Divya Valluri is the quintessential California girl; confident, talented, vivacious and earthy. Her parents have given her a couple of very useful gifts; Indian roots and American wings. WNI’s August 5th parenting article “The confused Indian American Parent” in which PR Ganapathy talks about praise in the American system and Sukanya Mahadevan explores the efficacy of a crazy extra curricular schedule for kids, evoked this response from Divya; I think it’s interesting that parental concerns about the dichotomy of Indian and American cultures never really address the effort children growing up in the United States inevitably have to make to create a balance between the two. We definitely go through a struggle to combine the Asian values of our households with the American values in the outside world, and still have solid relationships in both places. I respect the valid concerns Indian parents have with raising their children with a combination of solid values and limitless opportunities. I don’t think my parents are going to be reading this any time soon, so I can safely say that I sincerely believe they raised me with a perfect combination of the two. So here we go: To praise or not to praise… There is merit to the idea that false praise shouldn’t be given to people just to save their feelings. People need to learn that they can always improve. I think that explaining the difference between good and mediocre work to your child is key in helping them understand the contrast between the two cultures they’re growing up in. My mom refused to put my art on the fridge if it was clear I hadn’t put my best effort into creating it. But rather than permanently scarring me and crushing my spirit and dreams, it taught me never to submit something I could have done a better job on. Not to mention the far greater satisfaction I got when my picture DID go on the fridge. It’s an example I frequently cite to my non-Indian friends, who can’t understand why my parents won’t dish out fake praise that would only serve to inflate my ego. As we grow up, whether we like it or not, our parents are our primary influence. Forgive the cliché, but I can recognize false, useless praise from a mile away. I’m pretty sure any Indian kid can. Whether or not we want praise from our teachers, we’ve learned that the most important praise comes from people who offer it sparingly. Disclaimer: if you never praise your kid, they will probably end up broken and starving for validation from uncaring sources like their underpaid teachers. Activity, Schmactivity! The crazy, activity driven kids are NOT happy. They may think they’re happy, but they’re just so busy they don’t know any better. Taking them to 4000 activities and then drilling them on long division will never make them well rounded anywhere except on paper. Constant stimulation will just destroy their inherent ability to occupy themselves. Seriously limiting independent free play and play dates will retard their social skills and development. That’s just a perspective. I don’t mean never put your kids in activities, just make sure they have a good mix of activities and down time. They’ll be happier and better adjusted, and you’ll save yourself from the headaches and back problems you’ll obviously incur from sitting in the car for countless hours polluting the ozone layer while your kid rallies with his or her tennis coach while repeating Kumon multiplication tables and singing carnatic music. I’ve seen the balance I previously referred to in many Indian kids and young adults here. I can handle myself in any variety of Indian and American situations. I’m from California. There are obviously glaring differences between me and my cousins from India. No one can understand what I say, I could be described as loud and opinionated, and I’ve never taken a bharathnatyam class in my life. On the same note, I’ve sat through my fair share of arangetrams, I’ve memorized the soundtracks of countless Hindi movies from Baazigar to Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, and I can shop in Cherma’s as easily as I can shop in Banana Republic. I understand Telegu, but respond in English. I hang out with my mostly non-Indian friends, and have no problems whatsoever relating to them. On the same note, when I spend time with their families, I see the contrast between my family and theirs. It’s okay for them to be different, as long as the reasons for the differences are recognizable and logical. Your kid will be fine. I’m fine. I can sit down at a table with my family on one end and my friends on the other with absolutely no problem connecting the two. And I drink my water with ice.