Chandrika R Krishnan
As I was taking a workshop titled ‘Time to Land your Helicopter: Understanding Adolescence without Hovering; I remember a mother sharing that her child orders food and bag without as much as “if you please.” She only hears of the purchases when the things are delivered at the doorstep. She wanted solutions. I prefer workshops where I do not give any solutions to the participants. Instead, I ask the other participants to share the best practices as it often helps and also gives a feeling that as a trainer, I have no magic wand to speak of nor can parents say that they have a fool-proof technique for parenting. What works for one may not work for another and sometimes what worked for one child might not be as effective for another. So, how then can we better our parenting techniques? What is acceptable and what is not?
Here I would like to put forth some of the challenges parents face while dealing with adolescents and the possible solutions.
As parents our objective is to build a more holistic and beautiful relationship with the “Know-it All’ generation. It is time tested opinion that the only way we can win cooperation is by changing our vocabulary. How many times have we berated ourselves for using toxic phrases and wish that we can walk it back when our children sulk or walk off in a huff or worse roll their eyes and say, “back off!”
Who are adolescents?
Technically they are anywhere between the ages of twelve and eighteen. But then the age bracket is not sacrosanct. They can be just eight but going on eighteen! The best way to encapsulate this age group is to tweak the very popular advertisement, too young for cocktails too old for pigtails! They are part time adult and part time children. They go through enormous physical changes, cognitive changes and are permanently caught in an emotional flux. The “I’ centricity often makes them quick at anger and they develop a latent propensity to take unnecessary risks. Through it all, they learn to rationalize as their intellectual development also peaks.
Challenges of New-age parents:
Most parents find it difficult to draw a line between freedom and boundary. And, I don’t blame them. At the swipe of a phone, there is constant need to validate our opinion. The peer-pressure with the onslaught of social media is at all-time high. It is nigh-impossible to bubble-wrap your children in the ideal world of parenting that you would love to live in and protect your child from. By peer-pressure, I do not mean just the pressure your children are facing from their peers. I mean the pressure, we as parents face on daily basis. Are we too strict? Are we expecting too much? Are we too liberal? Are we too constrictive and believe me you, children are great at laying the guilt trip on not only your doorstep but piling them so high that you can’t bypass them without them sticking onto you.
Most parents of adolescents feel that they communicate through a ‘wall.’ ‘Yeah’, ‘whatever’ or worse a shrug or a roll of their eyes is all that you get as you rant, rave, and scream.
The arguments that rage between parent and their adolescents children range from curfew & locked doors to their cell-phone usage; the kind of music they play to the fashion choice they make; the sudden scoffing of religion and traditional values to the food they eat; from academics to their career choices; from messy rooms to friends they keep; from their sleeping pattern to their substance abuse; from their lifestyle choices to their increasing disrespectful behaviour; the range is wide and deep. As the saying goes, adolescence is often an age where they punish us for enjoying sex!
With parents walking the landmine, we often resort to words that are counter-productive.
As parents we are guilty of using vocabulary that oscillates from foolish to outright insane. To a generation that doesn’t pay heed, we make sure that they walk out by using words and phrases that are mostly toxic. Some of the words that all parents are guilty of using are: That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard; you never listen to me! Or worse, none of this will matter after school! The latter is said particularly when the child is sulking because the popular group is not talking to her. Are you wearing that? What’s wrong with you? You’re too young to date! The most impractical of all and is sure to shut them up is the phrase, “When I was your age………”, “ How much I am doing for you!” “Your room is always a mess” or “You never ever listen to me!”
Words like ‘never’ or ‘always’ does not leave room for negotiation. And one way of shutting the door is speaking in absolutes!
The way forward:
Firstly, ask yourself the very important question; Am I walking the talk? The second most important question to ask yourself is; Am I emotionally honest? And last but not the least is; Am I helping shape the individuality, autonomy, independence, self-worth, adequacy and developing responsibility in my child? Teens often lie compulsively and it is their way to control what their parents know about their lives. As a teacher, I had realized that most parents are unaware of most things happening in and around the school.
So, it is very important to accept the fact that your child might lie and if you get to know something that is not all that palatable to you, do not shoot the informer- be it a teacher, friend or neighbour. Instead, talk with your child but more than talk Listen, listen, and listen! Establish and enforce rules and boundary. For that, you be sure what you would want. Do not oscillate but at the same time don’t be too repressive. Read and interact with parents of teenagers. Try not to be too shocked when you hear of things that are against your moral compass. It does not mean you have to change your own beliefs, it just means be more open for discussion and let your child know where you are coming from. Be a conscious and conscientious parent by spending a lot of time together.
Raising respectful, responsible and resilient children in this privileged and entitled world is difficult but not impossible. Teaching children to be respectful is critical. But, we too should be aware of not ‘over’ doing it. As affluent but busy parents, we are sometimes over involved in our children or worse over-scheduling their activities. So, it is important that we ask ourselves some hard questions and be prepared to negotiate with our own children on acceptable behaviour.
Finally be a parent. They have enough friends of their own. So, try not to be one more misguided friend in their lives. They need to know that they have an adult to handle when things go wrong and that adult who always has their back is you.
Chandrika R Krishnan, a Bengaluru-based writer and educationist who likes all things beginning with a ‘T’ – talking, teaching, tales, and tea.
A people person and a born observer, she weaves fiction and dispenses ‘gyaan’ alike to the unsuspecting audience. Her 350 + articles and stories (both in print and online media) are mostly eclectic and experiential. She is a published author, and her collection of flash fiction was published recently titled- vignettes- a slice of life. Her stories feature in many anthologies.
You can read her articles @ https://chandrikarkrishnan.com/
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