Friday, September 07, 2007

Parenting: the new equation

An insightful column by O & M's Madhukar Sabnavis on parenting in today's Business Standard. An excerpt:

In the advertising and marketing world, parenting has mostly meant motherhood. The father has remained the bread-winner, the person who brings in the money and occasionally plays with his kids. And he is the authority figure — all teenage rebellion happens against him.

In a study done by Ogilvy some time ago, four types of mothers emerged. Interestingly each had its roots in Indian mythology.

The indulgent mother: The one who encourages her child to grow the way she wants to, nudging and guiding him along without dictating. Yashoda is the mythological representative of this type.

The purposeful or disciplined mother: The one who drives her kids to achieve their potential and do well in the outside world. Kunti represents this type — the typical middle class mother!

The ambitious mother is the one who not only has dreams for her kids but goes out negotiating and fighting the larger world to ensure they get their rightful place in the sun. This type has its roots in Kaikeyi of the Ramayana.

The helpless or coping mother, who spends most of her time trying to manage life and provide for the family. Bringing up kids is one more chore to be taken care of in a tough everyday life — this mother largely exists in the lower socio-economic categories and is typified by Gandhari of Indian mythology.

Sabnavis makes some interesting observations:

a) In the last decade the concept of “Badi” (Big) has become “buddy”. From parents telling children what to do, the relationship has became more “friendly”.

b) Secondly, fathers started taking a more active role.

c) Kids have become the teachers of their parents, which was always the case in low income famiies but has become a widespread phenomenon with the entry of technology products which young people understand better than the oldies.

d)Lastly as kids began to grow older at a younger age (thanks to exposure via media and technology) they became more knowledgeable and hence more active members in the decision-making process of many products. Which is why more and more brands appeal to kids. Faith in pester power.

Sabnavis concludes: The dream of parents remains to see their children succeed and make a name in this world. While the Kaikeyi archetype could sound “negative”, it could be a truer representation of what parents today work towards for their children (notice the number of parents accompanying their children to the various talent show trials!).

Actually, I would go so far as to say there is a role reversal happening where bachche badon ke baap ban rahe hain. Like the 'Little Emperor' syndrome in China, except that here they aren't necessarily only children or spoilt silly.

They just have a sense of zid and entitlement that a previous generation did not have.

13 year old Malti (name change) slashed her wrists recently because she came home late after meeting friends and was scolded by her father. This is the second time she has done this, for a minor reason. Her cousin Lata says,"Sab uske pitaji ko bahut maante hain magar woh unki bilkul nahin sunti hai."

This is a true story, in a lower middle class family of Mumbai.

To tell you the truth, I often feel I am being 'held ransom' by my eight year old. We struggle to get her to brush her teeth at night. Something she needs to do for her own good!

I asked my mom, "Were we like this?" She says she doesn't remember the details but yeah we bugged her to death for small things. And that we had no 'pet mein dar' (or sense of fear) when it came to interacting with parents. Which her generation did.

While I am sure the parents and kid becoming 'friends' is a great thing, the next evolution - of kids becoming 'parents' - is scary. As is the thought of a country overrun with 'Kaikeyi' type parents.

In an era where there is no counterbalance in the form of a dutiful Bharat. Or virtuous Ram.

An earlier take on the changing parent-child equation authored by me for Businessworld, June 2004: Bringing Up Father

Update: Related reads
1 ) Father as filmmaker: helping his autistic son reach for the Asmaan (Indian Express, Sept 7 2007)

It took a dream to wake Kaushik Roy to reality eight years ago. To reform him from being a pushy father of an autistic boy to one who allows his son to find his piece of sky, and reach for it. This transformation is the basis of Roy’s debut film, 'Apna Asmaan', starring powerhouse performers Irrfan Khan and Shobana...

P.S. Interesting subject but the film has received tepid reviews..

2) How to Train your Parents - a new book by Pete Johnson.
Synopsis: "They think I'M a big problem. Wrong. THEY are!"

12 year old Louis gets fundas from a friend on how to handle parents who care more about how he's doing at school than anything else. An Indian teen offers her own tongue in cheek take, after reading the book (Mint, Sept 8 2007)


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Since when has "hinglish" become an accepted form of writing? The new age writers of indian origin seem to think they are being cool and fashionable when they write english interspersed with hindi words. I was reading Kiran Desai the other day and I found it quite irritating and you seem to be doing the same.

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  6. What you said about parenting is discussed and debated everytime a "that" generation mom find difficult to deal with "this" generation child.

    Earlier so called generation gap used to managable. Now it is not.

    Just imagine how this generation mom deal with parenting issues she face when her daugheter want to join orkut which is full of porn (despos).Many moms dont even know what is social medias when her gals/boy is spending most of his free time talking to strangers.

    This generation mom is not qualified to "parent" her child.She is outdated in every concept of parenting with exception that that she care about her child.

    What parent can do is join "parenting school" to keep there skills updated.Change is fast now.And to handle this they need training that include training in parenting too.And yes they have to understand that they live in differnt world and old rules dont apply any more.

    Imho every mother play all four roles you mention at different situations.

  7. Your posts are really good. It will be great if you can avoid writing parts of it in Hindi; or are your posts only meant for people who understand the language?

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