Dare to Ask: Do Indian kids lack discipline?
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
Why do Indians let their kids do what they please? I asked a guy from India
why he let his child scream and slam doors, and he said books said you should
let your child do as they please.
Rhea, 22, white, Albany, N.Y.
Looked around lately? Most parents today act like this with their kids. . . .
It's not a race issue. It's a society-full-of-crappy-parents issue.
Cassy, 22, white, Jacksonville
Indians do punish their kids . . .
Sorgul, 20, Kurdish female, Atlanta
I work in a place frequented by a broad range of people. You know which
parents don't discipline? White parents, black parents, Indian parents,
non-Indian Asian parents, gay parents, straight parents, etc. . . . And of
course, there are parents in all those groups whose children do behave well.
Family therapist Mudita Rastogi does not see a lot of Indian kids throwing
tantrums in Albany, N.Y.
OK, her practice is in Arlington Heights, Ill., but still.
Actually, Rastogi, a professor of clinical psychology and a parenting expert
with experience in India and the States, didn't blow off the whole notion of
Indian parents being more permissive.
"Research says that up to age 5, children in Indian families are indulged
more, and the parents are more easygoing," she said.
Here's why: Lots of Indian parents immigrated to the U.S. in recent decades.
It was more collectivist where they grew up, and the needs of the family often
trumped those of the individual.
"Many were raised to include children in all activities . . . so most are
comfortable being around kids, and expect that they will take part," Rastogi
said. "That means people accommodate to their needs."
Take a grocery store meltdown by an Indian tot (not that we've ever seen an
American cherub have a hernia by the Shrek Push-up Pops, but work with us). "In
a case like that, it might be terrible for a white mom to have her kid cry and
say 'I want candy,' but an Indian parent might say, 'Well, the kid was hungry'
and look at it from a child-centered perspective."
However, most children of Indian parents who are immigrants adapt to
different expectations in America, perhaps behaving one way at school and
another at an Indian event, Rastogi said.
Adaptation should go both ways, though.
"How a child appears in public might not be as important as whether the
children care about the needs of other family members. Are they considerate of
everyone in the family, and willing to share with the extended family? . . .
Many Indian families I know will do anything for their parents."
Therefore, we in the U.S. might examine where our own discomfort comes from
on this issue, she said.
"It might be, 'How much can I tolerate something different, as long as the
child is not destroying property or doing something unsafe?' We need to ask,
'Why is it bothering me so much?' "
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
column comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also hear his
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