British teens and Indian parenting
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):
- Indulgent – parents who allow their children self-regulation
- Authoritarian – demanding, strict parents
- Uninvolved – neglectful parents
- 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
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