“You can listen to your parents and be unhappy or you can go against them and feel guilty – those are your choices?”

“After babying them endlessly, Indian parents expect to control their kids for the rest of their lives, in exchange for this ‘sacrifice’.”

Do you agree?

What do you think do most Indian parents consider their biggest responsibility towards their children?

What is considered the right way to go about fulfilling that responsibility?

What do you think of this comment by wordssetmefree?

“I am a parent, am in my 40s and let me say this – this is what is wrong with our system, so let’s not continue to perpetrate it. Parents must not baby their children. They must teach them life skills and expect them to grow into mature, responsible beings.

Lessons in responsibility can be taught at a very young age, like in pre-school.

After babying their kids endlessly, they expect to control them for the rest of their lives, in exchange for this ‘sacrifice’.

They control who they should marry, when they should marry, when to have kids, what career to pursue, etc.

Now in their 20s, the kids finally wake up, and want to make a few personal choices in their life, and find that they are unable to. Nothing in their childhood prepares them to be confident, to make a single independent decision. Never once were they allowed to make a mistake and bear the responsibility of their own actions. So, they stumble through life, continuing to please their parents while hating it, afraid to take a chance, and give up their dreams.

Every little rebellion is accompanied by enormous guilt that their parents gave them so much and all they give in return is rebellion.

Making a personal choice is seen as rebellion. Having a different opinion is seen as rebellion. You can listen to your parents and be unhappy or you can go against them and feel guilty – those are your choices. Is this really a healthy way to live??

Let’s break this cycle.

As parents, let’s teach kids to be responsible and mature, and let’s not see all the time and effort we put into parenting as a sacrifice. It’s not. We chose to have kids and it’s a joy to help them grow up and understand the world around the. Our effort and love are not an investment and let’s not expect a ‘payback’ in the form of control. Let’s not interfere in their personal decisions, and allow them to be full-fledged, capable, happy, guilt-free, confident adults.”

Related Posts :

Mommy Guilt: A Western Influence.

So what do our children owe us?

“I waited for maternal love to overcome me – it didn’t… After my baby was born, I didn’t feel anything…”

A comment: One more thing, had I been financially independent I would have never got married.

An email: I am 18 year old male from a traditional (read:backward) Indian family.

Why is abuse by parents taken so lightly by Indians?

When Discipline Becomes Abuse : Why I need Feminism

“Sometimes it seems like every single thing I do has the potential to be something ‘provocative’.”

What’s the moral of this story?

“I think my mum believed that you shouldn’t agree to everything your child says for she will go out of hands.”

The Powers of the Protectors.

“Here’s what I would tell my future/potential daughter, if I ever have one.”

‘If you don’t mutter under your breath “I hate you” atleast once in your life, I am not doing my job properly.’

An email: He will be one of those 40 year old men living in parents basement with a wife he never really wanted.

If I made Baghban.

An email from a Mother in law.

“I put my blood and raised my sons. Now the daughters in law are enjoying the fruit.. “

“But, my only motive in life has been my daughter’s happiness which is now in your hands. I beg you, please keep her happy”

“My husband says he can’t go against his family. My father says study but not without your FIL’s permission.”

At what point should educated, 21st century women who can think liberally for themselves, take responsibility for themselves…

“This man is openly threatening his daughter and is instigating others to burn alive their daughters.”

How illegal bans on Valentine’s day and birthday parties are connected with dowry deaths and sex selection.


55 thoughts on ““You can listen to your parents and be unhappy or you can go against them and feel guilty – those are your choices?”

    • I’m not going to deny that not feeling any guilt and living life as you please is the most freeing thing in the world. It is. But it is not something that comes as easily as flicking an on-off switch. You can’t simply switch off the guilt, love and affection you feel for your parents, simply because you know they are in the wrong about something. It is a process, and it can take years to get to a place where we are comfortable with ourselves and our decisions. We are only human. We want and expect validation from the people who are closest to us, that is only natural. When we don’t get this validation, we are upset and hurt. Given the type of society in India, where it is culturally ingrained that pleasing elders and sacrificing your own happiness for theirs is the most important thing, unlearning such lessons is difficult. At the end of the day, this situation hurts. It does. Let’s acknowledge that this hurt is a natural part of the process and it will stay with you for a long time, but this is okay, and it should not hinder you from living life the way you see best.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Very well-written. It is no-win for the children when their views are contradictory. Either conform and be unhappy or go against and feel guilty. Definitely not a healthy way to live.

    “allow them to be full-fledged, capable, happy, guilt-free, confident adults.” – aptly put


    • Do you really have any idea how that guilt sticks on like a super glue?
      Its the worst thing that you could imagine. Its because, there is nothing physical in here. It is all the emotional abuse and strain.
      Your heart says that they are our parents and they only think of our best interests. But still, your mind says to take own decisions, to make mistakes, learn from them and live life with the content that i tried.
      I am no more sure what’s brain or what’s heart after all the struggle to end the guilt.
      In fact, i find it easier to blame myself than to blame and hate them for the decisions they did not let me take.


    • Why ? You can conform and be happy too at least in some things.Happiness is any way arbitrary and overrated and underachieved.
      It all depends on priority, point of views.


      • I won’t mind being labelled as Rebellion all of my life if I live my life the way I want, pick my options, regret them later or be proud of ! I am happy as rebellion.


  2. //As parents, let’s teach kids to be responsible and mature, and let’s not see all the time and effort we put into parenting as a sacrifice. It’s not. // — THIS is the root cause of all problems !!
    Those parent’s children feel guilty when they go against their parents or make a choice that doesn’t go hand-in-hand with what they think – which then leads to wrong life choices and so on…

    As a 20-yr something who has been “baby-ed” all her life.. I totally agree to the comment by wordssetmefree . There are times when I feel that I grew up way too late & I could’ve been so much more ahead than where I am right now.
    The main thing is parents should learn when to let go of their children & make them believe in themselves & know that their kids too can make really good choices…


    • You can’t wait for parents to let you do things or take chances or responsibility.If you start taking chances,most smart parents will let you do things.
      I think the major arguments and hassles are over career decisions and marriage/spouse.But if you have demonstrated responbility throughout your life ,most parents trust their children’s choices especially nowadays.


      • Agreed. But how would one show that they are responsible if it they never had the need or opportunity to bear responsibilities or make choices in the first place?
        Also what if they made those choices but were regarded as “irresponsible” because the society says so?
        (Example: Choosing to be a photographer instead of an Engineer?)


        • “But how would one show that they are responsible if it they never had the need or opportunity to bear responsibilities or make choices in the first place?”

          Precisely. I remember one incident with my father when I was still in high school. I did not know where my parent teacher interview was, which prompted him to ask me furiously if I was even a responsible teenager, when I couldn’t even keep track of anything in my life. Keep in mind that I was fourteen, in my first year in high school, and until that year, my parents had been the ones fixing interview appointments for all the times before now. And suddenly, I am expected to be responsible. How? “Well you should have paid attention to how your parents do things and done it like that! You don’t need experience to become responsible you can do it by observation!”

          This is also the same set of parents who, two years later, didn’t even tell me that I needed to get my health card renewed and attempted to go do it FOR ME (without me present), and got irritated over the fact that the person behind the counter told them point blank that it wasn’t possible and that they shouldn’t have even opened the letter that was addressed specifically to me (this was a breach of privacy). I finally wound up going to do it, only to have my mother refuse to give me any of the necessary identification documents, even though they explicitly said to come to the counter by myself with everything present. Why? “Because you’ve never had these things on your own before now! What if you drop it somewhere and lose it? You’re too young/irresponsible for such things!”

          And those are just a few instances. I don’t like to blame the entirety of my irresponsible behavior on them, because I’m at a point in my life now where I have to be responsible on my own or risk going into financial/educational ruin. But that sort of upbringing definitely did not help in the least. Especially when parents do a right about-face and expect their children to be the utmost paragons of responsibility and are mystified when they flounder during their first few attempts.


      • I hate it when people say ‘you can have your freedom if you are responsible’ to adults. I can understand parents drawing this line for teenage kids. But to an adult? Who decides what is responsible and what is not. For a parent, trying an adventure sport or going for a trip alone might be irresponsible. My choices are often regarded as irresponsible. For me those are something I enjoy and will do it whether they ‘allow’ me or not.
        So I should ‘demonstrate responsibility throughout my life’ to be allowed to make a choice or live my life. Wah!!!


      • //But if you have demonstrated responbility throughout your life ,most parents trust their children’s choices especially nowadays//

        “Throughout your *life*”?!!


        • Why will parents say’ ‘you can have freedom if you are responsible’ to adult children?They will assume their adult children are responsible especially if they have shown initiative while growing up and doing their own work.and that’s what I meant in my earlier post.
          There are some parents who keeping trying to teach discipline, responsibility to growing children,..they still end up with muddled irresponsible adults who keep wasting their money,play with their reputation.
          In such situations, parents have to intervene and take decisions.
          There are no easy answers for parents,…. we may not do parenting the way your parents did but that doesn’t mean our methods are totally correct.That only time will tell.
          Personally, I have seen well to do educated parents parents pamper children more,give them everything they ask for.Urban children are handed most things on platter especially now.My father keeps saying he had to grow up earlier than we had to .
          That’s why ‘wordsset me free’ post though very nice, is utopian .


  3. Parenting in Indian context is very extensive. It includes feeling responsible to feed even adult kids(not only earn for them but cook for them), make their beds , stop them from growing up , policing them , guarding them from falling in love, arrange their marriage , emotionally blackmail them for attention . Spoil their marriage by backbiting and finding faults and, if marriage is falling apart support it to survive at any cost.
    yeah , what choice poor children have but to rebel or feel guilty.


    • Kirti
      This is a bit too much generalisation,….I hope you are talking about rare parents who do some or all of this.
      You make it sound as if adult children have only two choices:blind rebellion,call parents abusive or feel guilty !
      There is a difference between parents who make you feel guilty by their words or actions so that you might change tracks and those parents who are upset,angry at your choices,express their disapproval,….. And therefore you feel guilty !
      Feeling guilty is your choice,…..chances are if one is very sure of being in the right,been conscientious, one might not feel guilty at all l
      At the same time,if you are not very sure yourself,you might end up feeling guilty if things turn out very wrong.


  4. bang on.. I am going against them and at times I am guilty of choosing my decision over them.. They and the so called family around me makes me realize it all the time. Letting go of the guilt is very difficult and would happen much later..
    It is not unmanageable but such useless stress could have been avoided and this is the fact that makes me angry ..

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So well written. These are the exact things I wanted to say to my parents when I took some key decisions in my life as a 25 year old..

    And yes, this post puts in words how I want to bring up my child 🙂


  6. I know of a lot of Indians who believe that Western parents don’t love their children because they don’t ‘baby’ them…Proof: they ‘throw’ them out of the house at 18…Also, a lot of them believe that Western fathers are not to be trusted because they all sexually molest their kids…I asked an acquaintance of mine why she thought this and she said because they have sex with multiple people…Connection? And Indian fathers don’t molest their kids…Hmmm…


    • I too hear people telling that parents in the West dont love their kids as much as Indian parents. Bullshit!!!
      I work for a Study Abroad organization (organizes academic, travel, volunteer programs for American Uni students). And tell you American parents are way way way fussy. But yea, they dont interfere with their kids choices. But love and concern are all there.


  7. Many people all over the world see the love and care like an investment. Then sooner or later they try to take the advantages from that investment and feel frustrated when they don’t get it. We, adults, should learn first our kids what is love. Love is to give, to help, to care, to respect, to compromise, but without loosing yourself in process, without forgetting what you are,need and wish. And finally love is about letting go…… And yes we should listen our kids, we should encourage them to think, to take their own decisions even when are very young. To make mistakes, to have all, to loose everything, to be completely down and fight to raise up again are part of process of growing and is beauty of life. Nobody can control life and her ups and downs.


  8. Agree with this. Going against and letting go of guilt is a choice too and though tough to do, is not impossible though everybody will call you a insensitive heartless cruel jerk.


  9. Thank you IHM for sharing this! In my 20s I married my husband of my own choice, which intensely upset my father, and I had to live with that unnecessary conflict and stress for several years. How much pain can be avoided if parents started seeing their children as separate entities that they helped create …… as living, breathing, thinking beings that they helped shape.

    When parents fail to recognize this separateness, they miss so many beautiful sharing moments and milestones (when your child falls in love for the first time and tells you, when your child is excited about going on an adventure, your child just discovered who he/she wants to be).

    They miss so many lovely opportunities to be a part of the growth process (your child comes to you after a broken friendship, a disappointing interview, a mistaken choice) because your child trusts you to not talk him out of his dreams, to not be judgmental and know you will be there to listen and help support his goals.


  10. There is great joy in watching your kids live their life, stumble, bumble and then win 🙂
    Parents need to understand that independent kids means independent parents and more time for those long walks or fab books 🙂


  11. Very nicely written!! Captures the practical situation of lots of indian “kids” in 30-40’s, the way they don’t want to bring up their children in the path they grew.


  12. Whenever I read posts like this, which I heartily agree with, I always wonder about what can actually be done in such situations. It’s not easy at all to change someone’s paradigm, unless they’re open to such change to begin with. For people brought up in certain ways, they’ve grown up their whole life believing that love is mutual sacrifice of self-interest. Some institutional support is required. There ought to be a widespread ‘change your parental attitude in 90 days’ kind of course available in every city, with gentle & compassionate facilitators & tons of peer group support & so on. Otherwise we’re going to have one hell of a grinding process of change over the next few decades where millions of Indian families will be divided by such conflicts in fundamental values, and a very tiny fraction will actually make that jump to a new kind of mutual understanding. An even smaller fraction will seek out therapy, so that kind of 1-1 intervention is definitely not the systemic answer.


    • True abvblogger. Western parenting, for instance, has been influenced by waves of eminent psychologists, who were able to open a window into the human condition. For instance, B.F. Skinner’s behaviorism lead to the concept of rewards and consequences. Jean Piaget gave us a profound understanding of children’s intellectual development. He had a huge influence on the Western educational reforms. Carl Rogers emphasized human potential and became a model for compassion and democratic ideals.
      What we need for India is our own set of thinkers, philosophers, scientists, and psychologists to pave the way for this change. We need people who can take an honest look at our present day culture rather than uphold ‘our glorious past’. We need research studies and self-examination. Otherwise it’s just us – a handful of amateurs trying to go against the tide.


      • Western societies are quite different though. They are more individualistic & data-driven in their approach. I don’t think an Indian Piaget will do anything more than win a few Nobels. I’m thinking about a solution for tomorrow’s parents, not parents of the next century.

        More than thinkers and scientists, who won’t penetrate our masses, I think we need a government endorsed program of awareness and education, like we do with malaria & typhoid. I’m talking that level of grassroots institutionalization with integrated approach – education system, NGOs, media, public service adverts, documentaries etc.

        Of course, I realize that there isn’t the same level of consensus for parenting approaches, or the same level of urgency, as there is for malaria. It’s just an analogy. But I do believe that we can create a basic, non-controversial programme of foundational principles. The applications are controversial – no need to mention them. That will happen automatically. Sneak the baby steps in & scale.

        Isn’t it a curious thing that we spend hours & hours & hours studying different types of rocks and the difference between drumlins and god knows what else, through middle & high school, when we could have studied the basics of money management, parenting, gender equality, sex education, self-responsibility, conflict resolution & assertiveness? Honestly I can’t imagine why our school textbooks are filled with topics which are pretty useless in the long term.


  13. Perfectly true!

    On a tangential note, I feel my ex/current boyfriends and I perpetrate this attitude a little bit. I’ve always had issues accepting independent/grown-up opinions from boyfriends, and so have they.

    With time into the relationship, I learnt that both I and boyfriend had an slightly negative opinion about the other person on these issues, instead of healthy acceptance.


  14. So true. And, over-protection can lead to emotional abuse if children (who are actually adults) are not really allowed to take decisions on their own for the sake of stability or what is more acceptable or what is better for them. And when children are totally invested in their parents, it’s very difficult to take decisions which, you know will cause stress to them or goes against their accepted notions of what is ‘good’ for you. The simple thing would be to just allow children when they become adults, to make a few mistakes, if that’s what it means. Let them learn from their own experiences.


  15. I agree with Wordssetmefree’s comment. Fortunately for me, I have never felt any guilt for speaking up or making decisions that go against that of parents/elders. But I have found I am an exception and not the rule.


  16. As a parent , I try my best to let my child be and not smother my child, but I really dont know how I will react if/when I see her making the wrong choice. Do I simply let her (I dont know how I can stop an adult !) go ahead, knowing well that path does not lead her to happiness?
    I am talking about major decisions like quitting a course mid-way , a course that the child chose on her own , not something forced on her .Shouldnt we be encouraging our children to finish what they start?Chasing dreams and all that is great, but how do you know, its a dream and not a whim.Or when you know the man your daughter chose to marry is not right for her (for valid reasons -he’s a flake, not financially stable, etc) and your daughter insists on going ahead with this – would you still support her decision? How do you convince your daughter that she needs to re think this decision? I have seen girls marry in haste -with no reason to do so. How do you explain to her that she is marrying the wrong guy?
    So, as a parent , where do you draw the line?


    • Since you have more experience at least relative to your daughter,you can state clearly your concerns to your daughter,….that is not the issue,…the problem will start when your daughter insists to marry the guy against your wishes and advise,….or run away to do that.
      That is the time choosing what to do will become difficult.


    • SN,
      As a parent myself, I understand your concerns. But it really isn´t as simple as wrong choices. Digging deeper has helped me immensely – coming to terms with my own typical indian upbringing and being aware of choices and consequences and parenting skills, of course.
      If we learn to respond, connect and truly empathize with our children, there will definitely come a point in our adult relationships where we can agree to disagree, choice of partners, being one. We don´t need to approve of all their decisions, but we can respect those decisions and them all the time, while keeping the disapproval out of the picture. So what if chosen partner is financially not stable, that is a temporary thing, that can change. What if the relationship fails? We stand by them, behind them, ready to hold them, support them when they need us most.
      I believe that what we do after something goes wrong makes a world of a difference, than controlling our children´s actions. Most often than not, it is really our own need to exert control, that angers us, disappoints us and throws us off track.
      And if we really want to raise responsible adults who can think for themselves, then we need to raise children who understand natural, logical consequences, who we respect and love. It cannot be built on a shaky foundation of fear, obedience and falling in line with the herd kind of expectation. We don´t own our children, they are their own selves and the safer the world we create at our home, the further they get to push themselves and discover and learn.


  17. THe kids when they turn 16 or 18 whatever the adult age is .. need to FInd a job and Start earning their own money.. .

    Build their own place .. and STOP living on the money earned by their parents .. Why is it all hunky dory till the kid is enjoying his Fathers hard earned money.. WHere is it written that parents have to FEEd the kids always .. Why cant the same kids take their own responsibility..

    How many people are out there in india who are living in the same house there GREAT grandparents built,, or their father built..

    I agree parents should not FORCE their decisions on their kids.. but then the Kids too have to take some responsibility.. parents feed you give you a roof and one day they say something , which you may not like so suddenly they become the bad one..

    Well in that case pack your bags and go make your own life.. but majority of the people giving advice wont do that either .. 🙂


    • Like some of the comments stated, it is OK to draw the line for children and teens still dependent on parents financially, but not adults. We are talking about people who have started working, earning, have packed their bags, and made their own lives still not allowed to choose their path. People who don’t think they have the obligation to feed a child whom they have created should not have them in the first place. India doesn’t really have opportunities for people to work or live on their own at the age of 16. It’s hard enough for single 25 year-olds to get apartments. So the suggestion that kids should move out at 16 is not very feasible in the Indian context.

      Also don’t tell me that kids who study hard, stay out of trouble, get good jobs, and give bragging rights to parents are not responsible. Additionally, let us not forget that India does not have a proper system for elder care either, and a lot of adult children help in taking care of parents when they are older, and that is a good thing! I guess the point here is, there is a point where the parent has to relinquish control. If it’s not possible earlier, from the time when the child starts earning is good enough. They should be free to make decisions most young adults the world over are making without being racked by guilt, or worrying about the censure that might came their way in case they fail.

      I don’t put all the blame on parents. They are the products of their time, and our society puts tremendous pressure on them to have trophy kids of a certain kind. Very few can withstand this collective force which meddles, gossips, criticizes, judges, and considers kids who make their own choices, ie, rebel, a result of flawed parenting.

      Btw, great post IHM! The title says it all!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I love this post. I think a lot of parents are slowly, very slowly, coming around to this way of thinking in many respects. But ultimately, for a lot of things, they do employ a lot of emotional blackmail to get what they want (“I did so much for you for your whole life and this is how you repay me?”), and this type of thing is very toxic and ultimately leads to a lot of bitterness. Healthy relationships where children are independent are no less short on love and affection from both sides.


  19. In India it is considered a shame for parents to allow their young children to do part time jobs.Therefore we don’t have the financial independence to choose what we study or simply even to pursue a hobby that we so desperately yearn.So we end up agreeing to what ever they say just because they refuse to pay for anything that is against their wishes. Also they are not supportive of youngster’s decisions saying that we don’t have enough experience in this world. Therefore we are scared to take decisions for the fear that if our decisions fail and our last resort is our parents,we would have to succumb to lifelong humiliation and pain of them repeatedly saying”It was your choice, you chose this course and now you haven’t found a job yet” or “You married this guy/girl against our wishes so we are not responsible for your divorce”.So even if people advice us to stand up for what is right we are not financially equipped to take action. So we ultimately end up listening to them and being unhappy.


  20. Pingback: How would you react if you knew your son (or daughter) felt this way? | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  21. Pingback: What about girls who are not very academic? Must they be condemned to forced marriages? | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  22. Pingback: But do we have any benchmark for ideal parents in our traditions? | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  23. Pingback: Relationships – Making Someone Happy | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s