Early this year, Amy Chua, professor at Yale Law School, shot to fame – not for her legal prowess but because of a book she wrote. An excerpt of ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’ published in the Wall Street Journal, ignited a global debate on parenting. Chua, a second generation Chinese immigrant, advocates that the Chinese style she practiced setting high performance expectations and imposing a strict regimen totally devoid of distractions and social interactions – yielded better outcomes than the laissez faire Western style. So, is there some merit in Chua’s way of thinking? Can we say that one style of parenting is superior to another? Do the results justify the means? And most importantly, what is right for your child?
With increasing demands on the time of both parents and children, and with the world around us changing so quickly, parenting, in today’s fast-paced urban India, is a kin to an emotional roller coaster ride. It can be exciting and exhilarating one moment, but nerve wracking and even scary at other times. With rising disposable incomes, global exposure and increasing access to technology, the world in which Indian children are growing up today is so different from the one their parents grew up in. As parents, are you equipped to deal with the future shock? It’s true that children are not born with instruction manuals, but parents across the ages have devised their own methods, as you would surely have, to deal with their own.
The method you fall back on to raise your children, or your parenting style, is often shaped by your own experiences with your parents, your cultural context and your family beliefs and values. A well-researched subject, parenting styles can be broadly divided into four buckets – authoritarian, authoritative, permissive and neglectful. “Do as I say, no questions asked” is authoritarian, whereas, “Let us discuss why it is important for you to do this,” is authoritative. “If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it,” is permissive while, “I don’t really care whether or not you do it,” is neglectful. Today’s fathers may perhaps recall that their own fathers’ styles were mostly authoritarian!
Families with both parents working (who are also on guilt trips!) sometimes adopt the permissive style. In some grown-ups, permissive parenting is also a reaction to the methods adopted in raising them – “I had such a hard time in my childhood with no freedom at all. My daughter should be able to do what she wants.”