Bringing Up Parents: The Uniqueness of Indian Parenting


Bringing Up Parents: The Uniqueness of Indian Parenting

Parenting, to begin with, has never been an easy task, even in the very best of times. So, one can easily imagine the additional responsibilities and risks it carries when the times are not-so-favourable. Though human parenting across the world has several commonalities – in nurturing, socializing, educating and training in almost all spheres of life, there are considerable differences in parenting techniques among different cultures. For instance, in farm-based cultures, kids are considered more as economic assets rather than emotional objects and are treated like ones.

Similarly, tribal cultures stress individual independence in contrast with non-tribal cultures. Over the past decade, there has been a great interest in the critical importance and impact of different parenting techniques on kids, especially in eastern vs. western cultures. The impact of this difference in parenting styles is most clearly visible in a child’s academic performance, self-confidence, emotional development, behavior, and coping abilities.

A country’s history and culture greatly impact the parenting styles popular therein. For instance, the Chinese culture is largely influenced by the Confucian philosophy of respect for authority, devotion to parents, emotional restraint, and the importance of education. Not surprisingly, Chinese parenting practices emphasize training, governance, and love. Likewise, the ancient Indian Gurukul system, based on respect for authority, also stresses devotion to parents, learning, and education.

However, this is not to downplay the importance of changing times, cultural diffusion, and lateral mobility, which all affect parenting techniques in a major way. For instance, Chinese parents are now becoming less authoritarian and more sensitive to children’s emotions and needs and give them greater independence and autonomy. Similarly, there’s evidence that in recent years, Western parents have begun to have higher expectations of their children in terms of academic achievement, supervise and monitor their activities more closely.

Parenting Styles- The Categories

During parenting counselling, parents need to be explained the different dimensions of parenting styles. Most experts identify three common parenting styles in a parent-child relation relationship:

  1. Authoritarian – disciplinarian
  2. Permissive – indulgent and
  3. Authoritative

to help us understand and improve parenting skills.

Authoritarian parents are disciplinarians to the core and believe in wielding the proverbial stick in the parent-child relation quite often. Thus, punishment is common and communication is mostly one-way: from parents to children. Such a parenting technique uses dictatorial decision-making, with children having no say in important things related to the household.  Typically, the products of such parent-child relationships turn out to be either rebellious or submissive and docile adults and have problems with authority figures in later life.

Conversely, permissive parents in a parent-child relationship are more like friends and their parenting style is liberal. Predictably, such a style leads to an adulthood marked by little respect for rules and discipline and frequent problems with the law…

Authoritative parenting technique, wherein the parents fix boundaries and provide guidance, but also give kids the freedom to decide and learn from mistakes is thought to be the most beneficial for a child’s all-around development.

Indian Parenting Vs. Western Parenting

While Indian parenting technique has traditionally been regarded as ‘authoritarian’, Western parenting technique is believed to be more liberal, ranging between permissive and authoritative styles. Within India’s middle class, authoritarian parenting seems to be quite popular with the parents demanding blood, sweat, and tears from children, especially in the pursuit of academic excellence. The flourishing private coaching schools of Kota which generate Rs.75,000 crore annually are testimony enough to the aggressiveness of Indian parents. Contrarily, such micro-managing of children’s lives is rare in Western cultures, where children don’t have to bear the burden of high parental expectations. Rather, their delicate sensitivities are a topic of national preoccupation.



Most Indian parents aggressively push their children to meet the very high academic expectations they have of them. This authoritarian parenting technique doesn’t always work as every child is gifted with unique talents and aptitudes, and a plain vanilla approach isn’t desirable. The parent’s job is to provide a conducive and positive home environment to let children develop academic and social-emotional skills. Ideally, parenting styles need to be adapted and modified to suit the child’s unique personality.  

Keeping “right” and “wrong” in the parent-child relation aside, we need to understand that each culture is a product of its history and surroundings and secondly, parents are always unquestionably well-intentioned, from their viewpoint, at least. However, we can reflect upon what is desirable and what is not in a parent-child relation, which actions could lead to your child’s happiness, security, and independence, and which ones could make the child stubborn, defensive, and angry.

Let’s dive a bit deeper into both parenting techniques to know what makes them so different.

Indians enjoy the existence of bigger, extended, and joint families. Though joint families are a declining trend, it’s nowhere comparable to what is seen in Western cultures. Extended families help instill a sense of affection and responsibility towards others as children grow up with more than just their parents and learn to adjust to different kinds of behaviors. They learn values from older generations that help build character, kindness, and compassion. The grandparents’ unconditional love is the most valuable gift they get early on. While the trend is on the decline today, Indians still meet their extended family more often as compared to what we see in the West.

Contrarily, in letting kids be on their own and giving them choices, the West is many steps ahead of India. In India, children above 10 and sometimes even 18 are given instructions for little things and decisions made on their behalf. Except for a few, who really support their children’s choices and independence, most parents would like to remote control them, even when they are taking life-changing and personal decisions like career or marriage. Now, this is what we could learn from the west where even a 5-year-old is encouraged to make decisions about day-to-day things e.g. choosing a daily outfit, leisure activity, or preferred food.

However, we find a small percentage of families becoming progressive and treating kids as “individuals’ rather than kids. It’s a welcome transition, which could create a stronger, wiser, and more independent generation. A good parenting must enable a child to make life decisions and also be ready to face their consequences. Tempering the richness of our culture with this change could lead to kids, who are both grounded and free. Ultimately, it’s all about maintaining a reasonable balance in the parent-child relationship.

Indian Parenting –Unique Features

The Indian parent-child relation is marked by many unique features, which may not be found in other cultures, especially the western ones:

  1. Discipline

Indian parents emphasize discipline more while western parenting is more liberal. Indian parents try to raise well-mannered and disciplined kids when it comes to academics and that explains why Indian children are getting more career-centric.

Western parents’ liberal style makes them go soft on children and thus when things go wrong, they are more considerate about a kid’s feelings. Often, it results in a careless nature among teenagers, for whom it’s important to foster discipline in life.

  1. Kindness and Patience

Indian parents try to teach their kids kindness, compassion, and peaceful co-existence with their surroundings, including people, animals, and nature. Little kids are encouraged to be modest and nice to everything around them, from strangers to the small, stray dog on the street. Indians believe that every living thing on the earth deserves the same amount of respect. And also, never forget to show patience!

  1. Good Example

One cannot expect a kid to be kind, respectful, and independent if their parents are rude and irresponsible. That’s why Indian parents try to show them with their own example. Besides, in several families, older generations are quick to teach their grandchildren the right things.

  1. Attachment

Well, this one is the clearest marker, if there could be any. Indian mothers believe in attachment parenting and, therefore, try spending every single minute with their newborns. It’s a convenient arrangement- if the baby is anxious, wants to be fed, or needs a diaper change, the problem can be tackled right then. Of course, co-sleeping usually ends by 7 or 8 years of age.

 In contrast, in many Western cultures, parents put their newborns to sleep in separate rooms.

  1. Education

Indian parents pay close attention to kids’ academic achievements and would want them to be successful more than anything. So you find strict play-time and study-time rules in Indian households. And kids often realize later the value of such self-discipline fostered early by parents!

  1. Spirituality

For many Indians, spirituality is a central aspect of life. It’s what their parents had taught them and what their school had encouraged. Obviously, kids know from a young age about family rituals and explore this side of life. They are taught, mostly, to follow their parents’ religious faith and are made to attend the related ceremonies off and on.

  1. Finances

“No, no we don’t need this one. And no, there’s no need for that either.”

The simple logic: Indian parents would like their kids to value money very early on. So pocket money is strictly controlled and the kids know well they can’t splurge on that cool T-shirt. May seem a tough tactic, but it seems to work! Thus, Indian kids grow up knowing they need to work hard for financial independence and stability.

  1. Respect for authority

Indian parents try to ensure their kids are respectful. “Answering back” is clearly a no-no for Indian parents. Contrarily, Western parents believe in forging a friendship with their kids, which takes the kids out of the “protective environment” and makes them confide to their parents about many things. This is especially important when the kid is entering a teenage.

Western parents are never seen pressuring them in academics and whole-heartedly accept their kids choosing music, arts, dance, etc as a career.

  1. Social Bonding

In India, cultural conformity and family bonds are very strong and deeply rooted. Extended family and even neighbors contribute greatly to raising children. In contrast, it is regarded as interference and infringement of personal space in Western culture. Moreover, it’s quite common for  Indian parents to be actively involved in their children’s lives after their marriage. Indian parents support their children emotionally and financially throughout their lives.

This is quite opposed to the Western culture, wherein kids, once married, are on their own and there is hardly any give-and-take between the two.  

  1. Guiding

Western parents are extremely conscious of their words and more often use “love”, “honey” and “sweetheart”.

On the other hand, Indian parents assume their children to be strong enough to bear an occasional bashing.

Striking the Balance

In nutshell, both the Indian and Western parenting styles come with their unique pros and cons. Both styles offer many major benefits but can also give rise to potential problems. The trick lies in deriving benefits from both and avoiding the problems associated with either by finding the sweet spot between them. Both styles are just two paths to the same destination even if they are radically different. So we can’t really say with confidence which one is good or bad. Besides, every child is unique in that certain things work fine for one, which may not be the case with another one.

In the Internet age, when family dynamics are being significantly influenced by social media and technology, parents are adapting elements of different parenting styles and strategies. Besides, globalization and new technologies are influencing cultural values that underlie these parenting styles, and thus, the East and the West are interacting and reshaping each other’s parenting styles.

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