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Where Is Indian Parenting Going Wrong?

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Manav and Abhay live in the same society in Andheri. The two toddlers who just turned five moved to a regular school from a ‘full-of-play’ home. It wasn’t even a week when Manav’s mother learnt from other parents that they have already enrolled their children into so-called extra-curricular activities like swimming, tennis, and guitar classes.

She hears the other mothers beaming with pride when they narrate the fact that their little 5-year-olds return late in the evening all-drained from the gazillion ‘pits’ they have been pushed into under the caramel-coat termed as “all-round development”. She finds it more of a bane to the contrary, hence prefers not to fall prey.

Abhay’s mom, on the other hand, gives in to the anxiety and enrols her “only hope of overcoming her failures into success” in swimming and athletics. By the end of one year, Abhay starts getting irritable and develops a weird tendency of falling ill time and again.

They pressurise the little kid to imitate their peers which successfully yet venomously sows the seed of comparison.

She takes him to the clinic, where the physician blatantly rules out physical illness and refers the child for counselling. The counsellor post-session tells his mother that he is unable to cope with the dual pressure of performing well in academics and sports activities.

How Does Peer Pressure Build In Primary School?

You must be thinking about what this anecdote leads to. Well, this is the New India: the modern-day “nuclear” home, where the word itself is smoking out negative connotations.

Today’s parents have surprisingly come under an abnormal pressure of seeing their kids achieving accolades right from their pre-primary school days and subject not only themselves but even the kid under the famously heard term, peer pressure.

When a child enters the pre-school age, parents unconsciously begin to compare their little one with other peer’s development. They pressurise the little kid to imitate their peers which successfully yet venomously sows the seed of comparison.

The comparison keeps growing with time and eventually out-branches into different forms of insecurity with a major one being the beginning to consider oneself ‘not good enough’. The pressure escalates hand-in-hand as the now-teen moves to higher classes. They now start being judged not only by their academic performances but their looks too.

The teen now stops giving any importance whatsoever in their abilities and career choice. They choose to pursue a career, not because of their individuality, but their friends, society, and institution. They are just a breathing ‘Alexa’ who opts for subjects their friends have chosen and drives themselves cluelessly to join competitive coaching classes.

So, Where Did We Go Wrong?

Every single day, this country witnesses an approximate 28 student deaths by suicide. What is it that the Indian parents are getting all wrong? Well, let’s travel back in time again.

Remember the first day your toddler tried taking their first step to walk. Must have been an unforgettable experience. Well, what did you do exactly as they kept taking the small steps around your house? The normal tendency for a kid who begins to walk is either tripping or maybe getting hit by an object. There is nothing wrong in comforting a child but what went wrong was how you comforted them!

As a parent, your first reaction must have been admonishing the object or the floor for the baby’s fall and, bang, the child learns the first wrong lesson. They learn that some external matter caused their failure and not the fact that they’re still in their learning phase.

Scientific research over the last few years have discovered three main characteristics developed in childhood that help people succeed later in life: grit, curiosity, and growth mindset. Students need to migrate from a fixed to a growth mindset.

When a student fails to score well, they should be taught to compare themselves with their self. Capabilities can be developed from hard work and focus and not by shielding oneself from failure. The more one concentrates on oneself; the better one will become.

But is peer pressure the only form that has doubled the suicide rate over the years? Let’s introduce the new cousin who has its own set of contributions to the same: virtual peer pressure.

Understanding Virtual Peer Pressure

Is it a regular sight for you to see your teenage child’s head buried deep inside their smartphone? Well, you may not even know what is keeping them so involved that they aren’t bothered about what is happening around them. This is precisely what virtual peer pressure is – showing their presence actively so that their peers accept them. And social media plays the role of the key villain in this whole plot of influencing a teen’s decision making power.

These online activities activate a teen’s thinking and behaviour pattern negatively. They want to ape their peers only to be accepted among them and not necessarily because they believe in that thought process. For instance, studies show that teenagers who viewed and liked photos and snapshots of their peers partying with alcohol were more probable to mimicking the behaviour by indulging in alcohol and smoking themselves. So, it can be rightly said that virtual peers are far more powerful and influential than a teen’s real-life friends.

girl using mobile phone
Representational Image.

So what can be the solution to overcome this? Remember the scene of the film Mission Mangal– where Vidya Balan comes back home after a day’s work and finds her daughter missing in the place she actually should have been and instead was hanging out in a pub?

It indeed was one of the remarkable follow-up scenes, when she asks her husband to change and goes to the pub and dances with her.

The inhibition breaks, the daughter realises her wish to party and enjoy was not something to hide from.

She acknowledges that her parents have been through this precarious phase too but have chosen to be what they are today. This scene teaches a lesson that gets implied in many ways. Be your child’s best friend and first friend. Build so much confidence in the child that they would share all their secrets and keep their parents in the loop.

A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking. This is because her trust is placed not on the branch but its wings. Could you give it a thought?

Note: This was originally published here

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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