A recent book, Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mother, about the Chinese-American method of raising children, almost caused a hurricane in the parenting world. Many were quick to defend their own parenting styles, some supported the author, Prof. Amy Chua, and yet ,others maintained their peace.
Parenting styles are so varied in different cultures. For instance, in my homeland, India, we don’t think much about teaching our kids a thing or two with a stick handy. It is supposed to be for their ‘own good’.
In schools, they may be subjected to the ‘cane treatment’ if they haven’t done their homework, for talking in class or for general misbehaviour. At home, their parents may give them a slap or two if they disobey. Even the elders in the family have every right to chastise the kids of the house.
In fact, in India (and I believe in most of Asia) parents are considered to be in the right if they regularly chastise their kids, especially when there is company. Moms think nothing of listing out their kids’ ‘naughty’ deeds to anyone willing to listen, and then there is the joint judgement by the clan.
This notion is so widespread in India, that if a couple is found to be indulgent with their kids, the elders start grumbling, “Today’s kids! No wonder they all turn out bad with parents like this. It was different during our day. They will rue the day the child was born, if they don’t beat him into obedience now.”
Whereas, in the West things are the extreme opposite…
There, children are considered to be completely defenceless and, hence, sometimes protected even from their own parents by laws and lawmakers. A parent found to be beating his/her child may even find him/herself in the unenvious position of being hauled off by social workers to a Judge. I have often seen movies in which this particular trait of the West is portrayed poignantly, with kids and parents alike suffering through their losses and failures.
I once knew an Indian family who had 2 kids, a girl and a boy. Being Indians living in the Western world, they had no other option but to follow the strict rules in place there. However, as parents of two extremely mischievious kids, they were bone-tired of trying to discipline them through grounding and making them stay in their room. In fact, had they been in India, every mischievious deed would probably have been accompanied by a spanking from Mom or Dad.
I have often wondered why the huge hullabaloo about child rights in the West. And, I think it probably might be different in Asia because, in most Asian countries, kids have a huge support system around them: grandparents aunts, uncles and cousins from both, the mom’s and dad’s sides.
The child usually grows up with an innate sense of being surrounded by relations with love, affection and caring. Even if the parents get angry with the child, there’s usually a doting uncle or aunt or grandparents who are at the beck and call of the child to heal all hurts. Most kids live with their parents until they marry, and many live together even after they are married and have kids of their own. If both, the dad and the mom, work, then the grandparents take care of the kids.
However, in the West with its nuclear families, such a support system is absent, or at best, a distant one. Hence the need for such a State-controlled support system to aid the children. With the increase in the crimes committed against children, the need for such a system is imperative.
Yet, I believe. we, in India, are not very far in moving towards such litigation for children. Especially, with the increased incidence of crimes against children and vengeful behaviour by adults in responsible positions like teachers and headmasters. Recently, there have been shocking stories of kids being beaten to death in schools, being made to kneel out in the blazing sun by an irate teacher and, so on. Such atrocities against children were perpetrated by adults who were supposed to be responsible for their well-being.
As a modern human being, I certainly do not subscribe to the school of thought which advocates that every misdemeanour be punished. And, as a modern Indian mother, I have to appease both sides while bringing up my baby. The elders who frown at any easy-going parent with a child are a staunch force in my life and quick to judge in case of any problems with the child. And, in India, any deed of the child (whether good or bad) is deemed to be because of how the parents brought up the child, and not because the child has a mind of its own (even if the ‘child’ in question is a 40-year old man or woman).
Tell me, where do I stand as a modern mother? Do I appease the older generation who will certainly try to back-seat drive my parenting, or do I completely ignore them and take things into my own hands, and simply do what I think would be best for my child and ignore tried-and-proven methods of discipline?
This is an original World Moms Blog post from Fire Crystals in India. You can also find Fire Crystals on her personal blog, Merry Musing.
Photo credit to Grotuk. This photo has a creative commons attribution license.