I am doing a freelance assignment for one of my clients on the topic, “Advantages and limitations of bringing up children in India”.
Kindly provide your input on the same, so that I can use some of the points in the report.
These are some points I considered –
Advantages of bringing up kids in India:
Family ties – Family ties are given a lot of importance in India. People are ready to sacrifice their career (usually mothers take a break from job or leave their job never to return) in order to take care of kids. It is normal to see people taking a less-lucrative job or moving to a smaller town/smaller house in-order to be able to spend more time with kids.
Extended relations – In India, parents get all the information required for good parenting from their extended relations. Extended relations might include parents (both-sides), brothers and sisters in law, and possibly everyone who is related to these people. Yes, they are generally surrounded by a lot of relatives or at least keep in touch with a lot of relatives. Since these people are more experienced in parenting kids themselves, they pass on all required information to the new parents.
Joint families – While this was the norm in India earlier, these days its found more in rural areas and smaller towns. In this system, all the extended relations (as mentioned above) live under a single roof (single house with a common kitchen for everyone). All the work is shared equally among the various family members. This not only enables them to take advantage of economies due to scale, but also ensures that there are enough elders within each family to guide younger members on parenting.
Arranged marriages – Its strange, but true. A majority of older children do not select their life-partners by themselves. It is most probably decided by the head of the family or their parents. Since elders get actively involved in selecting the spouse for their children, they verify the background/character and other important factors of the prospective spouse. Sometimes, even the extended family plays a role in fixing a marriage.
Since arranged marriages are bonds formed between two families instead of two individuals, people learn to give more importance to family. If there are any minor (workable) issues within the couples, familes actively get involved to solve the problems. There are a few parents who stay together just because they don’t want their children to be exposed to emotional/financial disturbances that might follow a divorce. Rate of divorce in arranged marriages are considerably lesser than love marriages.
Importance given to disciplining – Both at home and at school, children are taught the importance of discipline, right from a young age. Bad behavior is not tolerated and children learn how to respect elders/parents from their peers as well as family members.
Avoiding being wasteful – Since children see so many kids/people around them starving/living with minimum resources, they generally understand the importance of not wasting available resources. Parents also make it a point to make sure that children don’t waste food or don’t get addicted to expensive video games.
Regular habits – Children are expected to follow regular habits at home, and they do. For example, they are expected to wake up early, sleep early (no late-time TV/cartoons), pray to God daily in the mornings (which is mostly a small thank you statement for everything that the child has). Since children are expected to do these things regularly, they get accustomed to it.
Taking care of elderly parents – Children are mostly brought up with their grandmothers/grandfathers around them. So, when they become parents later on, they find nothing wrong in their parents staying with them. Though this situation has changed drastically during the modern times, this was one positive aspect of Indian culture for many generations. Even now, the social circle of relatives often question people if their elderly parents are living alone/not living with them.
Karma – People in India have a strong belief in the concept of Karma. Religious philosophy teaches them that if they do good deeds, good things happen to them in-turn. If they do bad deeds, bad things happen to them. People don’t hesitate to do good things without expecting anything in return, on the short run. There are cases where relatives might bring up the children of their brothers and sisters in cities, if there are no educational facilities in their village. Mostly, they expect nothing in return and there is a good chance that they themselves were brought up like that.
Importance of education – Children are continuously reminded of the fact that what they become in future depends completely on their educational performance. Children too work hard and prepare for their exams quite religiously. Peer pressure in schools and the neighborhood ensures that they concentrate more on their studies, than on leisure activities. One need not be surprised if students in many schools have 100% pass percentage throughout their schooling.
Traditional hobbies – Children are exposed to traditional hobbies like classical dancing, singing and playing musical instruments from a very early age. They need to train under a specialized arts teacher (individual trainers, normally outside school) for around 10-15 years, before they get a chance to showcase their skills. This ensures that children are exposed to art forms from an early age, develop a taste for various art forms before specializing in one and develop skills mastering art for over a decade or so. This not only ensures quality but also develops a lot of patience (in children) in the process.
Encouraging modesty over individual achievement – This might be a controversial point, but Indians give more importance to modesty and keeping quiet about their achievements than boasting about them everywhere. In fact boasting by children (even with parents) is discouraged and students are made to think that they always need to achieve more. Of course, some degree of appreciating is always there (as they don’t want kids to feel dejected) but kids are generally expected to talk about their achievements only when someone asks about them.
Morality – The Indian concept of morality (at least as it existed for many generations) is to not encourage girls to expose more body parts (wearing a short skirts and showing hips while wearing jeans/T-shirts is still discouraged) and not encourage boys to look/ogle at girls, when they do that. Since whatever anybody does in schools/public places mostly reaches parents (due to their connected extended families and friends), children too find it difficult to indulge in such practices.
‘Character’ of potential spouses is an important thing that families inquire about (from other families and work places) before marriage. Children are not expected do things that might hurt their reputation. Besides, schools and colleges enforce strict dress-codes for both boys and girls and everyone adheres to it.
Violence/vulgarity – Many movies made in India might indulge in slightly excessive violent/vulgar scenes, but there is always a limit to how far they can stretch. Otherwise, people reject such movies and they are not even played on the cable TV network. Mostly, even those movies that highlight violence and sex will most probably have a positive message at the end, insisting that such practices are not good and children need to stay away from them. There was a point when there was no violence and vulgarity in movies, but these days commercial movies do include them. When exposure to such acts is limited, children think less about indulging in them.
Patience – To live in India, one needs enormous patience. Due to the large population, it is not always possible to plan/expand cities properly. So, there are queues almost anywhere. People need to patiently wait till their turn comes, to get any commodity/service. Since kids go with parents to shopping, (for instance) they get used to being patient themselves. It’s difficult initially, but it can happen and generally happens.
Social status – People inhabiting the large rural belt of India still believe that someone’s social status is not dependent on how much money they have, but how many donations they give to charitable causes such as village festivals and religious activities. So, philanthropy is actively encouraged in India and children learn from their parents, the importance of giving. Kids are even expected to give some of their toys to other kids (generally family members) and some of them even do it.
Food habits – Dependence on fast-food restaurants to eat their food daily is actively discouraged in India due to health concerns. Since one family member mostly stays at home, that person cooks and feeds home cooked meals to children. Families eat out rarely and during festivals, special dishes are prepared at home. Children are encouraged to prefer fresh fruit juices over soft drinks and eat home cooked food even at schools and work places.
Obesity – Due to the insistence of eating home-cooked food over eating at fast-food joints, people eat less junk food. So, obesity is found at much lesser levels, when compared to the the western countries. It’s common to find people following vegetarian or vegan food habits in India, and that contributes to lesser obesity levels, as well. People from economically weaker sections of the society may eat a lot of meat, but since their work is physically exhaustive, they stay quite fit.
Saving versus spending – India is still a conservative economy. People think a lot before investing money in fancy stuff and always invest in assets which have growth potential. So, it is common to see people spending on houses, gold jewelery and other such items whose value is generally expected to appreciate with time.
People in India think a lot before buying a car/expensive furniture as these items may not give a good return on investment in future. Of course, rich people indulge themselves but since the majority of Indians are in middle class, their attitude is more towards saving than spending. Children pick up this attitude from their parents.
Safe investments – People prefer investing in avenues that are safe such as Government bonds, and Bank fixed deposits than investing in riskier and potentially more profitable investments like speculating in share-trading and gambling. This ensures that money grows slowly but securely and there will be enough savings over time to spend on children’s education and marriages.
Exposure to multi-linguistic society – India has more than 29 official languages that are spoken by more than a million people each. Each Indian state has its own language and in addition to that, people are expected to know either Hindi or English. Normally, by the age of five, Indian kids are fluent in at least two languages and they get familiar with many more by the time they start studying/working. This is mainly because people keep moving from one place to another frequently, which increases their exposure and ability to learn new languages. So, children brought up in India can learn new languages quite easily.
Rituals – Indians have so many rituals embossed in their culture that are passed on from generation to generation. For example, in South India, children need to shave their heads at a very young age. This is followed as a ritual (passed on from generation to generation) but people also believe that hair grows faster/thicker due to this ritual. Children benefit from many such practices due to rituals that are followed to this day.
Alcohol and smoking – There is a minimal chance that children get exposed to alcohol/smoking when they are young. These habits are highly discouraged before they become adults. So, children are expected to get over their desire for such addictive habits than face the repercussions that follow from the society. Many Indians refrain from these habits even after they become adults. Good habits are as difficult to break as bad ones.
Sense of community – People have a good sense of community, in India. People are expected to help each other (whether in families or at communities). Since people live in joint families or close communities where there is a lot of interaction between everyone, people are not averse to helping others. It’s routine to request a sister-in-law/neighbor to take care of a kid while mom goes shopping, for example.
Limitations of bringing up kids in India:
No system is perfect. There are always some flaws in every system. While it’s important to take the best practices from elsewhere, it’s also important to be aware of their flaws. It is better to apply moderation, consider local factors and be flexible, especially when it comes to bringing up a child. Each child is different and many practices followed in India might not be directly applicable to children elsewhere.
The following pitfalls are directly or indirectly related to the Indian parenting system –
Over-disciplining might hurt the self-confidence of kids and they might become more shy. It’s always important to determine just how much discipline is right for the kids, and this definitely depends on where one lives (rural versus urban areas, for example). Many kids in India are shy and might communicate poorly during initial interviews by corporate companies.
Forcing kids’ priorities and parents taking decisions on their behalf, happens quite frequently in India). Since parents have a monopoly over children’s’ educational choices, they think that every kid needs to become a doctor or engineer. They really push their kids to achieve this goal, which basically stems from their own inability to become one or due to economic reasons. There is no point in influencing/forcing children to choose certain career’s over others. At the same time, children should also be informed about the advantages and disadvantages of both.
Since there is so much emphasis on learning and education, kids frequently take up to rote learning and memorizing stuff, in India. This is considered fine by certain parents and schools as long as the children score good marks. Long-term consequences of such practices are not considered in India, and parents here need to be aware of it.
Over-pampering kids is a problem with certain sections in India. Sometimes kids are given so much attention even though they are undeserving and haughty of themselves.
In India, there are traditions such as dowry (transferring money from the girl’s family to the boy’s family during marriage), forcing girls not to work after marriage, etc. Sometimes girls are aborted as only boys are supposed to be the bread-winners of every family. These evil social practices have their say in the upbringing of children (girls brought up differently when compared to boys of the same age, for example).
Some work-place practices in India (especially in the government segment) allow people to follow unmotivated/lazy work style. So, one can find the effects of such inefficiencies in almost every aspect of the society. For example, obtaining a government ID (like voters identity card) might take months, even for Indians living in the same place for many years. Children often learn such attitudes from their parents.
Since government jobs guarantee stable income and job-security, the practice of corruption is wide spread in India. It is possible to get things done by bribing officials and children may come to believe from a young age that corruption is a way of life.
Some people live on ancestral wealth and encourage their children to stay on with them and share that unearned wealth. This discourages hard-work and parents (in this case) don’t set the right example for the children to follow.
The latest computing/communications infrastructure and learning aids are generally not available to poor Indian kids. This might be highly disadvantageous in the wake of global competition.
Lack of skilled educators (especially in Govt. schools) may also contribute in not providing the best education to children in India.
PS: My personal opinion is that it doesn’t matter much on the long run, as the positives and negatives pretty much cancel out each other over a long-period. ( Actually, this is one of the biggest assumptions in the history of mankind as I can never scientifically back-up my claim 😮 )
You can comment on the advantages and disadvantages of brining up children in India, to add your views and additional points, to this discussion.