The Little Emperors

Now that Abhigyan and Aishwarya have returned from Norway and are safely ensconced in the arms of their family,I think it is safe to raise the question the world is asking: are Indians really bad parents?

Written by Nonita Kalra | New Delhi | Published:May 14, 2012 5:10 pm

Now that Abhigyan and Aishwarya have returned from Norway and are safely ensconced in the arms of their family,I think it is safe to raise the question the world is asking: are Indians really bad parents?

Now that Abhigyan and Aishwarya have returned from Norway and are safely ensconced in the arms of their family,I think it is safe to raise the question the world is asking: are Indians really bad parents? Or was this just a cultural clash — and force-feeding is not a crime against children? Let me answer the latter immediately. As a child with a poor appetite,I must confess that if food was to be shovelled down my throat,I would throw up. And throw a tantrum. Luckily for me,this was not the case,but young friends of mine who suffered this ignominy at the hands of their parents would have loved to call a helpline to complain — if such a facility existed.

Let’s face the truth. We Indians aren’t great parents. In fact,we are like the Chinese in this case. Has anyone heard of the Little Emperor syndrome? Essentially,their one-child policy has led all resources — emotional and financial — to be concentrated on one very small person. And even though that very small person had a very small brain,it didn’t stop him from turning into a large tyrant. China is now being ruled by a Me Generation that may be a retailer’s delight,but is causing a huge breakdown in social relationships. A blog reporting on the subject describes it rather wonderfully: “Parents on a leash. Child in control.” If this description sounds alarmingly like your obnoxious young nephew,you can see where I am going with this argument. But there is a subtle difference between our ideology in child-rearing and our neighbour’s. We believe all our little children — and we often have many — are god’s gift,and therefore,each and every one of them deserves to be a monarch. So like our pantheon of gods,we are willing to subject ourselves to many,many despots of the tiny tot variety.

Now,before I am attacked by everyone who has ever reproduced,I would suggest taking the time off to do some soul-searching and indulging in a little reflection. Do you genuinely believe your children are better than your friend’s? Of course,you do. And that is allowed. We must love and be loved unconditionally. But what makes it a bit disturbing is that we are convinced our children are better than everyone else’s in the world. And this master-of-the-universe feeling seeps through every interaction. So hand-feeding a child well into his or her teens is just a sign of love. Sleeping between mummyji and daddyji is just a ­display of physical affection. And believing your child is born without volume control is just a way of disregarding my sensitive eardrums.

I have often been criticised for my anti-children stance,but that’s an outright lie. I don’t dislike children,not even badly-behaved Indian children. But I do have to admit I often detest their parents. And for once,whichever way the nature-versus-nurture argument goes,the result is the same. The blame rests squarely on the people making the children. Let’s look at tantrums,or public displays of bad temper. Aren’t our little tykes masters at this art? They can hurl their bodies,raise their voices and spontaneously projectile vomit if they don’t get their way. What does their doting parent do? First coo at this display of wills and then succumb to it. As a result,most Indian men grow up thinking the only way to deal with women is by browbeating them.

Why is it that we never see children of other countries behave so badly in public spaces? Because it isn’t even an option? Seriously,when was the last time you saw a Norwegian baby in India ringing alarm bells with our authorities? Cultural sensibilities can be different,rules for child protection services can vary — but other nation’s babies just seem better adjusted. And for sure,they don’t live according to the one-nanny-per-child formula.

With every generation,parenting does see a sea change,and essentially it does get kinder,more informal. But in our rush to be less like our parents and more like our children’s friends,have we lost our ability to distinguish and discipline? The funny thing is that this is a mistake we are doomed to repeat because at the end of the day — we all end up being like our parents.

One last thing before I sign off: Yes,you are obviously the exception to the rule. I am willing to concede that you are not the typical Indian parent — if that is what you would like to take away from this article. But are you really? If you think you are different — don’t you think my column applies to you too?

tothemannerborn@expressindia.com

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