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Back to school

Parenting is becoming a ‘discipline’ with schools and institutions all over the country rolling out courses to make you a perfect guardian, reports Manoj Sharma.

india Updated: Aug 16, 2008 23:54 IST

Vijay Kumar, a Delhi-based engineer, was worried when his daughter Maanvi, 17, suddenly stopped communicating with him. Kumar read several parenting books, consulted psychologists and finally, resorted to a ‘parent coach’.

“He told us that Maanvi was suffering from some complexes. Then he gave us some exercises, talked at length to Maanvi; he proved to be a good mediator, ” says a satisfied Kumar. Like Kumar, many parents are turning to such courses — ranging anywhere from a week to nine — that promise to turn them into copybook parents.

Says Puneet Rathi, perhaps India’s first certified parent coach, who runs Parents Coaching Services in Gurgaon: “It’s a new concept here. We have a dialogue with the parents so that they can understand their children better and develop their own solutions.” His aim: help parents design an “action plan”, execute and sustain it.

Rathi, a US-certified professional trains groups as well as individuals and now plans to tie up with a private university to start a certificate course. Shyama Chona, principal, DPS, RK Puram, New Delhi, also plans to start an institute for educating parents, and similar classes in the school soon.

WHO’S RUNNING THE SHOW?

These days many parenting institutes are run by people who are not necessarily psychology or psychiatry professionals. Rathi had a background in management, while Bangalore-based Pooja Jain, 26, who recently launched the ‘Smart Parenting’ institute — conducting classes only for mothers of five year olds — is an MBA. The business model is fool-proof. “Mothers have more time to devote,” says Jain. The advertisement of her upcoming institute is reminiscent of a tuition class: ‘Small batch size (max 10) ensuring individual attention, well-researched and structured training programme. Specially trained faculty and books and CDs for further reference’.

Some management consulting companies are now also offering such programmes. A Pune-based company, which prides itself on being the ‘guru’ of training in IT and Project Management, has started a programme called ‘Delightful Parenting’, with an objective of “helping parents understand the concept of various parenting styles, introspect and identify their own style”.

But parents need to be careful about whom they approach for counselling. “There are many untrained counsellors in the field,” says Rhea Pravin Tembhekar, a clinical psychologist, who runs Coffee Counselling Centre in Mumbai, where she counsels about 50 parents every month.

THE ‘CURRICULUM’

At Rishikul Vidyalaya of the Mumbai Educational Trust, an NGO, the nine-week programme, known as Infant Siddha Programme (ISP), has 40 parents in each class costing Rs 6,200. ISP co-founder Manoj Lekhi says his programme uses brain stimulant methods like Flash Cards, Dot Cards, Encyclopedia Cards, to stimulate the five senses.

And the feedback has been good till now. Says Mumbai-based Apurva Palkar, “The course taught me how to communicate with my unborn child. We used to show him flash cards when he was one. He started crawling after just a month and is very sharp.”

Parenting classes are also being ‘sold’ with interesting catchphrases. If Chennai-based Brinda Jayaraman gives lessons in ‘Pro-Active’ parenting, Thane-based pediatrician, Dr Sandeep Kelkar, trains parents in Emotional Quotient (EQ) parenting. “A decline in EQ results in behavioural problems. Our workshops train parents to manage children’s emotions,” he says.

RWAs have also started inviting counsellors for parenting programmes. Dr Jitendra Nagpal, consultant psychiatrist at the Delhi-based VIMHANS organised one such programme in the capital, where participants like Dr BB Gupta learnt that “lack of communication is the biggest problem.”

CAN PARENTING BE TAUGHT?

Sociologists like Ranjana Kumari, director, Centre for Social Research (CSR) feel this trend is a Western import. “They are only isolating children from parents and undermining the relationship. Good parenting is about instilling values and has to come from the family,” she says.

Parenting counsellors say that the parents — usually upwardly mobile — approach them with problems of poor academic performance and unruly behaviour. “Our role is limited to building cooperation and harmony between the two,” admits Jayaraman.

Says Manoj R of Chennai-based Dream Foundation that organises similar workshops, “Urban trends like inter-caste marriages, nuclear families and late night partying are quite challenging for parents of teenagers. Even grandparents attend our workshops.” Some like Vaishali Wavikar, a Thane-based mother agrees, “At the workshop, we played games, and enacted real-life situations. It’s important to keep practicing it now.”

Indeed, for many, parenting has turned into a back-to-school exercise.