Parenting in Nepalese Society
-Subhash Chandra Sharma
What is the correct way of parenting and how do you know that you’re doing it right? Well, researchers say there are four major recognised styles of parenting. Psychologist Diana Baumrind developed the Pillar Theory in which there were three main types of parenting styles; the authoritative, the authoritarian, and the permissive. Maccoby and Martin later introduced a fourth style of parenting, the uninvolved. These different ways or styles of parenting are what determine the way children function emotionally and socially.
The Authoritative Style
The authoritative style of parenting is considered the ideal style of parenting, and is characterized by high behavior control and discipline; while still being relatively flexible and rational, and giving children the freedom of choice. Parents are warm and responsive towards children and their needs; while still enforcing discipline and obedience, and setting clear behavioural expectations. They communicate with their children and are respectful to their opinions and points of view. Parents encourage their children to think independently and learn from the mistakes they make. The authoritative style of parenting has the perfect balance of love, affection, respect, trust, attention, communication, freedom, security and monitoring; which explains why this is indeed the best way of parenting. Children of authoritative parents are confident, independent, creative, self-reliant, open-minded, well-behaved, socially active; and most importantly, they are happy.
The Authoritarian Style
The authoritarian style, on the other hand; is less flexible and more demanding. It emphasizes discipline and obedience above anything else. They lack warmth, understanding and sensitivity towards their children; and are very strict about the rules they set. They expect their children to follow their rules and orders without question, regardless of the situation. Some of these rules are often very unrealistic and harsh; and parents don’t bother to give their children an explanation, neither do they tolerate their children’s opinion or any form of discussion on the topic. They enforce their orders upon children through physical punishment, threatening or verbal insults. Children of authoritarian parents lack confidence and the ability to make decisions, possess poor social skills, do not take responsibility, have a low self-esteem, feel fearful and pressurized, have a fear of failure, tend to suppress emotions, and are uncreative, aggressive, depressed, opinionated and dishonest. They are unable to express their feelings, which may lead to immense anger or depression. They are unable to trust people. Some children might also turn rebellious and associate themselves with drug use and other practices as such. Children of authoritarian parents are academically poor and lack intellectual competence.
Permissive parents are very loving and affectionate towards their children. They have a great bond with their children, interact with them in a very warm and friendly manner, and value their opinions. What goes wrong, though, is the fact that there are no rules, limits, or guidelines. They do not expect any kind of responsibility, discipline or maturity from children. They are very lenient and lack authority and can be easily manipulated by their children. Such children are very demanding, self-absorbed, and lack discipline. They are immature and often make impulsive and poor decisions, since they aren’t guided by their parents and thus lack problem-solving skills. They lack self-control and are aggressive in situations where they do not get what they want. They lack emotional understanding and empathy. They lack maturity, appropriate social skills, and are unable to function as a responsible member of the society. They lack the skill of time management since there is absolutely no structure or rules at home. They lack ambition since their parents expect nothing of them. This can also cause insecurity and low self-esteem since they feel like their parents are uninterested in their achievements; or aren’t valued or cared for. Since there and no rules or boundaries, it is likely that these children are more prone to delinquency and misconduct. Moreover, these children struggle during their early years of adulthood since they are all of a sudden introduced to a world where things don’t work the way want them to work.
Uninvolved parenting is probably the most detrimental style of parenting. Parents lack emotional involvement with their children. Children don’t receive basic needs such as love, support, attention and care from their parents. Parents are so busy in their own lives and problems that they completely neglect their children; express no emotion or warmth, do not guide or supervise them, and do not expect or demand anything from them. They take absolutely no responsibility of their children’s behaviour, health, security and academic performance. They never encourage their children or teach them values and morals they need to learn. Children of such parents often tend to feel stressful, fearful or anxious due to lack of support from family. They are emotionally withdrawn and feel lonely and isolated. They tend to perform weakly in academics and in other fields as well. They have difficulty in socializing and building relationships. They are more likely to develop delinquency and misbehavior, often leading to substance abuse.
Parenting Style and its effect in a tabular form
|Secure with oneself and others
||Lack a sense of boundaries
||Lowered sense of general well-being
||Performs for gaining approval
||Overly dependent on other for being valued and validated
||Low level of trust towards others
||Thinks approval is must for securing love and affection of others
||Lacks social skills
||Difficulty initiating or maintaining friendships
||Lack of organization and motivation
||Suffers from Low Self-esteem
||Lacks responsibility, finds difficulty in feeling and maintaining Commitment
||Poor in academics
||Male child may develop an aggressive lifestyle
||Less comprehensive about importance of significant consequences.
||High risk of substance abuse
||Female child may develop a dependent lifestyle
||Lack of self-discipline
||High risk of other serious mental illness
||Risky sexual behavior especially in female children (Donenberg, Wilson, Emerson, & Bryant, 2002)
||Increased display of disruptive behaviors especially by male children (Donenberg, Wilson, Emerson, & Bryant, 2002)
|High level of Well-being
Parenting in Nepalese Culture
Culture has a significant impact on the way parents raise their children. In Nepal, the most common style of parenting is probably the authoritarian style. Parents consider their children to be ignorant at many levels and that they know what is best for them, thus they believe that they have the right to make decisions for their children. Children are expected, or rather demanded, to respect their elders at all costs. Unlike in western cultures where respect is earned on the basis of a person’s qualities and behaviour; here in Nepal, the amount of respect given to a person depends on their level of power and authority. Children are not allowed to reason, question or argue; and not complying with something that parents demand from them, disagreeing with their opinions, or speaking against them - or any other adult, for that matter, is considered highly disrespectful. In order to maintain this authority and control upon their children, parents often use aggressive methods like enforcing harshness and strictness, guilt and manipulation, belittlement and humiliation, and physical punishment to discipline their children. What parents don’t realise though, is the fact that their children’s obedience, well-mannerism and discipline is brought on not by respect, but by fear.
Stateliness and dignity of a family is another essential aspect of parenting in Nepalese culture. Children are considered to be an important part of the family and the society; and every decision that they make as an individual directly affects their family and society. This is probably one of the reasons why children are expected to value and respect others above themselves; and do absolutely anything that protects their honour, stature and respect. Hard work and academic excellence is key; parents constantly monitor their children’s grades and performance at school, and enforce strict rules in order for them to excel. Their children’s freedom and happiness is often neglected, since it is academics that matters in the long run. Children often feel trapped, since their passion, talents and interests are often disregarded; their creativity and independence are not given enough importance. Moreover, having fun and spending time with friends are believed to be a mere waste of time; and getting adequate rest and spending quality time with oneself are considered signs of indolence.
I remember my childhood when we were always reminded to keep our heads down; since even looking into the eyes of elders was totally unacceptable. In none of the family matters were we asked for opinions or allowed to have our say. This was true even when those opinions were directly related to our lives; for example, choosing our fields of study or what we wanted to do in our lives. Unquestioned obedience was the only permissible rule.
As mentioned above, since stateliness is given so much importance in the Nepalese society; if anything goes against what is considered to be the ‘ideal’ nature or behaviour of a child in a society, parents will do anything to change that. In situations like children disobeying elders, performing poorly at school, engaging themselves in romantic or sexual activities or misbehaving in any other form; parents implement strict rules and monitor their academic and social life very closely. If children are suffering from mental illnesses or disabilities, having trouble dealing with drug or alcohol use, having disputes with parents or family or being abused in some form; parents ignore them or lie about the situation to others instead of trying to help them or seek help from someone else.
Yes, parental control and discipline is very important, but controlling their lives and not letting them think for themselves is not the solution. The more you try to control a child, the more they seek freedom. Children should be allowed to express themselves, voice their opinions, pursue their passion and fight for their rights.
Fostering Independence, encouraging and supporting children to express and make decisions for themselves, providing support if they fail allowing them to explore the wider world with a sense of security and trust is what is actually required from the parents.
Most Nepalese families have a similar parenting environment to what has been mentioned above. This style of upbringing has affected not only the way we behave with our families, but with all individuals who are perceived as authority figures in the society. Obedience, tolerance, respect and fear are so deeply ingrained into our minds from such an early age that speaking or doing anything against anyone of a higher level of authority is the last thing we would even think of. Living without electricity for hours a day or having to queue up on the road for just two litres of petrol whether there be the scorching sun or the thundering clouds, regardless of what time it is or how tired or hungry we are is totally acceptable for us; but god forbid we dare to say something against the government, or stand up for even the basic human rights we have been deprived of. This society-ingrained unquestionable obedience can be one of the most important factors why Nepal is not developing in comparison to our neighbouring countries.
Even when it comes to a human right as basic as voting to elect a leader for the country or what education to follow or which career to choose or even whom to marry are all influenced by what our family members and ‘seniors’ have to say; rather than our free will and intuition. This pathological level of dependency on authority figures has crippled Nepalese society that it finds it difficult to shed many of its old worn customs, traditions and social affairs in general. We still read the news of girls being bitten by snakes when they have to spend days in a cowshed when they start menstruating just because their parents or the society wants them to. This is just one of many examples which demonstrate that no matter what amount of hardships we face, we find it difficult to go against the authorities. Being a very gyani (obedient) and bhaladmi (nice) person is what our society demands; and our childhood experiences won’t allow us to disagree with what we have been asked for.
The authors strongly feel that unless the parenting style changes in the Nepalese society, it will be difficult for this society to rise above and begin to see the importance of being different and wisely brave as not follow everything we are dictated upon.
The society rather than sticking to its old style of rearing children should have the wisdom and courage to groom them to be more independent so as to make them more confident in deciding what is good not only for themselves but for the society as a whole and allowing them to break the cocoon of tradition with the wisdom of change.