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Bringing up children in India
Vinod Anand | 09 Feb 2012

Bringing up children is not that easy. In India, especially, the so-called rich and super rich people keep as may maids as the number of children they have.

BRINGING UP children is not that easy. In India, especially, the so-called rich and super rich people keep as may maids as the number of children they have. It is also a status symbol to show to others that they have a lot of wealth. It is not so amongst the middle income and poor class. The poor people have many children to but the mother looks after them. In foreign countries, where no maids are available, children are looked after by the parents. As urban mothers get caught up in work or shopping spree and also in socializing, maids fill a large void in children’s lives. But it is said that it is not good for the children in various ways. It is also bad both for family binding and discipline and also in terms of good and moral etiquette. Besides all this, there are many cases when the maids eat the food meant for children and make them eat pedigree food meant for the pets. With parents and children both having so much on their platter, the thought of not having any extra help is too stressful for a lot of parents in the city However, experts also warn of dangers of over-dependency. From the day the child is born, parents begin to depend on maids.

Many feel that changing clothes, feeding the baby or taking the child to school is the maid’s responsibility which leads to them not being able to develop an emotional bond with their own children. With the help playing such a big role in a child’s life, it’s not uncommon to spot kids crying more for their maid instead of their mother, or in some cases developing separation anxiety when they go on leave. A parent based in the city says her son stopped eating for days when his maid left the job. In fact, one should be sure that to spend quality time with their children every day. If parents have to go out at night, they should be with them all afternoon, and if they are away during the day, they must sit with their children in the evening till they sleep

While their maid does most of the work, parents should retain control over their children’s medication, what they eat, or what they wear to school every morning. It is true that as children grow up, the dependence of the maid gets reduced. But earlier, most of the urban mothers think that their lives come to a stop when the maid wasn’t around, but now it’s much better. When the maid goes for a holiday, mothers take care of every single thing, from heating the milk to making sure they take their bath and the children become more disciplined during that period. Often, domestic helps want the children to cling to them. It gives them more power with us. The closer are the kids to their maid, the tougher are the parents to fire her. There are financial obligations and the importance of a career for the mother, and hence the role of domestic help becomes imperative. Domestic help can never substitute for a parent. Working parents need to focus on spending quality time with their kids by reading books to them, eating meals together, or doing fun activities.

When there’s nobody around to monitor the child’s interaction with the help, the chances of the child emulating the help’s mannerisms and behaviour also tend to increase. Even at schools children are obviously influenced by their maids, whether it’s the way they talk or how they dress. But as kids grow up, most of them become aware of the ‘social hierarchy’ and suddenly the person they were so attached to turns into someone beneath them in stature. There is a phase in the children’s life where they are ill-mannered with his maid, whom they used to call Amma. They also make fun of her, even though she’s been working with the family for nearly 10 years. In such situations, how parents treat the help becomes all the more important. Children learn from observation, and parents need to treat the help well to ensure they do. Parents should supervise the relationship between them and the help. Even children can abuse the help.

Experts feel how a child treats his domestic help in some way defines how he treats people in general. If a child mistreats his maid and gets away with it, he will think it is okay to treat a certain category of people badly. Later on he may start categorizing people. He may mistreat someone who is intellectually or physically weaker than him, and not necessarily financially inferior. This will affect his overall emotional development, and he will not understand the concept that all human beings are equal. He can also end up being more aggressive in other situations. The question of how trustworthy the domestic help is also cannot be ignored. There is also an incident when a maid in Delhi kidnapped an 18-month-old child, who was somehow rescued later. The child’s parents never thought she was capable of such a thing.

Hence, parents need to trust their help, but they also need to be cautions at the same time. They should check credentials and references carefully, as domestic help may abuse the child when parents are not around. Even internet, when not properly used, can damage easily influenced children. Protecting children online is now a global issue. Parents and educators have an enormous task ahead, and some obvious solutions are software filters and online monitoring software. But if there is trust between parents & children, this becomes a non-issue. The best thing that parents can do is answer their children’s questions honestly and appropriately. When a child asks where babies come from, parents should answer it in a way it can understand, instead of giving random answers like a stork brought the baby. Parents should make kids comfortable.

The best thing is not to hire a nanny for the children. If one has to go out at night they should leave the children with their relatives or skip the event. During the day, they should take the young children with them. One should never leave the kids alone with any help Domestic help has direct access to the household, and is more a part of the family than any other employee. Their language, customs, habits and cleanliness do influence the children. Parents need to treat them with dignity, but also ensure that they have a clean past. There is also another important thing in this context. As children grow, they should be shifted to an independent room and should be taught to look after themselves. There are many cases when even the grown-up children sleep in their parent’s room. This is not good. In foreign countries this is illegal. We should learn for this experience. In essence, therefore, I say that if parents want their children to have good moral and ethical values, they must bring them up themselves, and not depend on the maids.