to ask ourselves these questions. Are we consistent with what we are teaching and what we are following?

  • Sumana

    Nicely articulated Divya. I always come up with this question in mind, when i hear a far cousin marrying a person from a different country altogether. There is no similarity between the two except for English. What if tommorrow my kids do that? Will i be able to accept and adjust incase a situation comes?? Will i keep arguing what is good and what is not good for them?? This is an ongoing question in my mind. Not sure if setting a limit helps here.

    • My argument is that it is important to discuss with your kids about this marriage and how you feel about it, off-course age appropriate discussion. Since the exposure to our kids is more these days, such cases are not so rare anymore. I understand your dilemma and you are right, setting limits is not the answer. What is wrong for you may not be wrong for your kids – obviously your cousin doesn’t agree with you that only English is common between him/her and his/her spouse.

  • Rightly pointed out Divya. There is a disconnect. We are raising independent children but are we ready for what that would eventually mean when they grow up? The other day, my husband and I were discussing something. Don’t remember the specifics but I remember saying that ‘I would want my son to grow up into an independent, thinking, questioning individual who finds his own path’. And I remember my husband saying, ‘then be prepared when he decides to leave home to pursue his interests/goals. At that time, you cannot hold him back.’ That really made me realize what we are getting into, and we better don’t complain 🙂

    • Bingo Reema. We are encouraging all independence. We really have to ask ourselves – are we ready for the future we are headed? If we are not – do we change ourselves to accept it or do we manipulate our kids to not go that way? 🙂

  • Harshith

    A deep but timely thought, portrayed very nicely. One should accept and adopt to every aspect of a culture they are in either blindly or question and analyse everything in detail before taking in. Instead if just as convenience try to dictate the ways and choose, we will be for nowhere.

    • Thanks for leaving a comment Harshith. Yes, one should question and as parents we should accept when our kids start questioning.

  • I am so glad you wrote about this. I bring up my daughter to follow her own mind and be independent. Infact I want her to be able to make up her mind and stick to her decisions as early on as possible. I also want her to know when she is wrong it OK to admit you are wrong and learn from others. I know my wish list means she will NOT fit inside the box I grew up in. It is hard for me to accept it for a part of me says “I am the mother and you will do it as I say” .
    But I have accepted it and it makes my life easier. I have had peers who tell I will have a tough time later as my daughter (who is all of 4) has “too much freedom”. I do not think so as I do not have expectations from her other than the unconditional love children have.

    • It’s good to know that you have accepted the fact that she will not fit inside the box you grew up in. That ensures that your daughter has full freedom to explore and own her life not only in the beginning but also later on in her life when she is making major life changing decisions.

  • Times are changing and we as parents, specially those living abroad in different culture have a very tough job. You bring some very important points to the discussion, and the answers will be specific to each family situation. But talking, discussing with an open mind is the first step towards family harmony and better future of the kids.

    • You are 100% correct Prasad, each family has a way of dealing with it but to think in this direction is the important step. Denial or ignoring the fact doesn’t help ..

  • Hi Divya,

    A very timely article for most parents. My son has just become a teenager and I can see him forming his views about certain things. But sometimes, I do wonder – am I and my husband giving him too much information before it is needed? Are we sharing too much before he is even mature enough to handle it all? Are we trying to compensate for our childhood which did have a lot of parental control? Would it all prove to be difficult for us and our son later on? Something to ponder about…..

    • Shail, Thanks for leaving a comment.
      My girl is still young, so I am really curious to know views of parents who have grown up kids .. particularly kids of teenagers who are on their way to become young adults .. who are in the age of questioning and experimenting. Did our parents too think that they were giving us a lot of freedom? Is this just generation gap?

  • rachana sharma

    Divya ji, You have very well posed one of the contradictions in modern parenting. But no matter whatever strategy is applied, every generation advances in the light of its own wit. The important thing is preserving the values and culture in ourselves so that the new generation at least gets the exposure of the worthwhile traditions. As they grow if we could maintain the communication, that is great achievement in its own. And after an age the dignity of parenting is in trusting the new generation’s judgement and accepting gracefully their freedom to make mistakes….

    • Pearls of wisdom “And after an age the dignity of parenting is in trusting the new generation’s judgement and accepting gracefully their freedom to make mistakes” .. How I wish every parent understood this …