Oasis of Happiness : Responsible Parenting

Family is the fundamental base of a society. It is the symbol of strength, motivation and satisfaction and unity in our good and bad times. A child from the very beginning is bound to adopt the habits and the culture of his family and society.

As you enter the B-block of the well-laid out Soami Nagar area in the South Delhi, you cannot miss a three-storied white house. In fact, it is more than a house of brick and mortar. It is a home to four brothers (Rakesh, Rajesh, Prabhat and Rishi) who live under one roof with their four wives and nine children. Every evening, the ‘Srivastava Brothers’ – the home for the 17 persons of two generations, is brimming with feverish conversation as all the family members converge in the living room for dinner. Evening is the time when all the members are together for the dinner. It is the rule, like Birla family, that everyone should have dinner together with the family unless one has a dinner-out or is out of Delhi.

The family has another system to nurture unity among the second generation–brothers live on one floor and the children share rooms on other floors. This practice emerged during the childhood of four bothers when they shared a single room in a government quarter. The brothers had lost their father while they were still very young so the elders had to take care of the younger ones and help their mother run the household. Though the eldest brother got a job, the total income of the family was not enough to meet the expenses of a family of six: four brothers, one sister and the mother. Adversity and challenges taught them high

dependence on each other and it became a habit to be together no matter what the challenges were. They also developed the habit of discussing and freely arguing over all the issues between them. In the beginning all differed but a consensus was reached in the end and everyone accepted it. It became a habit and arguments and discussions became a part of their learning system. They realised that different thoughts become a bigger thought leading to a better solutions.

The practice continued in the following decades and children in the family show a similar dependence on each other and use the same methodology for learning. Every one speaks and everyone is heard very much in the same manner as their fathers did when they were of their age. The elder children manage the younger ones and are responsible for ensuring that they go to school on time, do their home work and plan their outings together. All children have imbibed the values and beliefs of the brothers by simply observing them.

Cementing Factors

Children observe elders around them and emulate those whom they like the most. Psychologists say that by the time a child goes to the school, his or her belief system is already framed and remains largely unchanged for the rest of the life. Srivastava brothers realised it from the very beginning and instead of sermonising, they interact with children at the dining table. If they do anything negative, they are politely but firmly explained why their action was wrong. Shouting, neither habit nor practice is used in this family. Rajesh realised it long back when he came home very tired. Veer, the youngest child of the family, was playing on his bed with all his toys. This irritated Rajesh and he raised his voice. He demanded for the toys to be removed. It terrified the child so much that for several weeks he would start crying at his sight.

Children are children and Srivastava children are not different. Like all other children they also fight, rebel and protest. But such situations are handled

psychologically. One evening Rajesh had taken the family for shopping. One of the children wanted to buy an expensive bicycle. Money was not an issue. The concern was that if all her demands were readily agreed, he might get. So the parents said ‘no’. The child cried and cried and was very upset. To ensure that the smile returned on the child’s face, Rajesh gave a counter offer of buying a nice looking pencil box. The child did not know the value of the offer- -the pencil box. All she wanted was a gift and pencil box was as good as a bicycle.

Four Pillars of the Srivastava Model

The Srivastava brothers have revived and revamped the joint family system model. The following are the four strongholds that are being followed differently to make it work- workb – eing work able in the changed society:

1. Shared care and respect

One of the major reasons why the joint families disintegrate is imposing the views and thoughts of elders on the younger ones. Such autocratic style leads to repression and suppression causing discontentment and unhappiness. Srivastavas developed a model on mutual love and respect for each and every member, including children, that was not based on just commands but on responsible parenting. They give respect and love to children who in return seek their advice and suggestions.

2. Friendly communication

Interaction and exchange of ideas among family members should be an open and honest forum. The elders must encourage and create a friendly environment contributing to open communication. In its absence, family members would feel repressed and suppressed leading to discontentment. Non- judgmental hearing and demonstrating mutual trust are necessary factors to help family members

open up to one another.

3. Convincing expectations

All members should feel accepted for who they are and as they are. It means accepting one’s own weaknesses and limitations and that of others too. Realistic expectations help everyone to be more tolerant towards the weaknesses of one another. This is the crux of parenting to create harmonious relations in the family.

4. Feeling of gratefulness

Each member of the family must understand that joint family means more than one family living together, with members of diverse strengths. Thic can be made potentially enriching to the family providing a sense of fulfillment to all the members. In such a system, acknowledgement of the strengths and positive aspects of each member and being grateful for the same is useful and even necessary. This is always followed and taken care of by the four Srivastava brothers and their spouses. This is what parenting is in true sense.

Child-the imitator

A few years back, on his birth day, Rajesh Srivastava, Chairman of the Rockland Hospitals Group, noticed a large hand drawn birthday greeting card under his pillow. The card was made by Kavya, his four years old niece. She kept it under his pillow at night. The little one picked this essence from a story which was once shared in the family. It was about Rajesh, who gave a hand-made card to his wife as he couldn’t find any better way to communicate his feelings to her. Kavya did the same without letting anyone know about it.

Value system

The family maintains its value system that is imbibed in the children right from the beginning. Despite being affluent the four brothers do not display wealth and avoid wastages. The family continues to maintain its high values and the children have simply imbibed those. Ugly display of jewellery and wealth is not acceptable in this family. Celebrating festivals, and special occasions and performing havans and pooja in a modest way are an integral part of the family routine.

One of the daughters who recently completed her graduation from a famous British College requested for a recital of Sundar Kand as her birth day gift. After the pooja she wanted to distribute blankets to the needy. Rajesh was left wondering why she wanted to listen to Sundar Kand on her birth day and distribute blankets in a hospital. The daughter told him: “I remember my mother doing this when I was growing up.” It was an indication of parenting that made a strong impression on her psyche.

In all family rituals the eldest brother, Rakesh, leads the ceremonies and every one touches his feet. The children follow the same when elders are around so that the they command deference and respect from the younger ones.

Teaching value system

The value system is taught to all the children in a systematic and psychological way. Budgets are made for all the expenses that are evaluated by Prabhat the younger brother to ensure that no no loss is incurred and costs are negotiated to the lowest point. Ashish, the eldest son in the family once approached me to get, negotiate and finalise hotel estimates for a marriage in the family. When I asked him why he could not do it himself, his reply was: “You are the expert in this area and therefore you must give the final advice”. Children in the family naturally reach out to the best source in their network, inside or outside the family.

It is not that the family members do not argue or fight. They do argue and fight but have to reach to a consensus which is accepted and implicated by everyone. The arguments and discussions are in fact the learning sessions for the family. Interestingly, the arguments are never about changing the goal but about the ways to improve results. Children too have their own arguments and differences but they have to sort it out themselves with the help of the elder brothers and sisters. Adults do not interfere in this area. It is interesting to note that the children too have to agree to the same goal whether it is an outing or shopping trip otherwise the parents will not approve their demand as this is a prime condition. This is a valuable lesson for a joint business family as it is essential to keep the family business intact. This practice is followed because the family has decided to stay together and be in the same business. No one would logically or emotionally sink the ship. They all sail together towards their goal.

Valuable long term lessons are learnt by children by simply observing and listening to the stories of how the family members relate with each other. Children have observed how Mala, wife of Rajesh and her sister in law, Sushmita, move around together like twin sisters. The youngest chachi, Riya, is from North East and has adapted and adjusted to the family’s customs vegetarian food, wearing a Sari and learning the family rituals. This is a lesson for girls of the family to learn how they should adjust themselves in another family after marriage.

Children, as they grow up, require their own space for creativity and growth. The joint family system falters when this is not realised by elders. To safeguard this, the Srivastava family has ensured that all children plan out their future and have clear goals for themselves. This is practiced for education planning and gets translated into business planning later. Each child is taught to have a long term perspective and a short term goal sheet which is carefully monitored by the elders in the family. Their commitment towards their goals is taken very seriously by the other family members. It was interesting to see that one of the daughters had set a goal on a certain percentage to be able to get admission in

one of the prestigious institutes but fell short by half a mark. Adults felt that half a mark should not be worried about and they did not say anything to the child. Butshe was determined to achieve her goal as she had seen her elders doing the same in terms of business and life. Thus, she reappeared and scored one and half mark extra.

The secret

Family is the fundamental base of a society. It is the symbol of strength, motivation and satisfaction, and unity in the good and bad times. A child from the very beginning is bound to adopt the habits and the culture of his family and society. He is encouraged to ponder over his every step and is helped by his elders to do what is right. They impart solid understanding and adequate reasoning which is respected and carried forward from one generation to another.

Strengthening family values solely emphasises on the individuals residing within that family. The Srivastava family continues to live together as they have maintained the high standards of family values through effective, positive and responsible parenting.

Rajesh Srivastava left for his heavenly abode on 25 Jan, 2016 and the Srivastava family once again demonstrated the values of a joint family by immediately requesting Mala Srivastava to step in his place to manage the family owned hospitals network. The family has come together with even more love and affection. They have taken over the task of fulfilling his vision as ONE. By announcing Mala Srivastava as the Chairperson, in who they see Rajesh Srivastava’s image, the brothers have communicated a lot without using many words.

During my last visit to the family I discovered that the family has divested from the hospitals business and have decided to together enter new areas of business once again as a joint family venture. I observed how the children and the elders were passionately discussing new possibilities with a clear resolve to stay together. The emotions and the spirit of togetherness has lasted even after Rajesh Srivastava is no more.

By: Rajiv Tewari for Responsible Parenting Magazine (Updated Article). This story is based on the joint family of Srivastavas, founders of the Rockland Hospitals Network in Delhi.