You know what tests your patience even more than travelling via the traffic-clogged Silk Board in Bangalore? Parenting a teen! Every day is like a permanent roller-coaster ride. Teenage is a time of apprehension for both the child and the parents. Suddenly, you find yourself oscillating between deep despair and confusion, ten times on a daily basis. Your perfectly fine, obedient child is now rebellious, moody, weepy, questions everything you say and is generally the epitome of obnoxiousness. To add to your woes, they suddenly gain inches. You feel even more intimidated as they glare down at you.
Here are the issues I grapple with.
The discipline dilemma
Teenagers test the limits of their freedom and those of your patience incessantly. While some of us become way too strict, there are others who become too soft because who has the energy to argue with the always-on-a-warpath teen? In my opinion, it is a balance that we all strive for but find very difficult to fathom and achieve.
Getting a teen to listen and do what you've asked seems like trying to climb Everest on a daily basis.
Before you launch into a lecture on leniency, let me flash dirty clothes, torn jeans, shabby, uncut hair and messy rooms in front of your eyes. Are they always absent-minded or is it especially for the benefit of parents? Add to it the frequent bouts of amnesia and deafness. Everything is heard only after four-five loud yells. If you ask them to look for something, be ready to never have it found.
Good cop or bad cop?
Every teen is different so every teen needs to be handled differently. Easier said than done because you really no longer know how to behave around them. Yet, if your child is naturally responsible and mature, give her more freedom. Allow her to engage in her interests. She'll do so anyway, no matter what you think. On the other hand, if your teen is more difficult and volatile, handle her firmly. Be around to supervise her. Allow your teen age-appropriate decision making but be more mindful of following up and monitoring. Define what you will not hear/tolerate from your child. Between you and me, implementing these approaches will make handling a bad boss seem like a breeze.
How to get through to them?
While children overall seem more irreverent these days (I am sure every generation of parents has felt this way), teens take the cake and the bakery. It is the age of raging hormones and getting a teen to listen and do what you've asked seems like trying to climb Everest on a daily basis. Well, keep at it, I guess. What option do you have, anyway? Try to be consistent; be fair; and above all, be patient, especially when they have their headphones on when you are talking to them or are singing loudly in that squealing voice or... you get the drift! These few years test your love for them and hopefully the storm passes by the time they touch adulthood.
It is best to keep communicating often with your teen even if all you hear in response are grunts and protests.
Don't sweat the small stuff
Easier said than done but in the larger scheme of things, it works better to concentrate on the bigger picture. If overall your teen seems to be thriving, is in control of things, handles issues maturely and is generally well-behaved, perhaps a few stray instances can be overlooked. Don't believe the worst of your child though they give you ample reasons to do so. Perhaps they will feel more trusted and will behave better. Hope is all we've got!
Keep your eyes trained
Do not overlook any alarming signs that your teen exhibits. Take a deep breath and discuss all those issues with them that parents usually shy away from -- drugs, alcohol, smoking, sex and so on. Do not allow them to drive underage or give them access to too much money. Know their peers even if you may not like them. Sometimes you may foresee a bad choice or decision but let them make the mistake if it is not something too serious.
A teen may think otherwise but this is the time when they need a parent's firm yet loving hand to guide them. Be ready for lots of resistance and invasion-of-privacy barbs while you try to stay "involved".
Confide in them
Remember that you are human too, with your flaws, your bad days, your temper troubles etc. Share your tough moments and failings with them. Emphasize that a parent is not superhuman and also goes through bad patches. It is best to keep communicating often with your teen even if all you hear in response are grunts and protests.
Are you a parent of a teen? Any tips to share with me?
PS: This is a realistic yet exaggerated and hopefully funny account of a teen's parent. My teen is somewhere between the two extremes.
This post has been previously published on Rachna says.
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