Counsellors Aarti C Rajaratnam and Brinda Jayaraman speak about their book on parenting

We live in an age when parenting has ceased to be natural. There are crash courses that teach parents how to turn their kids into geniuses. And if that does not work, there’s always a therapist to set you on the right path. In such a scenario comes Parenting: Innocence to InnerSense, written by counsellors Aarti C. Rajaratnam and Brinda Jayaraman. The 223-page book demystifies parenting in seven chapters.

One of the chapters speaks about the importance of physical bonding. “Research shows that children need physical warmth,” she points out. Sterile affection will not work.

Children also need boundaries, she says. “Culturally, ours is a laidback kind of parenting. But it is important to set boundaries for children early, so that they know what they can and cannot do.”

Brinda, who has authored a chapter on parenting styles, says parents should work together and set down rules early enough because doing so when the child turns into a teenager will not usually work. Parents adopt the styles they have experienced as children, she says. “Inversely, a parent who is the product of authoritative parenting might choose to avoid that, but not know what style to adopt. The result is a highly inconsistent parent who shifts styles depending on his/her mood.” This is a recipe for disaster.

And spending quality time, even if it is just 10 minutes of undivided to a child is important, says Aarti. “But, quality time is not taking children to a mall or movie. It is not what you do; it is how you do it.”

Single parenting is a growing phenomenon, points out Aarti. Such parents need to work harder because they fulfil both roles. There’s also the guilt factor. “Sometimes, such mothers are emotionally abused by others in the family and this affects children adversely,” says Aarti.

In many families, parents fight in front of the child and say they are sticking on in the marriage because of the child. “The child is often made a scapegoat for marriage. And the child feels guilty and his/her self esteem suffers,” adds Aarti. Power struggles in a family (between parents and grandparents) add to the conflict and often make children manipulative, says Brinda.

Pampering children or being overprotective of them is also counter-productive. “Children have to earn perks and gifts through good behaviour. They have to wait for and cherish a gift. Else, they will be unable to deal with disappointment as adults,” cautions Brinda.

If Aarti could change something, it would be putting an end to television serials. “So many mothers are addicted to serials. Cooking for the child, bonding with the child… everything takes a backseat.”

(The book published by Notion Press, is priced at Rs. 250. The Tamil translation, Vaanam Thodu Dhooramthaan, has been published by Kalki Padhipagam. It is priced at Rs. 90. For details, e-mail aarti_cr@yahoo.com and ashabrinda@gmail.com)