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The Parent Trap

The Parent Trap

February 23, 2013
Raising your kids the upper middleclass way.

Upper middleclass parents must realize that making it to the upper middleclass is not enough. In our national spirit of nepotism, it is your duty to ensure that your kids inherit what you have and, by the grace of God, maybe much more. For that to happen, you should raise your kids in the right way and impart upper middleclass values at an early age.

The seed is planted right in the childhood.

I had a typical middleclass childhood where "adjust" and "share" weren’t merely words, they were virtues. I had to share everything with my elder brother. For the record, he is five years older and was a foot taller than I was at the time. That wasn’t good because most of the sharing happened on WWE inspired survival of the fittest basis.

I once came into the possession of a 10 rupee Dairy Milk chocolate. I could have eaten it alone but I wanted to show it to my brother and make him jealous before eating it all by myself. My brother filed a complaint with the relevant regulatory authority (my mother) because I was showing off and showing off was against the rules of the house.

My mother intervened and declared that I had to share the chocolate with my brother. I disagreed and soon we were at the negotiation table. I made my case that I should get the full chocolate on virtue of being younger. After all my brother being five years older had quite a big head start as far as chocolates were concerned and I had a lot to catch up on.

My brother had a different take on the issue. He believed that older kids deserved more for themselves because they have bigger tummies. I disagreed on the grounds that chocolates are not a sustainable way of filling one’s tummy and that he should invest more in alternative sources of energy like curd rice.

He lectured me on how adopting alternative sources is not solely his responsibility blah blah blah and at this point, the negotiations failed. (This is exactly how every climate change summit happens by the way) We were back to punching, scratching and slapping for the chocolate until Mom intervened for the second time.

I eventually had to share it with my brother.

It was a profound moment for me. I realized at that very tender age that sharing is a silly, childish, outdated and thankless virtue that should be avoided as much as possible. Do you share your answers in an examination? No.

Does your manager ask you share your appraisal bonus with your teammates? No. When adults by and large don’t share anything, why should kids share? Isn’t childhood after all preparation for being an adult? That, my dear friends, is the first lesson in upper middleclass parenting.

Lesson 1: Give them enough stuff

Parenting is not an easy job but we upper middleclass people have figured out how to handle it with minimum fuss. Research has shown that with separate rooms and enough gadgets, kids will voluntarily lock themselves in their rooms all day and will never fight over anything. Isn’t that every parent’s dream?

This strategy is being used with great success in the upper middleclass neighbourhood that I now live. All the kids have their own comic books, action figures, geometry boxes, gaming consoles, PSPs, Barbie dolls, window seats, Skype grannies, private tutors and always enough chocolates. They don’t have to fight over anything. That is good parenting I tell you.

Lesson 2: Help your kids become Global Indians

Folks, I hate to tell you this but nothing is more middleclass than talking to your kids in your mother tongue, especially when you can say the same things in English. Why would you even want to teach your kids their mother tongue? It is so nineteen nineties!

Now experts might say the mother tongue is the language of our thoughts; that it is through the mother tongue that a baby discovers the world for the first time; that the mother tongue determines the baby’s cultural universe i.e. the myths and folk tales he hears, the literary heroes he looks up to, the lullabies his mother sings, the rhymes and poems he recites, the proverbs that are used, the idioms and metaphors that people use in routine conversations all of which form a cultural vocabulary which makes a person belong; that the mother tongue is the umbilical cord that truly connects a person to the tangible and intangible aspects of his culture but let us be practical.

As citizens of a globalized village, proficiency in the English language is of utmost importance. The earlier your kid learns it, the better. There is no need to be guilty about alienating your kids from their own culture. When they emerge victorious over other vernacular speaking kids in the Group Discussion round of their MBA admission twenty years from now, they will thank you.

Every time I see Telugu mothers talk to their two year olds in English, it fills my heart with joy. These parents understand that the world is a rat race and rats speak in a globally understandable and comprehensible neutral accented English.

Our Management Guruji always says, “Think global, act local.”

Lesson 3: Chicken soup (one by two) for the middleclass soul

Middleclass people tend to look at shopping as a chore that should be done quickly and without much fanfare. Nothing is farther from the truth. Trips to the malls need not be all about pushing trolleys, waiting in lines and trying to find a parking spot. They can be really awesome if you plan properly.

As working parents, you have to constantly invent reasons to spend as much time with your kids as possible. You can do that by converting boring chores like grocery shopping into fun family activities. Malls are great for this because you can shop a little, eat a little, may be watch a movie and bond with your kids all under the same roof.

Malls in India are primarily built for the upper middleclass. The middleclass also frequent malls but those freeloaders are in it just for the free Air Conditioning. It breaks my heart to see swanky international looking malls with overcrowded parking lots but empty billing counters. Even when the sale is on!

Malls are probably the only sector of our economy that is doing well in this country. The farmers are killing themselves, manufacturing is almost dead, small businesses are critically endangered; unemployment is so high that the last time a news channel dared to use that word was in 1991, food prices are up, the rupee is down and inflation is eating into the savings of the middleclass.

But what gives me hope is the increasing numbers of teenagers shopping with add-on credit cards linked to their parents’ accounts. Whenever I see this new generation of urban mall rats armed with consumer power accelerating the growth of our ailing economy, I am comforted with the thought that these people are the future of our country.

With new malls springing up at the unlikeliest of places thanks to the invisible hand of the free markets, things can be bright again but only if we impart the right values to that the next generation can carry this forward.

Kids learn the most from their parents and as responsible parents you have to teach your kids the joy of shopping responsibly. Shopping is the art of transaction. Shopping is not just buying, it is about making choices. And through these choices, we are constantly telling the world who we really are. It is a legitimate form of self-expression and it is your patriotic duty to teach this to your kids by example.

To be continued…

Full Disclosure
: I am neither a parent nor a child. This allows me to have a neutral and unbiased perspective towards parenting.


  • Rajpriya
    01.03.13 03:31 PM

    I give up before you take me down with you too. Man oh man! you really scare me.
  • Jayanth Tadinada
    Jayanth Tadinada
    01.03.13 02:56 PM
    What are my chances of defending myself from 8 kids? I'll take at least 2 or 3 with me before going down ;)
  • Rajpriya
    28.02.13 12:48 PM

    I hope you don't end up in a hospital with life threatning injuries trying to explain what's fair in life to a mob?

    Its only fair that I would love to make a visit to the hospital to comfort you.

    Ha! Ha! Ha!
  • Jayanth Tadinada
    Jayanth Tadinada
    28.02.13 09:59 AM
    @Rajpriya: Haha.... If I had eight kids and one 10 rupee dairy milk chocolate, I'd eat it and tell them, "Kids, sometimes life is not fair" :)
  • Rajpriya
    28.02.13 08:53 AM
    “g2’s mission in life is to point out the silly stuff before anyone else does. He regularly litters the Internet with insane ideas, quirky blog posts, rage comics and writing for The NRI is yet another way”

    g2 is neither a parent nor a kid. Taking his litter too seriously would be a joke in itself.

    Some funny thoughts about g2 ran through my mind. What if: g2 became a daddy one day and had eight children and one 10 rupee Dairy chocolate in his hand and I come to watch the stormy weather changing the climate in his home? Ha! Ha! Ha! I am not too sure they would understand who the older one is and who is behaving like a kid provides kids curd rice. I would love watch their faces.

    On could of course try sharing the answers at exams as long as he or she doesn’t get caught. Well appraisal bonuses depend on what all you do to please your manger all year round.

    Appraisal bonuses are based on the habit of how far one would go to please managers from 1st January to the 31st of December every year even though your work may be not up to the required level or standard.

    Say, having eight kids: a parent would soon belong to poor class if he starts building more rooms, buys separate sets of toys, all the kids have their own comic books, action figures, geometry boxes, gaming consoles, PSPs, Barbie dolls, 8 window seats, Skype grannies, private tutors and so much more curd rice? Providing separate rooms depends on how many kids the daddy finally ends up making.
  • Trishul
    28.02.13 04:04 AM
    I, for what its worth, couldn't take this article seriously.
    "...that with separate rooms and enough gadgets, kids will voluntarily lock themselves in their rooms all day and will never fight over anything..."
    So, you are trying to make your kids a recluse from right from the go? Sibling fights are a great learning process that teach you valuable lessons about respect, knowing boundaries and learning compromises. First hand experience and I value it.
    Statement like yours make me think you are just seeking a easy way to escape from having to look after your kids. Bad parenting. I can refute a lot of your points but it would be too long.
    Basically, you are spoiling your kids.
  • Qwerty
    27.02.13 07:33 AM
    My bad reading skills!!! Didn't realize this was sarcasm. :)
  • Violet in Twilight
    Violet in Twilight
    26.02.13 12:49 AM
    Exposure to more than one language from birth actually improves literacy skills.
  • Jayanth Tadinada
    Jayanth Tadinada
    25.02.13 07:22 PM
    @Jyoti Agarwal: Yes. I suggest you hire a maid immediately and update your LinkedIn profile with your latest resume :p
  • Jyoti Agarwal
    Jyoti Agarwal
    25.02.13 05:14 PM
    Oh! You are scaring me Jayanth. I am a new mom of a three months old infant and everytime I see kids of my colleagues/friends I get even more scared.
    Truly parenthood (and childhood) has changed drastically these days and all thanks to parents who want to compensate for their time by giving their kids whatever they want.
    My friends think, I am so old-fashioned giving my career a break to raise my little one when he can be raised easily by a maid... dumb me.. but the damage is done!
  • Jayanth Tadinada
    Jayanth Tadinada
    25.02.13 03:30 AM
    @qwerty123: Yes, that is the point I was trying to make... that denying kids knowledge of their mother tongue is foolish because

    1. Research has shown that kids are capable of comfortably learning as many as six languages between the ages of 6 - 14.

    2. The best time to introduce a second language is after the age of five after they have a strong foundation of their mother tongue. Kids have enough linguistic ability to pick up a language in a couple of years and there is no need to be insecure about it.

    @HARRY: Thanks always. I also hope you gently rap them on the head once in a while to mean you're business ;)
    24.02.13 09:58 PM
    @ Jayanth

    I loved the article. :) It cracked me up. I couln't stop laughing at your take on upper middle class.

    Come on, there is no fun in giving your kids what ever they want. We would be called soft parents. I make mine(kids) share all the things. I'm cheap like that and it gives you power over kids and that's priceless dude.

    Mind you, I do like your logic behind the article. But do you not think that by simply changing the language to english, one cannot change his internal structure, after all we are Indians. Nice one dude.

  • Writerzblock
    24.02.13 07:07 AM
    Was that meant to be a sarcastic article?
  • sasi priya
    sasi priya
    23.02.13 10:33 PM
    You'd 've done Maya Sarabhai proud ;)
  • JSA
    23.02.13 02:31 PM
    Ha ha!!! Lol!!
  • qwerty123
    23.02.13 11:33 AM
    "As citizens of a globalized village, proficiency in the English language is of utmost importance."
    I can not agree more to this.

    But this is not binary logic - to make your children proficient in English does not mean to not teach them your mother tongue. I respectfully disagree to the message you are conveying with your second lesson. Sad to read that people believe its middle class to talk in mother tongue with your own children.

    I guess you are missing the point here, I work for worlds top semiconductor company, and in our every lunch group discussion it doesn't matter how fluent your English is. People respect your thought process and the way you perceive things, your ability to positively impact people around you. And a lot of this is contributed by the culture you are brought up in.

    I studied in an English medium school but trust me I wish I knew my (Gujarati) culture more. I am very inquisitive about great literary works in my mother tongue. They teach me a lot about the place and people where I belong to.

    Sorry for those parents who measure their child's happiness by how fluent English they will speak in future.

    And to add, I 24 but I am an absolute fan of wise old people in my family. I talk to them in my mother tongue, which ever part of the world I work/stay in.

    Learning my mother tongue has never ever hindered my progress in so called 'rat race' or I have never felt its middle class.
  • nrifan
    23.02.13 10:48 AM
    dafuq did i just read!!!

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