It is almost a struggle to keep up with Zubair Ahmed during our telephone interview. 'Generate focus', and 'desired end goal' are some of the terms this Dubai-based Pakistani author, IT professional and motivational speaker throws into our conversation. What really catches us off guard is the context in which these highbrow management terms are used — Ahmed is in the middle of explaining how he helped his then four-old-son win a kindergarten school race.
“It's about instilling quality,” explains Zubair, whose parenting principles are based on five core values, or the Magic 5 as he calls it — discipline, teamwork, positive thinking, quality and innovation. Egged on by friends, he wrote a book chronicling his experience of parenting his four kids based on his management-centric principles. The book, Power to Kids (whose cover page has four kids caught in various stages of a fist pump), was released last year on amazon.com and is based on data that Ahmed managed to gather after years of researching companies.
New age parenting
According to a Wall Street Journal article that quoted the Bowker Books in Print database, the number of parenting books published or distributed stood at 3,520 in 2011 — a 21% increase since 2007. There is always a new parenting technique that parents either breathlessly exchange or guard like the Holy Grail.
Gopika Kapur, the Mumbai-based author of Spiritual Parenting, was pregnant with twins when she attended Vedanta classes roughly eight years ago. Vedantic principles became a part of her and, by extension, her parenting approach. “One thing we learn is to surrender to the divine. That helped me, and as a result my kids, to be calm,” says Kapur. Another principle is detachment. “As parents, we are too emotionally attached to our kids and concepts like winning. That it is not healthy.”
Although Ahmed and Kapur insist that their techniques have only stood them in good stead, there are several other techniques that can be, at best, described dubious.
According to the ‘Indigo Child’ concept and its website www.indigochild.com, an Indigo child is someone who comes into the world with “a sense of royalty and act like it”.
There is also the Resources for Infant Educarers parenting movement, where kids are encouraged to make their own decisions and parent themselves.
Bangalore-based home-maker Swati (who declined to be identified by her last name) decided to follow the Ferber method after watching the 2004 laugh riot Meet the Fockers.
The method encourages wailing babies to ‘self-soothe’ for a fixed time, before being comforted by someone. “The idea of teaching my two-year-old son to be independent was tempting,” says Swati. Her resolve didn't last long, though — in two days’ time, she was back to cooing to her son. “I can't ignore him when he's crying,” she says, sheepishly.
In India, parents are wary of parenting techniques, explain parenting experts. And the more experimental of the lot prefer to check with experts before following them, points out clinical psychologist Seema Hingorrany. “One mom wanted to know whether she could talk to her child in a positive manner while he's asleep, as a parenting book explained that a child's subconscious mind remained alert then.”
When Bangalore-based banker Rashmi Menon put her four-year-old daughter in a mainstream school last year, she was taken aback by how demanding her normally easygoing child had become. “She insisted on having expensive gadgets,” remembers Menon. “It was stressful.” After talking to parents caught in a similar predicament, Menon decided to home-school her daughter.
Menon is one among an increasing number of parents who either home-school their kids or put them in an alternative school, explains Bangalore-based counsellor of Nurturing Nature Izzat Ansari.
Though she is not a fan of rigid parenting techniques, Ansari explains that she has tried to include one impressive parenting approach called ‘virtue training programme’, in her workshops. Here, the entire family including the child, learns one virtue every week through interactive games, artwork, songs or even just practising the virtue. “By the end of the week, the virtue is written down and pasted on the ‘virtue tree’ like a fruit,” says Ansari, with a small laugh. “This has worked wonders.”
According to the Cartoon Network New Generations report, an increasing number of parents control the content their children are exposed to, as a result of which three out of five parents end up watching cartoons with their kids. This has led to the fairly recent phenomenon of ‘co-viewing’ or, as Nitin Pandey, founder of parentune.com puts it, ‘co-digital viewing’. “You just need to type one wrong letter in a link and you don't know where it will take you,” he points out.