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.
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.