Congratulations! You are a father now.” Abhinav, 30, was on cloud nine when he heard those six words. His wife Aarti had just delivered a baby girl, and the proud papa couldn’t wait to hold his tiny bundle of joy. The moment came…and Papa turned pale. ‘‘I’d never held a baby. So I sought help and rushed out to pick up Benjamin Spock’s parenting book,” recalls Abhinav, now father of two undamaged kids.
That was 15 years ago. Cut to the present and you have GenX couples who prepare themselves to be parents months before D-day. They attend workshops, register themselves as members of online parenting groups, join interactive forums and prep up on everything about parenting – from how to change a nappy to which cream’s best for their baby.
For some, the learning curve carries on beyond the toddler years. Enter the ‘parent coach’ – a concept popular in the West, it’s catching on in India as well. A parent coach is not a counsellor with a degree on psychology, someone you go to in times of trouble. Rather, s/he is a certified trainer who dispenses parenting gyan at monthly workshops for which you pay anything between Rs 1,000 and Rs 1,500.
Puneet Rathi, a certified parent coach, says coaching helps parents decide the right course for them, which is unique in each case. ‘‘It’s not that without a parent coach, families are not happy or successful. But often parents are uncertain about managing certain issues regarding their children and a parent coach helps them develop strategies to tackle those. These issues also change with time as the kids grow up. We aren’t there to give advice but to catalyze creativity in the parents we work with.”
Take, for instance, the case of Vijay Kumar. The government officer didn’t know what to make of his 15-year-old daughter’s sudden change of behaviour. ‘‘She had become indifferent and wouldn’t communicate with us. I read up books, approached psychologists, but nothing seemed to work. Then my wife and I started attending workshops conducted by a parent coach. They also invited my daughter to one of the sessions. Today, I see a lot of difference in her attitude and my wife and I have also become better parents,” he says.
A number of foreign universities offer certificate courses on parent coaching, and India will soon have one too. ‘‘We are planning to launch a three-month certificate course on parent coaching. We will tie up with a private university and our NGO, Atma Chetna will certify the course,” says Puneet, who got his certificate from the US.
And if you thought social networking sites are only meant for youngsters, think again. There are around 25 Indian communities on parenting on Orkut, one of which reads: ‘‘Everything to do with kids – from their eating habits, sleeping habits, tantrums, going to school, falling sick to dining out, taking them out on holidays, reading bedtime stories, toilet training…” Community members hold debates on parenting and also meet up in person to learn from each other.
Other than social networking sites, there are hundreds of parenting sites offering support and succour to harried folks. ‘‘I take out at least 10 minutes every day at work to read about children on the net. There are websites where you can post your queries to parent counsellors,” says PR executive Anju Agarwal, mother of a five-year-old girl.
While parents may have gotten net-savvy, they haven’t stopped stocking up on parenting bestsellers. The market is flooded with self-help books like How To Talk So Kids Will Listen And Listen So Kids Will Talk and The Indian Parenting Book . Now whatever happened to good old parental instinct?