Clinical psychologist Ashum Gupta calls it parent-to-parent (P2P) peer pressure. In the party, at the gym, on the jog, what their child excels in becomes the barometer of the pushy parent’s popularity.
Keeping up with the Joneses’ doesn’t stop at buying the latest car or a lavish house. Finding out where your peers last holidayed, which camera they train on their progeny and which martial art the kids train in, could help win bragging rights.
“The urban parent often drives friends and family to despair,” says Gupta, a professor in Delhi University’s psychology department.
Often, the parents’ esteem is linked to their kids’ extracurricular activities.
“There is a subtle competition between co-workers. When I post a video that features my daughter’s first stage performance on Facebook, I am half expecting most of my 300 virtual friends to write comments praising her,” says Chetan Mahajan, 37, a chartered accountant.
Once the grade comparison is over — Oohing and Aahing over Os and As — the great vacation tension sets in. “The challenge is to keep them busy. The school my daughter goes to already teaches yoga, swimming and horse riding,” says Diljit Singh, 33, a telecom engineer with Unisys Info Solutions. “Now my wife and I are mulling over whether she should take music lessons or learn Taekwondo.”
When peer pressure goes from subtle to intense, the parents get angsty. “If they get beaten in the bragging stakes, they get back by flaunting their own educational achievements,” says Mamata Pradhan, 35, a manager with an NGO that specialises in nutrition security. “It is another matter that often the Ph.D is on an esoteric subject from an obscure university.”
When the anxiety is passed on to the children, adolescents resent it. “Many parents who approach me have faced this backlash,” adds Gupta, about her 10-year study on the perception of parental support in India.