Cashing in on parental hopes

Last Updated 29 March 2013, 15:17 IST

Under the banner of parental needs and children’s development, the commercial market is rampantly cashing in, observes Radhika D Shyam.

Holidays these days no more mean family reunions in ancestral places, but opportunities to discover and hone up children’s latent talents, channelize their extra energy in the right way and indulge them with the latest gadgets and toys that provide that extra edge. Over-pampering substitutes the lack of quality time spent with them.

Childhood in the present day encompasses a lot more than it did in the previous generations – it may have its privileges, perks, and over-indulgences but certainly does not lack in stress levels either. Is bringing up children becoming an elaborate and over-hyped experience? One look at a directory with information on product and service providers for children’s ‘needs’ confirms anybody’s guess at the answer to this question. Hold your breath as we go through what is listed in it.

There are state-of-the-art nursing homes to start with that fuss over pre-natal, birth, and post-natal care of newborns, ornamental enough to make the non-users of these facilities feel envious or guilty or both. International pre-schools and kindergartens lure you to postpone all other investments and expenses. Baby boutiques, pediatric dental clinics, K-Yoga classes (as in Kids-Yoga), and sports and music academies that enroll 3-year-olds follow suit.

There are specialized cafes that cater to children with nutritious tasty snacks to entice the fussiest little palates while you relax over plain coffee and snacks. Shopping malls have a chaperoned play area for young angels so that parents can shop in peace, and gyms that have crèches are in demand.

There is a toy library that lends rare toys from across the world to appease budding engineers who enjoy dismantling and assembling automobiles and aircraft. Photographers who specialize in clicking the right mood and action of children tempt you to spend a fortune on capturing precious memories of their growing years.

However, a place that offers Kids Master Chef outdoor cooking classes and baby discos for toddlers to shake their leg takes the cake! The sociological outcome of the breaking down of the joint family system perhaps leads to lucrative related business ventures like story sessions, story tellers and reading clubs that take over from parents, grandparents, and loving relatives.

Ujwal Honnavar, a parent and business development manager opines, “Previously people had many kids, big families and lots of time to spare because of their laid back lives. Nowadays with both parents working, leading stressful lives with their universe centered around one or maximum two children, they realize that their children will soon be a part of the rat race of life; and hence, want to expose them to a variety of activities.

It is actually solving two problems at one go – ensuring holistic growth of the child’s personality and buying some free time for the parents themselves. If these things were not considered necessary by the previous generation, they are the need of the present times”. 

Little wonder then that a baby spa attracts parents with a promise of 45 minutes of freedom for them during a 30 minute massage+15 minute bath for the toddlers.
Come summer and there will be an umpteen number of camp options.

Over-enthusiastic and pushy parents should know where to draw the line. Dr. Illana Cariappa, a Child Psychiatrist, does not endorse an overdose of such classes. She reasons, “There is so much of competition involved that most times there is no sense of recreation, leisure, or unwinding for the children. Every child should be allowed to tune in to the beat of his own drum, as they say.”

How many parents opt for creative hobbies for their little ones for the sheer joy of it – say like origami or craft? Sadly, their choice rests on two factors mainly – academic benefits or skills that will be of some use in the future.

Deepak Ullal, who trains children in tabla playing, says that parents who bring their children to him, want him to create Zakir Hussains in a jiffy! Studies have revealed that cricket and tennis coaching are the most popular choices because of their innate commercial value. However, some varied extra-curricular activities and hobbies are a welcome change with academically inclined games and activities, like chess, Vedic Mathematics and the use of the abacus.

Many parents blindly admit their children into anything that would fetch them more marks in school. Neha M. Bathija, a course instructor of abacus says, “Initially parents enroll their children to our classes so as to make them adept at calculating mentally in order to simplify Math and ease the ordeal of exams. However, they soon realize that this course entails improvement in their concentration levels and focusing abilities which in turn enhance their over-all skills that help in other subjects and activities as well.”

On the other extreme of this advice are parents who feel that children are too young to know their capabilities and it could actually help children find their calling. Two perfect examples of this scenario are actor/danseuse Hema Malini and cricketer Yuvraj Singh.

The former recollects being compelled to learn classical dance by her mother much against her wishes as a child, for which she is now very grateful. Yuvraj Singh has gone on record to say that he wouldn’t have been such a fine player today if it wasn’t for his father’s strict and persuasive coaching in his growing years. But till the journey to that stage, their childhood would have lost its essence. Not surprising then, that he has decided not to follow the same approach when he becomes a parent.

Experts say that like in everything else, moderation is the key word. And of course, it is important for the child to enjoy whatever he or she is learning and doing. For, on the flip side, the inability to learn certain skills also lowers one’s self esteem. As Albert Einstein rightly said, “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

And if one is still confused, there is a multitude of parenting experts and counselors to consult and seek advice from!

(Published 29 March 2013, 15:17 IST)

Follow us on