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Those teenage tantrums

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CHILDREN DISLIKE LECTURES It’s best to talk things over with them amicably
CHILDREN DISLIKE LECTURES It’s best to talk things over with them amicably

Handling adolescents is not easy for parents. Here are suggestions for a child-friendly approach

This is when they need your advice, but also resent it. Both confused and confident, dependent and independent, those teenage years are a difficult time for both parents and kids.

As toddlers, they tell others with pride, “My mother/father says so”. Now, suddenly we seem like ignoramuses, our advice and suggestions seem passé to them. Kids today need adult wisdom on the future, smoking, sex, relationships… But how do you get your teenage kids to listen to you?

Being friends

When a child becomes a teenager, the parent needs to shift to the friendship mode. As with same-age friends, it is common pursuits and non-bossy openness that would boost friendship with parents. “Have casual conversations. Let it not always be advice or complaints,” says psychologist Dr. M. Bhanumathi. Because, to be able to talk to your kids about crucial things, you need to have a good rapport with him. Just love and concern will not work. One way is to get interested in what your teenager is interested in.

“My son is crazy about football, while the only sport I knew was cricket. I decided to learn to enjoy the game that my son is fascinated with,” says Mahesh Raj, father of 14-year-old Sanjay. Now, Mahesh watches hours of football matches on TV along with his son, even though they stretch past midnight, just so that it gives them time together and fun things to talk about.

“And as you would with friends, present a charming self towards your kid too, not the ‘scowling/cribbing parent’ look,” advises counsellor Sivaranjani Rajagopal.

We want our kid to be perfect, but if we are going to forever mind his ‘p’s and ‘q’s, then we would lose the child’s attention, and our credibility in their eyes. “Don’t constantly keep advising or pointing out mistakes. Save it for the big issues. Otherwise you would be branded a critic and never be listened to,” advises Dr. Latha Satish, psychologist and psychology research scientist.

Teenagers despise lectures, and would tune out mentally if parents were to sermonise. “Teenagers are sensitive to phrases like ‘Do you think you know the world’ or ‘Do as I say’. Stay off them,” recommends Dr. Latha.

A better idea would be to discuss the options, seek his/her opinion, and lead him/her up to the suggestion, so that it looks like a decision taken by the teenager. Choose the right moment when you know your child would be amenable, perhaps while doing a task together, rather than engage in a formal discussion.

And in case an argument does develop, keep it from becoming a fight. As the older person in the issue, the onus is on the parent to keep cool, despite provocation. If you are going to flare up, you might end up losing whatever leverage you have.

Don’t talk too much; and don’t keep repeating yourself. When arguments get painful and offensive, take it easy. Remember, a teenager, by nature tries to establish independence, so, don’t take whatever he says personally. Teenagers tend to make tough statements just for effect.

Also remember the time when you were a teenager — your confusion, insecurity, your overwhelming need to make a personality statement, ‘it’s my life, not yours’ — teenage tantrums will be easier to handle.

K. Praveena, the mother of 15-year-old Rakesh has developed her own way of dealing with the frustration that many parents of teenagers are familiar with. On her desk, she has a photograph of Rakesh as an adorable two-year-old, a bygone time when literally, ‘her wish was his command’. She says, “When things reach boiling point between us, and I get angry and hurt, I look at this photograph and I calm down.”

FOR PARENTS

Understand the teenager’s feelings.

Empathise before

criticising.

Give your undivided attention when they speak to you.

Talk as an equal.

Don’t dwell on mistakes/misbehaviour; talk about their accomplishments/interests.

Mention a positive every time you need to point out a negative.

When you have to say ‘No’, don’t say it immediately. Think things over, and let them see that you are considering their statement seriously.

Communicate specifics, don’t generalise.

Respect and seek their opinions too.

HEMA VIJAY

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