July 3, 2019

Teenagers Today – Communicate to bring out the best in them

We always hear the term ‘Terrible twos’, but with a teenager in the house I think ‘Terrible teens’ is a term which has not been given a label but most parents of teenagers will agree with this!

Mood swings…. acting up …rude and irrational behaviour…unpredictable responses…strong reactions and opinions…impulsive behaviour…the list is endless.

At times we are at a loss questioning our parenting… where did we go wrong? Is this the child I brought up? The child who was a perfect reflection of us who now feels like an alien!

All I can say is relax…. This is a phase which every child goes through and in all probability each of us have too. But with advancing times and more exposure, today’s teenagers are possibly more vocal and less accepting – and the sooner we understand and accept that, the journey and this phase of life will be smoother.

How many of us recall watching this movie called ‘Look who’s talking’ which is a brilliant rendition of seeing the world through the eyes of an infant. We all ‘cootchie-coo ‘and behave in various amusing ways when we see a baby…but how many of us have given a thought to what the baby feels about what we are doing? Don’t they look horrified at times?

Let’s start by understanding the ‘mysterious teen brain’ without sounding too technical…

The brain as we all know is a complex organ. One key element of the brain right in the front is called the prefrontal cortex which is one of the last regions of the brain to reach maturation – which explains why some adolescents exhibit behavioural immaturity. There are several executive functions of the human prefrontal cortex that remain under construction during adolescence – this is the part that controls impulses and exercises judgement and since its yet in the process of being formed, this explains that’s why they are so impulsive and often say things which they don’t mean –  In simple words there seems to be no filter between the brain and mouth in this period!

Well… the good news is that this is a temporary phase, but the bad news, and often exasperating is, that we as parents have to accelerate our tolerance power and ignore many of their actions. Even though they are dramatic, irrational and scream for seemingly no reason, trust me they have a deep need for both greater independence and tender loving care.

“Teenage” a beautiful age, where it’s the first time they see themselves in the world…they have just opened their eyes to what lies beyond their families and schools. They have critical decisions to make about their life and career. This self-discovery  leads to a lot of questions which they keep asking themselves -‘What kind of person do I want to be and What type of place do I want the world to be?’

Teenagers need to be able to express their doubts, confide in their fears, and explore options with a grown up who will listen to them non-judgmentally and help them make responsible decisions. All they want from us parents is to listen to them and not show them the ‘right path’, they want to be able to fix it for themselves. Easier said than done – it’s like balancing on a tight rope – but the trick is to put into words what you think the kid is feeling, but hold back on what you are feeling. They may often accuse you of not understanding or being unreasonable (in fact there at times when they themselves fail to understand why they are behaving the way they are, and this takes a lot of courage for a teenager to own up!) but once they know that you have at least heard them out, you definitely stand a better chance of being heard by them.

Again, with fast paced lives, competitive world and the unwanted snarling traffic, we often accuse our teenagers for not being responsible and helping out in certain tasks or even show anger and irritation when they are rude – as a result of which they become defensive and we don’t achieve anything except have set up another battle ground with insults being hurled from both ends!

But on all accounts, avoid punishing a teenager – instead allow alternatives like showing them how he or she can make small changes, offer choices and then take action – because it’s not simply about giving in but lending a patient ear, respecting their thought process but being firm about your value system. This way you are being tough but respectful to the child and yourself. No way should you be sending the message that you have all the power, but are actually empowering the child to act differently. When you punish a kid, you may stop that behaviour but when it doesn’t help him you self-correct. It may also be useful to keep in mind that they prefer an appreciative description of their efforts or accomplishments, something tangible, rather than empty praise which may work for smaller kids- so it may just be a win-win to be specific!

One has to bear in mind that teenagers today are under lot of pressure – not only with their ballistic hormones but even from peers and the unwarranted exposure.

We need to set boundaries –share values and give them guidelines without imposing and having full faith that each of us has done a good job of bringing them up!

So let’s aid them, in their path of self- discovery and choosing the right personal and professional path which will go a long way in leading a happy and satiated life.

Last but not the least I would proudly like to add, that this blog is not a piece of theory pulled out of thin air, but a true sharing of experiencing a teenager at home who has read all of the above content word by word giving her valuable inputs!

Resonating with teenage psyche due to hands on experience as a parent, besides being a trained Career Development Facilitator with Dheya Career Mentors in Psychometrics and Career Planning, enables me to effectively break the shackles of inhibitions in the minds of the child, partnering with the parents through a structured process and lead the child to take charge of his/ her career, thereby making an informed entry into occupation.

Dheya Career Mentors (India ) Pvt. Ltd. is a pioneering organisation in the field of Career Mentoring having customised psychometric tools developed in compliance with Indian norms and strong professional network of 1700+ Senior Mentors with strong domain expertise in their respective fields.

Written by Sonul Agarwal,
Master Career Mentor with Dheya.
You can reach to her on sonul.agarwal@dheya.in

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