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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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Goodbye granny, hello e-nanny

Got a troublesome toddler at home who doesn’t understand the word no? Try saying yes instead. Kakul Dey discovered the joys of “yes” parenting recently — thanks to lessons that she picked up from a special class. And now, her son Yatharth — who till recently spoke a bit too loudly, much to his parents’ discomfort — is as soft spoken as a child can get.

“A ‘yes’ parent will never say no. I used the technique of positive talking with him. I kept on highlighting his positive points and also started ‘sleep talking’ to him. While he is in bed and about to fall asleep, I start saying to him: ‘Yatharth, be mellow, speak in a soft tone.’ It has worked wonders,” says Dey.

First there were pre-natal and ante-natal classes. Now parents are going to school to learn how to bring up their children. And the Internet is doing its bit to help young parents grapple with a child’s first tooth or bad grades.

Consider this. A prominent school in Delhi is planning to start parenting classes to sensitise parents and help them understand child psychology. A Mumbai school is running classes to help parents understand the power of patience and positive talk. Newspapers often have pages devoted to parenting, and there are magazines that are solely for parents. Numerous books by Indian authors on the subject are available. And websites keep you informed about the way your child should be growing.

Instead of asking a grandmother what to do when a child throws tantrums, you have counsellors who advise you on ways to handle tempers. Dedicated e-newsletters tell you when you should expect your infant to start teething, and what to do when it happens.

“Nobody is a born parent. Every new parent tries to use the methodology adopted by their parents but ends up being unhappy about it. Today, young couples have become serious about parenting,” says Archana Samarth, clinical psychologist, Avishkaar, a Mumbai psychiatric clinic that frequently holds parenting workshops in the city and in Delhi.

Dey, who is a dentist, spends her Sundays attending parenting classes to ably bring up her two-year-old son. Travelling from one part of Mumbai to another, she and her husband ensure that they do not give their lessons a miss despite having a hectic work schedule.

“These classes have helped us understand Yatharth better. They have taught me to be more patient while dealing with his temper tantrums,” says Dey. The Deys attend the Infant Siddha Programme (ISP) run by Rishikul Vidyalaya of the Mumbai Educational Trust, an NGO with centres in Mumbai and elsewhere. The nine-week course is packed 40 to 45 parents in each class and is being taught in 10 centres in Mumbai and as many as 50 in places such as Pune, Hyderabad and Bangalore. A course can cost anything between Rs 1,200 and Rs 6,200, depending on the duration and the location.

“Parenting is a big responsibility. Parenting classes provide a platform for experimental sharing and this helps parents to understand the psyche of a child better,” says Shyama Chona, principal, Delhi Public School, RK Puram, Delhi. The school intends to start classes for parents in the current academic session.

Parents, for instance, are taught that spanking is not a solution. “And we urge parents never to say ‘no’ to a child,” says Manoj Lekhi, one of the co-founders of the ISP programme.

Most parenting counsellors press upon parents to handle a situation delicately. A child who throws a tantrum in public often forces his or her parents to give in to a demand for a new toy because of the presence of onlookers. “If the child is a toddler, parents can try to divert his or her attention to something else in the vicinity,” says Archana Samarth. “But if the child is older, they will have to explain to him or her why they are not going to buy a toy at that point of time. They have to be firm.”

Online newsletters and websites are sources of parenting advice, too. Shemrock Mission, a play school in Calcutta, has on its website a host of parenting articles, ranging from tips on handling children’s queries to building a healthy relationship with them. Some of the popular sites catering to Indian needs are www.babycenter.com and www.indiaparenting.com.

Babycenter, for instance, comes up with suggestions on ways of countering a doting grandparent’s indulgence in a traditional joint family set up. It advises parents on what kind of snacks to give children in different age groups. Instead of burgers and chips, it urges them to give children dosas, khakras or idlis, and even provides parents with recipes of healthy Indian food.

“Earlier, the joint family played a big role in a child’s growing up years,” says Rohit Kapoor, father of a two-year-old son. Kapoor says that instead of seeking help from a grandmother or an aunt, he now looks towards books and counsellors for advice.

For many young parents, classes and expert advice are ways of honing their parenting skills, just as the way they perfect a language or a software program with the help of professionals. “I aspire to be a perfect mother and these classes are helpful,” says Shweta Agarwal, mother of a four-month-old baby, who also reads all that she can on parenting.

As Calcutta-based clinical psychologist Dola Majumdar puts it, “Attending parenting classes has become the need of the hour. Parenting is a serious job and any mistake in upbringing can lead to problems at a later stage.”

Every child is different and so is every parent. So can techniques taught in a class apply to everyone? “There is no thumb rule to be a perfect parent. But following a systematic approach will help you in bringing up a creative, confident and independent child,” says Lekhi. So, new parents, don’t panic. Child rearing is a set of dos and don’ts. Just hear it from the experts.

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