Overparenting is like a disease in India. And it has to change if we want our kids to be independent, successful, and most importantly happy in their adult lives.
Ostensibly, parents care for or love their children by keeping them safe and telling them what to do or what not to do. This typically stems from the fact that parents don’t want to see kids suffer, get hurt, or fail. But in the process, instead of becoming competent, children end up becoming anxious, afraid and risk-averse.
Indian parents tend to control a lot of decisions on behalf of their kids. They tend to handhold and over-direct their children’s actions. As a result, when kids grow up and become adults, they still expect their parents to tell them what to do and how to do it.
If you want to see your children be successful and independent, you have to stop being overindulgent and hypervigilant in their affairs.
Below is a list of four key things parents should do to help their kids grow up to be independent and strong human beings.
1. Teach them ownership and management
As a kid, I didn’t receive any pocket money. I don’t blame my parents because I had avery modest upbringing. What my parents gave me was most important: love, security and their time. But if you can afford it, you should give your child something (like money or any other ‘limited’ resource) which they can manage themselves. Over multiple discussions with other parents, I realised the common theme among those who do not practice this is a fear that the kids would misuse or lose the money. But that’s the point here. You want your kids to make ‘smaller’ mistakes and learn from them, rather than making the same mistakes with their first pay-cheque, and potentially losing much more.
2. Make them decision-makers and foster their creativity
With the growing economy and advancing technology, there are many more opportunities than ever before. Allow children to take risks and fail while they’re still young. The more they experience failure at a younger age, the stronger they become when they grow up. They develop high self-esteem, become more creative in solving problems, and learn to make decisions by themselves. And stop taking career decisions on your children’s behalf. Let them explore various fields themselves so that they find what they love and not what you love, or what you think they will love.
3. Inculcate a ‘can-do’ attitude and insulate them from your negativity
A positive, ‘can-do’ attitude isn’t only for grown-ups. We must encourage and inculcate this attitude in our children when they are still toddlers. Remember, toddlers learn much more by observing people around them, than by themselves. If kids see their parents talk negatively—for example, “Don’t be a person like me who doesn’t like socialising” or “I am not good at something”—they get less motivated and do not attempt to complete a task that looks challenging at first.
4. Practice caring and gratitude, and make them a priority
This is probably the most important thing of all. I have seen a lot of Indian parents (someof whom are my friends) prioritise their children’s happiness and achievements over the latter’s concern for others. Parents should teach their children that caring for others is equally important. I think this is a big piece that’s missing from today’s competitive society. There is so much competition in every field that parents want their kids to worry about only themselves—being at the top of the class, excelling at a sport or becoming a successful professional.
But various studies and interviews with successful leaders have shown that empathy is a huge attribute that is critical to one’s success and mental well-being. Children need to learn how to balance their needs with the needs of others. Encourage your child to stand up for a friend who is being bullied, even if that means that your child may be at risk of getting injured.
Teach them to be kind, respectful and caring.
One thing that is universal to human beings is that everyone wants to find happiness.How we imagine happiness is what varies from one person to another. Feeling or expressing gratitude enhances one’s well-being and improves optimism, increases happiness and overall better life.
“It is not happiness that makes us grateful” but “gratefulness that makes us happy.” – David Steindl-Rast
I was visiting India for the first time after almost four years in the US, and out of habit I said ‘thank you’ to a grocer. He stared at me as if I’d abused him. It then struck me that expressing gratitude is pretty much non-existent in Indian society for such small acts that are considered to be someone’s ‘duty’ or responsibility.
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Children are raised in different ways in different parts of the world. For example, when I was in Brazil, I realised that it is very common for generations of a family to live together. Like India, they also believe that kids have a better upbringing when they are raised in joint or extended families. In Scandinavian countries, where the air is cold and pollution-free, it is a common practice for parents to keep their children outside cafes and restaurants while parents watch from inside to expose children to fresh air as much as possible. In Spain, a lot of emphasis is given to the social and interpersonal aspects of development. In Finland, a child’s schooling starts after age seven. In South Korea, eating food is taught as a shared experience. They wait for the entire family to eat food together; this helps in learning delayed gratification and makes them less fussy about food when they see adults eating the same food.
I’m not saying what works in one country will work in another. But there has to be a realignment in our thinking and a willingness to adopt good habits.
One final point I’d like to make is about something most parents already know is vital but do not practice. Having open lines of communication with kids is imperative so that the kids can confide in parents. Children should not be afraid to talk about any subject – whether it is their sexual identity, feelings of alienation or suicidal thoughts.
Make the child feel content and not frustrated in life.
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