Is It Time To Ditch The Tough Love Approach In Favour of India's Family Values?
Updated: Apr 23
Experiencing family life in India with my in laws was a much needed culture shock after being raised in a culture that supports tough love. The western culture predominately believes that you should treat your children harshly with the intent that this helps them in the long run to become independent, empathetic and responsible; this is tough love. However this can be taken overboard with the value of family being lost in the process.
Family life in India is very much contrary with the belief that, supporting your children through life is the parents responsibility and later in life it is then the children's responsibility to support their parents. It is built on the emphasis of family integrity, loyalty and unity. There is no time limit of when a parent will no longer care for their children and the same is said of children with their parents. With life being so short shouldn't we all be looking to enjoy the simple things in life such as family rather than pushing them away with tough love. So I ask this very question: Is it time to ditch the tough love approach in favour of India’s family values?
Reality is that society is ever evolving and becoming tougher, with expectations of individuals increasing along with the cost of living, yet incomes aren't matching these increases. Compared to the previous generation where it was possible to have only one spouse work whilst the other stayed home to raise a family. It wasn't expected that you had to burn the midnight oil to receive a modest salary in those days therefore you never needed to take a sick day. However nowadays employers expect to have staff on call 24-7 even on annual leave or the occasional sick day. Workloads are ever increasing with the expectation you burn the midnight oil just to earn a minimum wage. It's also expected both parents work as it just isn't feasible to raise a family on one income anymore. Buying a house is even out of the question for most individuals as the property market has inflated although its currently considered to be at a low.
Many will argue that this generation are entitled and expect a modest lifestyle which is far from reality. Reality is that it just isn't feasible in today's society to have a one income household so that the home keeper can cook all their meals and see to all the household chores. Especially if you are single without the support of a partner. As my Grandma always tells me they survived by making their own meals such as preserving fruits to make jams or stewing fruit for dessert. However fruit is now considered a luxury and the only way to really survive for those on a low income or without family support, would be to buy a loaf of bread and jar of vegemite.
To earn a modest salary you need to have a higher education which puts many individuals in heavy debt before they've even started in life. Yet it isn't only the older generation who have adopted the tough love approach, so have the younger generation who have been raised in that same very environment. It is a vicious cycle with parents pushing their children out of home at a young age and children then pushing their elderly parents into a retirement home before they're ready.
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So is the tough love approach outdated? Personally I believe in the Indian way of life and supporting one another as a family. Does that mean I expect to be spoon fed - no; I merely agree that we should be there for one another in times of need. Empowering one another to be successful and happy in life through positive reinforcement. Rather than purposely treating children harshly with the intent that this 'might' help them become independent.
Living with a mental illness and choosing to leave my career at twenty nine I am stigmatised by some of my family when I need help during tough times. They believe I have wasted my life by throwing away my high paid career without a care or thought. And that my parents have spoon-fed me through life whilst I lived it up. However it is far from the truth. I was predominantly raised with the tough love approach and only once circumstances had spiralled out of control did my parents then consider helping me out.
Through school I was bullied and castrated from my peers, constantly taunted or beaten. They carried knives to school in their bags, prank called the home phone nonstop till we had to take it off the hook and stalked me everywhere in the hopes of getting me alone to beat me up. The school did nothing about bullies more than ten years ago, it is only of late that it is taken seriously. My parents constantly told me I did something to deserve this. I was beyond depressed for at least half a year before they considered paying for me to finish the year at a private school.
I was on the edge of suicide and no matter how much I tried it lingered like a poisonous fog over my head. The following year of school I was raped - I had wanted to fit in with my peers and snuck out to a party with friends to drink. I was no longer at the private school and started the new year at a public school as I thought I was ready to be amongst peers again. I was drunk at the party and taken advantage of when I was passed out. My parents told me it was my fault as I shouldn't be drinking underage. As a result this was something I never spoke of again to anyone. I was never allowed to be a teenager, locked up at home and for a while I just wanted to fit in.
Then after I turned twenty one my parents pushed me out of home with their tough love approach. I wasn't ready financially as my whole life we have lived frugally. So setting myself up would take a while considering I would need to buy all the essentials. However I managed to start a career in finance and worked my way up the corporate ladder. Not having the emotional support of family left me vulnerable over all those years. Being treated harshly only exacerbated my mental illness and left me hospitalised with psychosis many years later.
The stresses of work combined with the lack of support from family became too much. With a predisposition towards mental illness, it lead me to have a psychotic break. I made the decision to leave my career and actually put my personal life before my work life. That was when I met my husband who showed me what love meant.
A traditional Indian family will live in the same household, with their Grandparents, Parents and Children. However some have adapted a modern lifestyle and live separately though still support one another when in need. It is expected that a parent will support their children through life and when they retire the children will then support them. This way they are setting their children up for success so that they may lead a financially stable life later when they retire. Concurrently they are also setting up their retirement and preventing them from being dumped at a retirement village. It is a win - win situation for all the family.
Many may think that this creates dependent adults who cannot support themselves however that is certainly not the case. This actually gives them the time to develop and grow as an individual without the stresses of where to live once you turn 18 and haven't even found work yet. By helping out their children when they truly need it they respect their parents more and in return are willing to help their parents out in times of need. This unconditional love for one another creates a warm and loving environment for families, easing the burdens of life. This isn't just between direct family members, they have adapted this approach for all family including relatives. Having such a vast support network is much more valuable than how much is in your bank account and only always too willing to help one another out.
There is much we can learn from the family values of the Indian culture, as having a supportive network should be considered more important. Why raise a family if you don't want to be involved in their life once they become an adult or to only be involved in their life when times are good. Shouldn't we make the time to enjoy one another's company rather than push one another away. So is it time that the western tough love approach be ditched for the values of Indian family life to support family physically, emotionally and financially?
We all will pass away at some point in our life and money won't hold any value no longer. Therefore why hold onto it so tightly? So you can have financial security - isn't the security of family more valuable meriting more success in life. If the value of family is considered the priority this will in turn also provide financial security in the long term. To date the Indian's have proven this lifestyle to be successful. With society ever evolving shouldn't our approach to one another also evolve?
What is your opinion of the western approach vs the Indian approach of family?
Have you suffered or gained from either of these approaches?