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Parenting: Spare the rod and spoil chances of being jailed

Monday, 3 December 2012 - 6:00am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
Indians’ method of disciplining a child can attract legal action against parents abroad.

Indian parenting is in the limelight for the wrong reasons. A couple from Andhra Pradesh was arrested in Norway and remanded in custody on criminal charges of “gross or repeated maltreatment” of their seven-year-old son by “threats, violence or other wrongdoing”.

The parents apparently chided him for wetting his school uniform. The Oslo district court would pronounce the judgment on December 3.

This is the second instance where the disciplining methods of Indian parents have come under the scanner in Norway. Attributing such cases to the gulf in cultural perceptions, Indian parents living abroad say they are extra cautious while reprimanding their children for any wrongdoing, fearing legal action if a child complains against them.

In India, parents often believe that sparing the rod would spoil the child. But such a practice could land them in trouble if they were living abroad.

Poulami Ganguly, the mother of an eight-year-old girl, Sreecheta, had moved to the US about three years ago and she now lives in California. She said she was shocked to find parenting practices considered common in India banned in the US.

“I had to learn new ways to reprimand my daughter for any wrongdoing,” she said. “It was hard to do so since we have grown up in a culture where a good hiding from mother or father is perfectly acceptable. And we would still snuggle up to her at night. Here, if I behave that way, I will have the child services on my back.”

Vinay Aravind from Bristol said if he catches his children misbehaving, he withdraws certain privileges instead of meting out a punishment that would affect them physically
or mentally.

“Same rules as India do not apply to the UK. I have to think twice before raising my voice. If they misbehave, I ground them for 2-3 weeks, depending on the severity of their mischief,” Aravind said. “When they are grounded they are not allowed to talk on their mobile phones, access the internet, step out of home except for school. I also make it a point not to lose my temper when I am handling kids.”

Samir Dalwai, developmental paediatrician and director of New Horizons Child Development Centre, said Indian and western parenting styles are different; but the laws do not take that into consideration. “Generally, Indian parents do not have a bad intention behind punishing their children. They feel it is in the interest of the child. They do so out of love and not because they are drunk or taking drugs.”

He, however, said parents need to understand that it has been proved scientifically corporal punishment does not change a child’s behaviour. Instead, it develops hatred and resentment in the child towards his/her parents.

Lina Asher, founder and chairperson of Kangaroo Kids Education Limited and author of a parenting book, said it was high time that India had child protection services. “A child in India has no protection against bad parenting. Practices such as hitting is a reality even in educated families,” she said. “We need to create a system that will keep a watch on parents.”


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