August 23, 2011, | 0 Comments

Parental Advisory: Rated S for Strict

Parenting is a long and hard process that comes with many factors to take into consideration. To Tamils, a firm and strict upbringing is more than just tradition and culture, it is in most cases the dominant approach, especially towards girls.

Parenting is a long and hard process that comes with many factors to take into consideration. To Tamils, a firm and strict upbringing is more than just tradition and culture, it is in most cases the dominant approach, especially towards girls.

Some Scenes Contain Strictness

“Someone once said to me, ‘Oh you’re not Hindu, you’re Christian… you have it easy’. I was annoyed at their ignorance. I mean my parents are still Tamil and I did NOT have it ‘easy’. I am done university, have a full-time job, and STILL my parents monitor my whereabouts.”

Fact: my parents are immigrants, born and raised in Sri Lanka, and despite religion, they are still Tamil. In other words, aside from religious practices, their upbringing and parenting styles are strongly based on cultural principles and “standards of conduct”.

Our parents instill their values and beliefs onto us fearing that we, Tamil girls, might lose our morals and be labeled as the ‘corrupted’ ones (in other words, they teach us what they know). That’s a reasonable explanation for them to be strict then, right? So, what’s the problem?

Our dilemma: being raised as a Tamil girl in a city like Toronto, where all ethnicities of the world reside, some activities that seem so simple in nature start to conflict with our cultural values. For instance, having Timothy over in your basement for a Jersey Shore finale may get the okay for your neighbour Tina’s parents, but this may or may not fly with your parents and is even less likely to get the okay back home.

"Strictness may be modified for viewer purposes"

Many people believe the more strict parents are the more the child is prone to rebel. I’d have to agree to some extent, but hearing various insights from my circle of friends, it looks like they rebelled with boundaries. Although the strictness in parenting did lead us to rebel and sneak in a few white lies, the values were still infused in us because we were ‘not doing anything that was actually bad’.

“When I was 15, I thought it was unfair that I couldn’t take the bus with my friends to the mall, especially since all my other friends did so. I used to lie and say an adult was with us, which was pretty pathetic. But I never did anything wrong! Just wanted to go to the mall with friends and hang out. But of course, my parents thought being unsupervised in these places was a big no-no because ‘What would other people think?’”

That is what most of this debate comes down to. Why do Tamil parents care about what other people think?

“I know my cousins went out just as much as I did, but because their parents never broadcasted it, my parents would tell me ‘Look at them, they stay home like good girls, why do you have to cause bad attention?’”

The traditional firm parenting comes with the important reasoning of how we as Tamil girls are expected to portray an image of “normalcy” in our parents’ eyes: to be a modest, hardworking, educated and doting daughter.

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“Viewer Discretion is Advised"

As with everything, it’s not so black and white.

One girl stated that her mom raised her with “fairly less rules in comparison to my friends, hence, why I seldom felt the need to rebel or sneak around and considered myself a "late bloomer" (didn't drink or date until I hit university).”

I asked the girls if they would do parenting differently and one said, “Of course, I’d be more lenient… well maybe until they’re 18”. The irony is that we didn’t really appreciate the strictness, but it put us on the right path and got us to become well rounded women.

Psychologist Karen states that “Authoritarian parenting styles generally lead to children who are obedient and proficient, but they rank lower in happiness, social competence and self-esteem.” Strictness can lead to children becoming co-dependant and sheltered. When a young girl is sheltered it means that a lot of significant experiences are missed out on, and as a result this can affect her personality and status, and it can carry over into adulthood.

Our thoughts and rebellious behaviour are a direct cause of western influences and of our Canadian socio-cultural environment. Basically, we have a tendency to (unconsciously) balance both influencing factors – we rebel with boundaries - by trying to maintain a western lifestyle but adhering to our cultural principles. Our parents may be rated 'S for Strict' but it is an acceptable production that can lead to successful ratings depending on how it is received.

- Maria Arasaratnam

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