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British teens and Indian parenting

January 21, 2009

Reading about a British Reality show (to be part of a BBC documentary series) which will give “overindulged and spoilt” British teenagers a dose of Indian parenting was intriguing. A pair of British teens will be living with a doctor’s family in Pune for six months to experience Indian parenting first hand.

A quote from the TV show producer:

Whenever British kids’ behavior goes a step too far and parents say anything, the first complaint is that ‘My parents are too strict’ and ‘They are so unfair”…British adolescents lack respect for elders, are not driven to succeed in school and do not aspire to better themselves…A culture now exists in the UK where adolescents believe that the world owes them a living and where they should be free to behave however they wish. Sadly this culture has come about as parents try to give their children every benefit that they can.

Well, there are flaws in Indian parenting too, although by and large it is true that Indian middle class parents exercise strict control over their kids. I think our rich kids are certainly in the same boat as the “overindulged” British teenagers. However, middle class upbringing should be better in most countries, but apparently in Britain the “better” is not good enough.

I feel one of the reasons why parents in western countries find it more difficult to control their teens is that their kids grow up faster than ours. A British parent won’t have a problem controlling his six year old, but the same kid at sixteen could be a handful. If in India sixteen-year olds are more obedient, the reasons to me seem obvious…

In India sixteen year olds are practically babies, in the eyes of their mothers at least! Few sixteen year olds in India know what it is like to earn money, they do not usually do “chores,” are not legally allowed to learn to drive (in the United States a sixteen year old can apply for a learner’s license and in Britain it’s 17), and cannot usually cook even a simple meal for themselves. In fact where boys are concerned, their moms will be lucky if they can make a decent cup of tea or a sandwich! Sixteen year olds in India are also not very experienced with the opposite sex and are just about coming to terms with their sexuality.

Our kids at 16 are physically and emotionally dependent. Even if they “answer back” they do try and please the parents. By the time they start to assert themselves strongly, they have passed the teen years, and are more mature and able to see the consequences of their actions.

Ofcourse there will be exceptions, just as there are those rottenly spoilt Indian teenagers who race around town on cars and bikes endangering people’s lives, and buy drugs and drinks with their parents’ money. I am not talking about them, and nor am I talking about the poor children who are put to work at a very young age.

In any case, how a kid actually turns out, whether he rebels, whether he gets spoilt, depends on a lot of factors. The parenting style, and genetic, societal, and environmental factors all play a part.  In western cultures for example I think peer group influences are very strong at 16-17, due to the greater freedom and independence that the teens have and perhaps also because of weaker family ties.

Let me briefly mention briefly the four major parenting styles (go to the link if you want more detail):

  1. Indulgent – parents who allow their children self-regulation
  2. Authoritarian – demanding, strict parents
  3. Uninvolved – neglectful parents
  4. Authoritative – demanding parents who are also responsive to the individual needs of the child.

Authoritarian and Authoritative parenting styles may seem similar but they are in fact poles apart. Authoritarian is strict obedience and adherence to rules set by parents not allowing for flexibility, and Authoritative is strict rules and boundaries which the parents adjust according to the situation and the child. Psychologists consider that the authoritative style creates the most balanced adults and the Indulgent or Uninvolved parenting styles often create out of control teens and irresponsible adults.

Given below is the impact of different parenting styles on personality traits, but as I mentioned earlier, how a child actually turns out depends on a whole host of factors. For example the effect on “indulged” children is often dependent on gender, particularly in a conservative culture where boys and girls have different societal behavioral expectations. In such societies if male children are “indulged” they are more likely to go out of control (example rash driving, drugs, underage drinking) as compared to females who are “indulged” as societal pressures help keep the girls on a narrower path.

But if one still had to try and relate parenting styles to personality traits then consistent research over the last several decades has shown that:

  • Indulgent parents tend to have children with higher levels of self-esteem and lower levels of depression, but their kids often get into trouble, and have a poorer academic performance
  • Authoritarian parents have children who do alright academically and sometimes excel, but these children have poorer social skills, lower self-esteem, higher levels of depression, and are at risk of turning rebellious which can result in problem behavior
  • Uninvolved parents are considered the worst kind of parents and their children can land up severely maladjusted
  • Authoritative parents have the most well balanced children who are socially competent, are good academic performers, and usually do not get into trouble.

Are certain parenting styles common to particular countries? Ofcourse not. However, the more conservative cultures and societies will look down on Indulgent parenting and appreciate Authoritarian parenting. Liberal societies will frown upon Authoritarian parenting but might be more tolerant towards Indulgent parenting.

More important, what is termed as “indulgent” will vary greatly from society to society. A British parent might think that an Indian teen is being mollycoddled even though he/she is obedient and an Indian parent might think that a British teen is becoming wayward because he/she is allowed to come home late.

The ideal parents try to maintain the right balance (which is what authoritative parenting is all about) and this is usually peculiar to their own culture.  Even then it can be a difficult balance to achieve and well, the kind of parenting experienced by a child will finally depend on the income and education levels of the parents, the kind of parenting they have themselves received and ofcourse, the society they live in.

(Photograph is copyrighted to me)

Related Reading: Old people are revered in India, not neglected
Some kids seem protected from any adverse effects of television violence and violent video games
Do children affect the health of a marriage?
Aggression can be controlled with good parenting
A new law which prevents adult children from claiming their parents’ property

All posts on Parenting

52 Comments leave one →
  1. Vivek S. Khadpekar permalink
    January 21, 2009 8:47 am

    @ Nita:

    I think most of what you say about the upbringing of Indian kids is tue of the urban upper-middle class, and that is a very tiny fraction of India as a whole. Go to the urban slums and to the rural areas, you will find kids, both girls and boys, who work long hours (though fairly relaxed) and whose labours are not quantified in monetary terms, so they don’t “earn”.

    I get the impression that you think it is not desirable for a teenage child to rebel. If this is so, you can take it for granted that this is one reason why, if at all they really “excel” in life it is mostly in the area of prescriptive and programmable achievements. The roots of all pathbreaking achievements lie in rebellion, questioning, and challenging established wisdom.

    //In India sixteen year olds are practically babies, in the eyes of their mothers at least!//

    Why just sixteen, even sixty-years old sons are often just babies in the eyes of their mothers, who essentially expect them to be demonstrably obedient and to provide them with daughters-in-law unto whom they can do what, in their own younger days, their mothers-in-law did unto them. Thus the son becomes an agent of vicarious revenge.

    • January 21, 2009 9:06 am

      Vivek, ofcourse you are right, the middle class kids comprise less than a quarter of the whole and I have mentioned that rich kids and poor kids tend to have a different upbringing. But I must mention that I have seen in some lower middle class families in Maharashtra (income about Rs 6000/- a month) who live in urban slums where there is a huge emphasis on education and the kids are made to study. Girls as well as boys. One of my maids came from this background. Also I have seen other lower middle class neighbors who refuse to allow their kids to work at home as they want them to study. In fact if I look back to my childhood, I find that kids of lower income parents by the dint of their hard work got into medical and engineering college while children of doctors and other upper middle class parents did not excel at studies. Also by rebel I think we mean different things. In this particular context I meant those who take to drugs and get involved in rash driving, are financial burdens on their parents, and in fact I mentioned the word “problem” kids and getting into trouble. The word rebel should be read in this context. Sorry if I was a little confusing here!
      However I do not agree with what you have stated are the motives of evil MIL’s. Because I know too many cases where a submissive DIL (read one who has been harrassed) turns out to be a submissive MIL (read bullied by DIL). But then that is the subject of another post!

  2. ruSh.Me permalink
    January 21, 2009 10:41 am

    “Problem” kids don’t have to do anything with income group… I have seen in my own distant family… Cousins gone rogue belong to all high-income-middle-income-and lower-income group… I guess, Indian parents feel independence will make the kid misuse it, but how will the kid misuse it, he does not know what it is like to be independent….

    A friend of mine had once written a post about Indian Parents.. Now he has visitors from US and UK , who Google terms like “Indian parents and white girlfriend”, “Indian parents and arranged marriage” etc etc… I guess mom-dad would remain the same, even if they have moved from India… 😀

    As you said problem kids per se do not have anything to do with income group, but more to do with the kind of parenting. And parenting in turn is dependent on many factors. And about not letting their children make their own choices even after the kids have passed their teen years, that is indeed sad! To some extent I think the grown-up children are also to blame, if they are financially dependent on the parents. – Nita.

  3. Naveen permalink
    January 21, 2009 10:50 am

    I feel indulgent parenting will encourage creativity and help children pursue his/her interests. I think too many rules will kill creativity to the core.

    Authoritative and Authoritarian parenting try to make their children a replica of themselves or what they believe is good. The present trend in India(or atleast my state A.P.) that there are only a few noble degrees- MCA, MBA, Medicine and nothing else comes close, has a lot to do with these kinds of parenting.

    To balance things, I think one parent should be indulgent and the other authoritative.

    Well, I think it is our education system which kills our creativity, the rote learning. But ofcourse authoritarian parenting also can have a similar effect as it kills self confidence of a child. A balance is what is required. About parents having different styles of parenting, now that is another very interesting discussion! As long as the parents discuss and compromise and present a united front to the child its okay, but if they quarrel in front of the child that’s another problem! – Nita.

  4. January 21, 2009 11:07 am

    Nita, I think I mentioned this on another post too, but I will repeat since its relevant. I think many Indian parents mix up their own prestige and social standing with the child’s well being. I have seen umpteen kids wanting to succeed (go to Harvard, get a job etc.) to fulfill their parents ‘dreams’. I think some Indian parents lack courage and trust in their wards, they are not ready to let their kids decide their own destiny and be a support. A lot of it of course has to do with the circumstances, but I hope for better from this generation of parents, esp. in the middle class.

    Its a kind of symbiotic relationship I think. I have also seen grown up kids expect too much support from their parents, right from financial and emotional support to baby sitting. And if they break out, often it ruins the relationship. Today I think with the youth being exposed to western values has started to assert themselves more. – Nita.

  5. January 21, 2009 11:08 am

    I had authoritative parents, who were involved, meant well for me and were demanding of academic excellence. I was not allowed to watch movies and I was at their mercy to be allowed to play outside. But I was a rebel, not in yuor meaning though. I made use of all games periods at school and was good at badminton. Though I got very little time to practice when at home. I found a world of books. In my adult life, I am a movie addict.

    But that said I still regret not being allowed to play often and watch movies. However, whatever I am today is due to them. They did not let me work straight after college as I wanted to, I had a comfortable education on their allowance. In west, you fend for yourself as soon as you are into college. You are expected to move out of your parents’ place and also have a companion. There is a peer pressure to do, doing so is seen as a crime here in India.

    Thanks Poonam. It does seem to me that you had authoritarian parents and such parents are usually very well meaning and want the best for their children. It is good to hear that they supported you in your education and encouraged you to study. – Nita.

  6. January 21, 2009 11:23 am

    I had authoritative parents,who demanded ,yet were open to my choices.

    As Vikram says,parents here mostly use kids as a means to acheive or maintain a certain social status..When I say ‘Oooh,my kid is studying in Good Shepherd School,Ooty’,she is just implying that she has hell lot of money to afford and obviously looking down at others kids who may be studying in Bhartuya Vidhya Bahavan..I have seen a cousin’s kid who was enrolled in this school and i never saw him happy.So,bottom line is that he is forced to live the way his parents feel goo,not the other way round..

    There sin’t anythign wrong in indian parenting ,provided we keep limits..I don’t kile this so called modern western parenting where mothers have to take their daughters to put on birth control as soon as they start their periods..I am happy with being conservative ,but at the same time having them given the choice,but ofcource under my guidence,as long as i am healthy,physically or emotionally to support my baby..

    What i don’t like about indian parents is that they mind every business of their kid no mater if he is even amrried and is a grandfather..eew,i hate parents dictating me ‘Do this like that’,’Go here at 1 pm’,’Put 1 tspn of turmeric powder is this dish’ ,’Put this dress’ ‘Comb hair this way ‘bla bla bla..Why do they bother to make kids..I thought parenting is all about helping kids to be independent..Again,here i am talklng about a balanced path,not ending up in extremes ..

    lool..did i make any sense..I think i am a confused am out of the kid state and neither yet evolved into a parent..I hope my thoughts will get refined .. 🙂

    Good day

    Hmm, as you said extremes are always bad. And I am sure that parenting will come instinctively to you, they say the parenting one has experienced has a huge influence. – Nita.

  7. January 21, 2009 11:27 am

    Well, about the british teenagers everything said is really true!! And I can see it here….parents have a hell lot of task in upbringing the kids….till 13 they are really Angels…and once in teens, suddenly everything changes….To be honest with you, i recently came to know, bullying is a lot done in high schools coz students are teenagers…
    when i first came here, one of the safety aspects i was briefed on was, never fiddle or look eye to eye with a teenager esp if its dark around!!
    They really dont care about anything….
    Some might think, its all abt being independent etc…but let me tell you, most of these spoiled kids dont even have respect for themselves if not for parents!!
    When I come to my apartment, sometime at around 6 from office on Friday – i very commonly find, 13-14 yr old girls [still in school uniform] unconscious on the pavement /bin store coz of excess drinking [for their age]…I dont know I feel sad for them rather than irritated!

    Well, as u said , the lifestyle is different…In India, the real teenage word could be used, probably from 18 till early 20s! But thats not the excuse at all, coz, when parents can still have a chance to upbring, they are too busy sorting their world out!!
    Secondly, teenage moms and very young moms are a general sight here !! They have no idea how to upbring a child, at that age, they themselves are not sorted!!
    Children are a bit confused , right from their childhood, as to whos their family etc….its a butterfly effect i think!!

    PS: I made it a bit general, but most of it is really true!

    What a sad life! But I guess the kids you talk about, those who act in these wierd ways belong to the lower classes? Middle class kids should be better behaved, right? But I guess they would generally not have a strict upbringing either!- Nita.

    • Sunny permalink
      September 28, 2009 10:02 am

      Hi Sahaja,
      It was really an interesting experience to see the British teens through your eyes. I had an opportunity to teach in England, of course as part of my own studies, so I have seen the teens both in the class and outside. They are students in the class but they are young adults outside and therefore their behaviour in class is entirely different from what we see outside. But for the Indian students their behaviour is the same. This shows lack of maturity. there is a lot of fear amoung the Indian children. The parents, teachers and the outside community should respect and admit more freedom to our children to get the fear out of their minds.

      • vasudev permalink
        October 1, 2009 10:44 pm

        true…true. indian children have to ‘show’ performance. and that gets them all tizzy, trying to live the ego of their parents.
        these european kids don’t have a damned to show and yet they are smarter than indians by yards and yards and yards…but, who will tell our president?
        indians live by bluff…europens live by gruff!

    • vasudev permalink
      October 1, 2009 10:57 pm

      contrare to wht i said to sunny i feel in this case indian children r better cause their minds are always occupied with the ‘lack’ (and thus to prove) than the ‘excess’ (and thus to disprove). reminds me of the indian punju and bengi refugees. how much bttr prfrmd they r and hw captured r the high seats of indian business and governance!

  8. January 21, 2009 1:14 pm

    @ Nita : There you go again comparing cultures today! Anyway it depends….

    A lot of Indian people I meet always say “but western kids are thrown out when they grow up…”. This is certainly not the case in every western home. Most of my Dutch friends were dependent on their parents for money and sometimes even shelter. The only difference I find between middle class brats and the western one’s is that western one’s tend to be more eager to develop themselves as people.

    I find Indians very passive and I guess somewhat has to do with how they were raised. I have been living alone since I was 16 and I guess my erring ways and my adventures gave me a lot of experience. I have met 40 year old Indian men who can not even do their own laundry.

    I guess as Vikram said offspring in India are the security net for their parents. I have often found the attitude of Indian parents towards their kids condescending and mean. They claim that they are looking after the best interests of their kids but in reality they are only looking after their own interest. So we have ended up with a lot of drones in our society and basically the typical Indian social and family structure revolves around controlling each other.

    I am tempted to agree with you because I was brought up in an amazingly independent way. I was encouraged to think for myself and choose my own path and I thank my father for this! I will be eternally grateful to him! But I tend to agree with you when you say that parents act in ways to keep their kids dependent for their own selfish interests. But every situation is different but yeah control is the word, from both sides! – Nita.

    • August 30, 2013 2:10 pm

      The Golden rule of Parenting was given by Chanakya, “first 6 yrs, kids should be treated with atmost love , 7 to 16 , they should be under strict discipline(even if it means a slap or two on rare occasions), and from 17 onwards they Parents should become friends with kids “. Who was chanakya ? He is considered as Father of Economics in Ancient India, A Thinker, A Philosopher and A Diplomat.

  9. January 21, 2009 1:14 pm

    I would say to an extend parenting and income level are interrelated. To just some extend that is. Parents who suddenly rise from a medium to upper level tend to spoil the child by providing him with everything because they couldn’t afford it before. Then there are also parents from upper strata of society for whom all luxury is what their child deserves. Both cases child ends up with a lot but still it needn’t be a bad thing because you can teach your child to be responsible and careful towards the things he has received.

    I don’t believe in being friends with your child till a certain age and that is may be 18 or after that. I am of the opinion that till then a child needs a parent and somewhat strict who can show him the right path but let him walk alone. Let him fall but be there. Not allowing to make mistakes is another reason why you hear some techies as young as 23 are committing suicide because they can’t take pressure. They haven’t seen failures.

    I have often seen Indian making fun of western culture and how they want to protect their kids from that. That is prejudiced. Good and bad exists in both cultures. For Indian parents, we can let go a bit and let children choose their aim for a change instead of shoving Science and Maths since childhood. Another thing Indian parents can do is to NOT compare their lifestyle with their children’s. It’s like hamaare zamaane mein we used to be obedient and never answered back to an elder and look at you we have provided you with so much and you still don’t respect us. If you enquire then this parent was notorious as a child 😀 Same way many in the west can spare some time to take an interest in what their child is doing or which sites are getting surfed on internet. Actually you can even see children of not highly educated Indian parents also surf internet 24/7 and parents don’t bother to check. These kids are as young as 13 and visiting adult discussion sites and yet parents are totally unaware. Never heard of parenting control.

    Nita, I don’t know what kind of response you were expecting, I just kept on typing. 😀
    In a nutshell “Good upbringing doesn’t mean that parents make choices for us. Good parenting doesn’t mean that they need to breathe down our neck every single day. It is to teach children how to face life, how to be accountable for your own actions.”

    Solilo, I just wanted people to give their take on parenting and you have done that! As you said all kinds of parenting has its bad and good side and one would wish one could strike a balance. I personally admire that way the westerners give responsibility to the kids at a young age. Its one good thing we should follow but not go overboard! – Nita.

  10. January 21, 2009 3:37 pm

    A well researched post !

    Thanks. 🙂 – Nita.

  11. January 21, 2009 4:03 pm

    Nita, that was a good post except for the point where you say 16 year olds are not able to cook! I mean, why do we have to even get into this esp. when this point is hurting certain 26 year olds 🙂

    You might call the western upbringing liberal, but I would call it spoilt! When children are young, because of the levels of uncontrolled freedom, they easily tend to get addicted to bad habits. Its not easy to get out of it later when to.

    Destination Infinity

    Well, if it is hurting, time to change! 🙂 But I agree that the kind of upbringing that western kids tend to have is too much freedom..but I think as Gauri mentions, their individualistic culture places importance on the child’s happiness to a great extent! We could learn a few things from them though- Nita.

  12. January 21, 2009 4:40 pm

    I think it also has to do with collective Vs. individualistic cultures. The so called “3rd World” countries tend to emphasize on familial institutions, and bring up individual as a part of the society – not speaking up to the elderly in the family, accommodating others. Individualistic cultures emphasize on ‘standing out’, being different (expressing individuality), speaking up etc. This has quite a bearing on the upbringing too, if you ask me.

    I’d add another category often for parents in the West. Reasoning parents – not the same as reasonable parents. Quite contrary, in fact. They’ll treat the child like an adult, and try to logically reason every decision, every instruction with the child. It makes sense in some cases, and more so with an older child, but definitely not at all times.

    It’s not black and white for sure. Loads of other things I’d like to talk about, but that will be a post in itself. Maybe you could take one or two points from this post to make a post by itself; this is too vast and interesting a topic!


    PS: Don’t know happened as I typed, if this comment is a duplicate, could you delete the first one? Thanks!

    Thats a very important point Gauri, about the Individualistic culture there. And yeah, children are not mini adults and I think we should try and explain things, but not the same way we do to adults. As you said there are a lot of complex issues related to this topic, and one that interests me is the different parenting styles of two parents. – Nita.

  13. January 21, 2009 5:30 pm

    Pls continue to raise your kids the way you do. Authoritative parenting style is the best in my view. But the Authoritarian model is better than nothing, if not abusive and excessive.

    The “overindulged” British (and European) teenagers are a disaster responsible of the progressive decadence of the West (not very much seen from abroad), this being said by an ex libertarian student of the Sixties. I now think that what counts in order to fully overcome life hard difficulties is discipline and the capability of hard work

    Vivek: ‘the roots of all pathbreaking achievements lie in rebellion’. Well, true, but any generation will in any case rebel. Poonam had authoritarian parents, but she could nonetheless rebel, she said.

    Having little time to deepen topics, I just wanted to draw the attention on the fact that many Western societies are kind of falling apart. From there you probably see only the bells and whistels, less the deep alienation of our young people.

    So India, about to modernized herself, should meditate on all this and try to keep what is good of her tradition and erase what is bad.

    Authoritative is best, and I personally have my doubts about the authoritarian style. It works better if a liberal society (and ironically in a liberal society the kids will never accept it!) because a liberal society’s parents will have liberal views. In conservative societies, the society’s expectations and parents expectations can be quite inhuman in a way and it is very common to go over the edge. It is indeed sad about the fall in standards of parenting in the west. I think they have gone to the other extreme. – Nita.

    • Patel permalink
      February 26, 2009 7:17 am

      A good clue as to how well people are doing as parents is to look at the societies they create. You criticize the youth in the US and Europe, but those countries are by far (!) the most successful in the world today. This can be measured any number of ways: infant mortality, literacy, morbidity, average income, innovation, etc. Most Asian countries are absolute disasters based on such standards. Abject poverty, horrendous treatment of women, incredible disparity in income, government corruption. It’s got to come from some where!

  14. January 21, 2009 5:55 pm

    well mine then should be authoritative 🙂

    the reason,why Indian kids do keep put is not just the fact that we don’t work etc( I mean middle class and richies) but also because we realize that it is essential to our development.
    Also we live(in my case) and used to live with grand parents and in certain cases large joint families ,so that tendency to stay along will be there…

    Also those rich kids(I might have to include myself,though I am half the time confused whats the exact definition for a “rich kid”) know that there is lot more to be gained sticking to home turf…and not all are pampered,I do know a lot of kids(including me) who wouldn’t waste money..but as you said it comes with nurture 🙂

    I believe that truly rich parents who have earned their money,even if they pamper their kids,will teach them the value of it..and etiquettes too will be thought,as kids are seen as the future of their businesses…

    well as you said what a rich kid is very relative! But I guess I don’t mean just the top 1%. But again, what you mean by pampering also varies. If you ask me, if you do not make a cup of tea or coffee for yourself, I would consider you pampered. But then I guess my standards are different from the norm. I was always the kind of mother whose kids were eating on their own at three. – Nita.

  15. January 21, 2009 7:02 pm

    Thank you Nita for this insightful article!

    I am sure it will be a good experience for the British kinds to get the loving and caring treat of Indian parents 🙂

    What I know about Western parents (also from my personal experience of living with families) is that they are just too busy with themselves and that seems to be the reason of many problems. Modern parents (of teenagers) are oder 40, and more expierienced in general. And they mostly share the financial responsibility. And they love to think over about their personal and relationship problems, do some psychotherapy, try to understand this and that…which is not bad! – but unfortunately far too often they forget about love…just loving children and their partners is more than enough…
    You know, the way Western people are self-centered, I sometimes feel it is just immature…

    Ah, again what you say is this individualistic culture! On the other hand Indian couples just do not give enough time to their relationships. I wish there was a happy medium and I think some families do manage it! – Nita.

  16. wishtobeanon permalink
    January 21, 2009 8:03 pm

    That reality show would be interesting to watch! By the way, nice post!
    I have learnt a lot about parenting after living here in the US. Like one of your commenters said, it is all about reasoning with the child. The most common punishment thats given to a child here is a ‘Time out’ and the ‘time out’ varies with age – a three year old will get a time-out for 3 minutes, a 4 year-old for 4 minutes and so on. Discipline is taught right from infancy and I think it’s a good thing.

    I have heard of these “time-outs” but I don’t know if it is the right way. I think that most of the time when children behave badly is when they seek parents’ attention and by rewarding them with attention for the right things from a young age goes a long way in maintaining discipline. Also I think that too many restrictions tend to frustrate a small child. I remember the time I attended a birthday party with my two year old. All mothers sat with their infants on their lap and refused to let it go beyond a certain distance (it was a huge bungalow with sprawling gardens) as they wanted to socialise. Some came with ayahs and this was worse as the infants were constantly held on laps. I let my child roam free, all over the garden, and hardly interacted with anyone at the party and missed my snacks too. toddlers are full of energy and they need to be able to explore and experiment. One needs to watch them, but from a respectable distance. – Nita

  17. January 21, 2009 10:48 pm

    A very interesting post and equally interesting responses. My experience as a child and as a mother is that no two kids are the same even though they may have the same parents, same environment and same economic conditions. Some kids rebel when parents are strict, others become disciplined. Parenting is the most difficult job in the world and is learnt by experience.
    In India in many cases kids especially boys don’t grow up at all and cannot be called men even when they’re 50. Mostly mothers are responsible for that. A friend of mine who landed in Delhi from London a couple of days ago was complaining that his mother still nags him to put on more warm clothes. He is over 40 years old and is getting tired of explaining that he can tell when he’s feeling cold 🙂

    Prerna, what you said about different individuals is right ofcourse. Just as kids are born with a particular nose or eyes they are born with a certain temperament and react accordingly to the environment. I think the right parenting will bring out positive traits in every child though and suppress the bad ones. And about your friend, there is another angle to this mothering thing. I think older women in our society do not have their own life. In the olden days, when women used to not live beyond 50 or 60 (at best) there was no question of their own life. But today when we all live longer, its important for parents to start to do something on their own, even if it is voluntary work. – Nita.

  18. January 22, 2009 4:42 am

    I’m not a parent, but a book that was insightful on parent-child relationships in American society, mentioned that parents are afraid of their children, and do not set clear boundaries; which leads to all kinds of problems. The author mentioned how his parents did not give in to his and his siblings’ demands, and actually questioned them to make them understand issues and instill some discipline.

    Afraid of their children!! I guess they love them so much that they are afraid of being hurt by their children storming out or saying mean things! I keep reading of these hollywood celebrities who are not on talking terms with their parents and I always wonder what terrible thngs their parents must have done but I think by Indian standards it couldn’t be that terrible! 🙂 – Nita.

  19. January 22, 2009 10:21 am

    No, they were not authoritarian, because I had freedom to pursue my other interest like debates, recitals, plays, provided I did not ‘affect’ my studies. I had freedom to go out even after dark to a friends place to create Social science/science projects/youth parliament practices/ (no girl ever came for it), I didnt have freedom to go for parties though (all girls came for it 🙂 ). I was allowed to represent my school even outside the town, several times a year, at regional levels for my extra-curricular activity. Games/TV/movies were discouraged because I was an eternal topper year after year and they didn’t want me to lose my academic mantel. These were the only things where my rebellion got me nothing. And just for these three, I would not term them authoritarian. Authoritarian is much more than that.

    That’s true Poonam. I guess this comment was more explanatory and in detail than the first one! I understand what you mean perfectly! Your parents simply wanted you to reach your potential and it seems they did put you on the right path. – Nita.

  20. January 22, 2009 11:30 am

    Wow! It will be great if it works out… but is this for real? Will people actually send across their children to live in another country under someone else?

    They have had this program in some other country too and I don’t think parents will mind. I am sure they will love their kids to be part of a reality show! – Nita.

  21. January 22, 2009 12:59 pm

    @ Nita, well, lower class u mean by parents job level etc….then yeah may be…but even in middle/higher class…u can find kids like that….and u dont have a nightlife, then they look at u like where-in -earth-have-u -come-from look!!

    and i think it comes down to, not guiding them properly when they are going stray ways! Discipline might be there but once in teens, they are left on their own and parents gen dont interfere treating it as a personal private space!

    So, if the kid goes stray ways, parents dont have time to observe it! thats the sad part….
    and there are def families which are very loving and caring [no broken homes etc] and kids are like angels and grow into very good human beings!

  22. Solilo permalink
    January 22, 2009 1:31 pm

    “I personally admire that way the westerners give responsibility to the kids at a young age. Its one good thing we should follow but not go overboard! – Nita.”

    Me: Nita, I agree on that. Forget responsibility at a young age. You can find a 25 year old man still living with his parents, earning and doing nothing at home. No responsibility at all. Food gets cooked, clothes ironed, bills paid all courtesy parents.

    I ask my 4 year old daughter to make her bed first thing in the morning. It is not that difficult and she likes it too. But you can see the 25 yrs olds I mentioned just above whose bed is made by his mother or maid, shoes polished etc.

    Thats great Solilo, asking your kid to do the bed! So sweet! – Nita

  23. January 22, 2009 2:38 pm

    Solilo, just to add to your comment:
    in Italy many men over 30 (and also at 40 or 50) live in so called “hotel Mama” 🙂 Because they do not want responsibility for creating their own family and it is very comfortable live with their moms whom they love a lot and let be fully taken care of…

    Hotel Mama! I love that! 🙂 All those who live in Hotel Mama should do their chores, not just Mama! – Nita.

  24. January 22, 2009 3:37 pm

    Can’t help it, but reminds me of a Russel Peters Moment – somebody’s gonna get a hurt real bad! 😀

  25. wishtobeanon permalink
    January 22, 2009 9:05 pm

    Continuing on the last post, I too do not believe in being over-protective; allow the kids to explore and be independent so long as they are safe. Time-outs are used(instead of yelling or spanking) when the kids do not behave like throwing a tantrum or do not listen to their parents when asked not to do something repeatedly. By the way, I am not an authoritative parent(more like an indulgent one) though I am striving hard to be one :-).
    I think the type of parenting depends on the character of an individual no matter what culture she/he belongs to! Also, for all-round development of a child, both parents need to be involved. Here is a link that you may find interesting:

    • January 22, 2009 9:27 pm

      wishtobeanon, I agree with these two lines from tha tlink you provided completely:

      Lots of loving attention will make your child independent. Let go of those worries that you will spoil your child, or make your child needy and dependent, by providing too much attention.

      That is the philosophy I followed and my kids were always a couple of years ahead where independence was concerned than other kids their age! And proud to say even today! 🙂 But ofcourse one has to let them do things on their own. That is the trick. But the reason why parents don’t let kids do things on their own is because they fear they will make a mistake. But if you are right there, you can catch them if they make a mistake and after a few tries you just leave them alone to do the thing by themselves! I remember parents who wouldn’t allow their kids to eat by themselves. They complaint always was that they would make too much of a mess and the parents would have to clear up or who was going to wait for so much time as it takes longer for a child to feed himself and so on! Applies to other stuff too.

  26. January 22, 2009 10:43 pm

    Nice post. I would quote what I had once written in one of my posts

    A child must know that in its flight, in its pursuit of shiny things, in its failures ; it has a nest to fall back on. That no matter where it goes, how it is; it has a home to return to and that the doors of that place are never closed for it.

    Thanks Reema. It puts nicely in a nutshell what every parent should be. – Nita.

  27. January 22, 2009 11:02 pm

    nita, this is one issue where you can have i direct take form a teenager itself 😛
    no doubt authoritative way is the best one to bring up a child but i think when the child enters teenager i think it actually becomes very unpredictable as to what should be the next step?
    every child has a different take on everything, plus the typical mood swings add on to the problem
    this is one reason why it is easier to control a 6yr old than a 16yr old irrespective of cultural background
    but i think sooner or later as this phase passes one becomes accountable for all actions and omissions and there is better understanding of situations
    ps- i know how to make tea, coffee, parantha and omelette …that would be enough to have a satisfying meal 😆
    so i think

    • January 23, 2009 9:04 am

      Arpit, Good to hear you can make an omelete! 🙂 And actually the term “authoritave” itself means that taking into account individual needs and so this parenting is ideal for teenagers as well. Authoritative parenting means that if a teenager or a child wants to do something he can discuss it with the parent and do it! Even if it means staying out late for example. Authoritative parenting means being responsive to the needs of the child but laying down general ground rules for example, no drugs or say a curfew of say 1 a.m. (depending on where the child is going whether its safe etc). But at no point does the parent dictate that the child must not go for whatever reasons. Indulgent parenting on the other hand will allow the teenager to go out at any time and return at any time and in general do whatever! And Authoritarian parenting is also an extreme, because it means that the parent decides whether the child should go to a specific place, and whether he should go at that time (depending on whether the parents feels whether he should be doing something else at that time). So you see authoritative parenting is the best because the underlying thing of authoritative parenting is constant discussions and compromise on both sides, but at the same time some general rules are laid down.

  28. January 23, 2009 12:19 am

    I feel that indian parents were moving from authortrian to authorative mode especially middle class parents. thats a healthy sign. but there is fear within me which says that there is a possibility that it may turn into uninvolved parenting. a nice post Nita 🙂

    Thanks. Yes I too have noticed this and I think its a great sign! And yes with both parents out of the house the whole day it can lead to uninvolved parenting! – Nita.

  29. January 23, 2009 4:15 am

    Well, its a good assimilation of ideas about parenting behavior in the two cultures.

    But the problem in Britain is not of culture. The problem is of British government and its ill-sense of intervening in citizen’s life.
    In the case of Britain, the government is responsible. It is a socialist government.
    The parents hold minimal rights over their kids.
    They even cannot smack them.
    A father was arrested by police and locked in a cell overnight after smacking his son’s bottom.
    Mark Frearson’s young son had wandered off alone after dark while they were at a Plymouth shopping centre together.
    Mr Frearson, who is separated from the boy’s mother, found his son in a park 10 minutes later and smacked him once.
    But a passer-by reported it to Plymouth police and four officers arrived at his house, took him away and locked him in a cell awaiting questioning.

    BBC News
    The government has tried everything to renounce the freedom, parents feel difficult (almost impossible) to control and discipline their own kids and teach them some rational moralities and attitudes regarding life.

    I guess the British government has gone to an extreme! In India parents can freely abuse their kids! Another extreme! – Nita

  30. January 23, 2009 4:25 am

    About India, Indian parenting suffers from too much intervention by parents in the kids life.
    Its a nation where a person doesn’t become Hindu, Muslim, Christian or Sikh/Budhist/jain etc because he found the ideas and philosophy of those religion suitable and worthy, meaningful for him, providing him satisfaction and calmness, here a kid acquires his religion by means of birth.
    its shitty situation in India.
    You cannot chose what subject you want to study with and make a career, you may be great in sculpturing, your parents will beat your ass and get the shit out of it to make you forget how to sculptor a nice nymph. you will have to pass in science and maths anyhow and get admission in some college with no sense of how to change a student to a responsible free reasonable Individual.

    One more thing, Osho once said, in India, atheists are more strong and impressive than theists because religion is forced in India, people do not discover reason to accept a religion, hence religion becomes just a formality for Indians.
    In China or Russia, theists are stronger than atheists because atheism is forced out there, people don’t choose for it voluntarily, they are forced to be atheists hence they remain atheist formally.

  31. January 23, 2009 4:43 am

    This is a very useful article for me. But for now, the parenting is done by the kid, I mean she ends up controlling what we do. I will wait till she talks and goes to school, and I will tell her who is the daddy! Good article though!

    I really do believe in giving in to a child’s needs before the child is five, but I mean “needs” like a desire for company, love, playmates etc. However I do not believe in responding to a child’s tantrum. I am not sure what you mean by she is the daddy, but I guess you mean it in a light vein and your love for your child shows through. I am sure you are a great daddy! – Nita.

  32. Nil permalink
    January 23, 2009 5:54 pm

    Take it from someone who’s lived in Britain all their life…a large number of the teens over here ARE spoilt and overindulged. Of course there are many who are decent and respectful, but there’s also ones who don’t obey their parents (a lot of which can be attributed to parents who lack will power), are rowdy and anti-social.

    The traditional family unit has broken down in the UK and this is what it’s yielded.

  33. Naveen permalink
    January 23, 2009 10:23 pm

    I felt Nil’s comment that ‘Children who don’t obey their parents become anti-social’ was interesting. It reminded me of an incident I witnessed a few years back.

    In New York city bus stop, I saw a child was in tantrums hitting his father. Riled-up, the father slapped the child to control him. A policeman witnessed it from the other side of the road, came to the father and asked, “Did you slap him?”. The father was very agitated and he replied (in his African accent), “Yes, if not, tommorrow he is going to come after you and shoot you”. The police man blushed, warned him and ducked out. I believe in positive reinforcement more than punishments. But I simply thought, the incident was funny and the man’s words certainly had some truth to it.

    That’s a very interesting incident Naveen. However to punish hitting by hitting doesn’t work. It’s quite likely that the child will grow up and perhaps shoot the policeman! 🙂 – Nita.

  34. January 23, 2009 10:53 pm

    was just going through the comments and was struck by the fact that so many people have such strong opinions which they believe are correct. personally, this is a subject I know little about and one in which I’m not convinced there’s just one set of answers.

    There are certainly no one set of answers. If you are talking about the kind of parenting, it needs to be adjusted to the individual needs of the child and as Prerna mentioned, each child is different. – Nita.

  35. January 24, 2009 10:35 am

    अहो ताई, इतका टेन्षन का घेता? जे आहे ते बर आहे..उगीच 16 वार्षियांच्या गाडीखाली मारण्यापेक्षा म्हातारा होऊन मेले तर काय वाईट आहे?? आणि तुम्हाला ठउक नाही की भारतामधे 16 व्या वर्षी शिकाउ वाहन चालक परवाना मिळतो?

    फॉरेईनेर्स काय करतात हा त्यांचा प्रश्न आहे, आणि त्याना तो सोडवता आला नाही हाय पण सत्या आहे. 16 वर्षाच्या मुलाला जेमतेम सॅण्डविचकरता येते असे आपण म्हणता..कधी विचार केला आहे 16 वर्षी शिक्षणाच्या नावाखाली मुलं ना किती मानसिक ताण होतो? भारता मधे शिक्षण घेणे आट लीस्ट ओपन वल्यांसाठी सध्या तरी चॅलेंजिंग आहे. आधीच कमी वेळ, त्यात हे उपदव्याप? अश्या वेळेस त्या मुलानी सवािपक शिकावा का शिक्षण घ्यावे? नाही, ज्याना केटरिंग ला जाईचे आहे त्यांचे ठीक आहे, बाकीच्यानी का म्हणून असे करावे?

    Harshad, I think we differ in our views here. I think self reliance in all fields is essential. One doens’t have to be a gourmet cook. Making basic tea/coffee, rice/dal doesn’t require time to learn. I know a 35 year old man living alone and working in an IT company who has the “dabba” system. He is now having a problem of heart disease because of eating the dabba and hotel food food for the last 10 years. I think some basic food preparation ability is necessary for a person to lead a healthy life. If girls can do it so can boys. And girls learn all these things and do well in studies too. I don’t think girls are a superhuman species that thye can learn the basic of cooking and also be toppers. No one is suggesting that girls and boys who are studying hard take the responsibility of cooking, just that they need to be able to and certainly do not need parents or servants to make them tea/coffee or bring them water. – Nita.

  36. January 24, 2009 11:12 pm

    Maybe this issue is blown up out of proportion…It all depends what way the parents want it, and not what you and me want.

    PS – I never differentiated between a boy and girl. Learning is an equeally tough job for a boy and girl. If I say a boy dosent need to cook, I feel the same for girls aswell.

  37. openlight permalink
    January 27, 2009 1:38 pm

    Parenting is an dynamic or on-going activity between child and parent.

    Parent in India or even Asian countries are bounded traditionally and due to our religion. Parents see their bringing of child as an duty and also expect similar from their child when he/she grows up (and that’s why India is still going on without any state sponsored activities for the aged as in west).

    There is traditional norm for joint family as it provided cushion for elderly and the upcoming youth. But, with changing time either due to better opportunities / western culture families are now nuclear.

    Hence, now bringing up an child in competitive environments where performance is checked at each month/year of upbringing, is now more challenging and if it is nuclear family than at least it doubles up.

    Hence according to me Authoritative parents who enforce discipline in child and also lend an ear to them, should be the norm.

  38. openlight permalink
    January 27, 2009 2:31 pm

    Parenting is an dynamic or on-going activity between child and parent.

    Parent in India or even Asian countries are bounded traditionally and due to our religion. Parents see their bringing of child as an duty and also expect similar from their child when he/she grows up (and that’s why India is still going on without any state sponsored activities for the aged as in west).

    There is traditional norm for joint family as it provided cushion for elderly and the upcoming youth. But, with changing time either due to better opportunities / western culture families are now nuclear.

    Hence, now bringing up an child in competitive environments where performance is checked at each month/year of upbringing, is now more challenging and if it is nuclear family than at least it doubles up.

    Hence according to me Authoritative parents who enforce discipline in child and also lend an ear to them, should be the norm.

  39. January 30, 2009 6:34 pm

    This topic is a hornet’s nest (and multi-faceted) and I enjoyed reading your post as much as the comments. 🙂 I had been lucky to have very balanced parents who gave me a lot of freedom and respect and I am inclined to agree with you ideas!

  40. February 1, 2009 3:39 pm


    It is not children but parents who may need to learn a thing or two about parenting skills! I wonder where that reality show is.

    A Good Childhood report is coming out tomorrow in the UK and its findings are quite eye-opening for adults and for society at large.

    See here:

    In both Britain and India, I see so many adults keen to reproduce without a thought as to the child’s welfare and upbringing. Most produce kids as a conditioned reflex rather than as a thought-through process. That child-rearing is costly, permanent (‘all sales are final, no returns’) and a 24X7 activity is understood by few, if any. Parents treat their children like possessions and not as little people. If another adult so much as suggests something or manages to win their child’s confidence, parental insecurity goes into overdrive. Adults not accompanied by products of their own sperm and egg are viewed suspiciously. No surprise then that society as a whole does not care for one another.

    And, frankly Indian kids are as feral as if not worse than British kids. On a plane, in an airport, in a restaurant, in any public place, the horrid kid is almost always British or Indian. This TV programme sounds like a case of pot and kettle indulging in some mutual muck-raking. Oh, and also one I would avoid like the plague 🙂

    Parents need the training, not kids!! Absolutely! And thanks for the link Shefaly. The report is going to make very interesting reading and perhaps worth writing about. And urban Indian kids, yeah, they can be very very spoilt…in different kind of way. – Nita.

  41. Vinod permalink
    February 3, 2009 9:14 am

    Shafaly, great comment.

  42. vasudev permalink
    February 10, 2009 9:29 pm

    agree with you shefaly. IMHO it is the indian teens who need strict parenting since they go beyond the controls of parents. british teens might land here to learn a thing or two and conclude: what a waste of time since the indian parents wanted them to teach the indian brats a few: like how to hold a toy pistol and take aim properly and things like that.
    the baggage and legacy will continue as long as indians do not suddenly sprout white skins!

  43. padma permalink
    November 30, 2011 7:03 pm

    Hello Nita I just happen to land on your blog and I would like to say that the topics you are writing about make a good read. I am myself from Mauritius (of indian decent) and I am now bringing up my young family in the U.K. I stayed in India from 1999-2000. Having a similar upbringing in Mauritius to my peers in India and now living in the U.K , I hope I will be able to provide the best of best of both worlds for my children. In my opinion almost all parents try to provide the best for their children, but their comes a point when the child tries to find its feet and wants to fight his place in the world…..the difference is that children are brought up much differently in India and Mauritius than in U.K where even young infants are expected to be independent whether they are ready for this independence or not, most often than not it is forced upon them. ( like control crying for the infant to sleep on his own, self soothing,early weaning from breast feeding, being carried by carer lesser, self feeding from a very young age ect ). Now I am not against these practices ( although I myself would not adopt them for bringing up my children) but they produce a different kind of youngster, one that is independent in his thinking ( right or wrong) opposes parental interference ( in all matters) takes his own decisions and make his own choices from a much younger age, and grows up quicker than Indian children.
    I still remember when I was growing up I resented the amount of protectiveness my parents and extended family will surround us with and craved more freedom but I am thankful for my upbringing. As an adult and a parent I can now see why theses boundaries were important and why the encouragement to study and get better results ( even though at times I felt oppressed ) bore their fruits in the end.

    In Uk Indian children perform best at all academic levels and most go on to university compared to all their peers from any other ethnicity. Most have successful careers, are well adjusted high achieving adults , and go on to contribute positively to family life and society .
    U.K is the among the countries with the highest teenage pregnancy rate, lots of children leaving 11th grade without being able to read and write properly, early sexualisation of children, specially girls, elders are mistreated everywhere, courtesy is an alien word most of the time, children looks subdued and obedient when young but rebellious as teenagers ( whereas on my observation Indian children mostly seems exuberant, happy go lucky , loud and playful ) , children as young as 7 becoming body conscious and try to diet, and although teenagers everywhere tend to rebel it is nowhere as here. I can go on and on….

    This is just my opinion , it may be biased though I try not to be.

  44. October 24, 2013 9:48 am

    very interesting.

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