~ Vidhi Bhardwaj
They say you cannot learn parenting from a book, it is your instinct and experience that determines the kind of parent you will become. So, how does this parental instinct function? Well, according to the American Psychology Association, “Parenting practices around the world share three major goals: ensuring children’s health and safety, preparing children for life as productive adults and transmitting cultural values. A high-quality parent-child relationship is critical for healthy development.” It is this clear that a parent or guardian’s job does not end at providing basic shelter, food and clothing. How each parent goes about providing holistic development to their children is however different.
Baumrind Parenting Styles
- Authoritative: This parenting style involves setting strict standards and rules for a child which are usually reasonable. Parents/guardians are nurturing and give space for self-expression.
- Authoritarian: The role of the parent/ guardian in this style is that of instilling discipline. With little space for the child’s opinions, such parenting is extremely strict and lacks nurturing.
- Uninvolved: This is an emotional and disciplinarily distant style of parenting. With low levels of communication and generally disconnected parenting.
- Permissive: This is a friendly approach to parenting. Parents/ guardians support children’s decisions, children are given space and provided with nurturing.
These parenting styles are Euro-centric and have little cross-cultural evidence. Especially in the context of India which is known for the concept of joint families. Joint families and internal power dynamics lead to multiple sources of authority and parents may not always be the key influence in their child’s life.
Effect of Parenting on Children: A Mixed Response
Most studies indicate that parenting has a significant role to play in the formation of a child’s attitude and behaviour. Genetics and Observation have equal roles to play in this. As children tend to imitate not just mannerisms but also cultivate opinions based on dinner table conversations’. These can either make a child develop prejudiced and stigmatised views or learn about equality.
However, an important thing to understand is the subsequent process of ‘unlearning’. An interesting study by Eleanor E Maccoby, in the Annual Review of Psychology claims parents, may actually have a limited influence on their child’s socialisation. Parental effects are often reflected in the attitude of children towards their parents, or their behaviour at home. How children behave outside their homes may not be a reflection of the same. This clearly shows that based on external socialisation children go on to develop different opinions and habits.
Parenting also tends to have an impact on the kind of adult a child grows up to be, the kind of relationships they have and the sort of parents they become. Developmental_psychology has found strong correlations between the attachment style(emotional bond)of a child with their parent/guardian and the kind of romantic relationships that an individual has in the future (Hazan and Shaver,1987). Emotional trauma faced during childhood, lack of love or abundance of it is all carried forward to our adulthood and often determines how we build new relationships. Timely intervention and therapy can however help deal with negative spillover effects.
Another important area of contention is corporal punishment and whether it is a norm or child abuse? In South Asian cultures (apart from many others), beating children on the pretext of punishing them or disciplining them has been normalised to the extent that the line between child abuse and parenting is blurred. Children from India can be seen casually discussing the various objects they were beaten up in their childhood. While many children pretend to laugh it off, most of them develop trauma and psychological scars from this experience. Experts say corporal punishment has negative long term behavioural effects in children. They can become aggressive and develop an increased disposition to mental health disorders. Sadly, parents are ready to refute science simply with the claim that they have a right over their children which in no way should justify the same.
Parenting in the 21st Century
Navigating parenting in the 21st century is hard. Probably because now we are relatively more sensitive, mature and aware as a civilisation. Dictating children, right and wrong ideas are no longer valid since what had been right and wrong is being dismantled. A generation gap can be felt in how issues on caste, religion, gender and bias are being addressed. Is it okay to impose your worldviews on your children or should one teach them to be a good person and let them build their own worldviews based on knowledge and learning?
In the context of India, parents must abandon religion and caste-based education. Caregivers need to strive to build a caste and religion blind society and stop making a child’s caste the cornerstone of their identity. Gender roles and constructs need to be abolished right from the foundation. Parents need to battle binaries, buy their kids dolls, cars, makeup based on their interest and not their gender. At the end of the day, children need to learn how to be good human beings, not good Hindus or Muslims or Christians or men or women.
Children should be taught the virtues of patience, kindness, tolerance and acceptance. Learning about LGBT narratives need to be normalised. Parents themselves need to be more accepting of teenage sexuality and instead of preaching abstinence, teach safe sex practices, consent and identification of abuse.
Good or Bad Parenting can never be standardised, it will depend on some variables such as societal context, child’s disposition and parents’ past. What is important is that every parent/guardian remains open to the idea of change.
Must Read: https://skchildrenfoundation.org/family-a-bond-that-shapes/