By Farida Raj
Teenagers find it hard to deal with indirect criticism. They respond better and much more effectively to direct and honest criticism. Develop listening skills. Listen to them.
“You are old stupid and screwed up in the head. I hate you,” screamed Anita. I was aghast as I looked at my 19-year-old daughter, whose beautiful face was now contorted with anger and hatred. I turned away lest she sees the deep hurt and tears in my eyes. And for the umpteenth time, I wondered, what was it that brought out such strong reaction in a young girl? Was it denial of permission to a certain outing or an effort to discipline?
Such confrontations are on everyday affair at most homes. Teenagers rave and rant when their wishes are thwarted. They say mean and hurtful things and cannot bear to be in the same room as their parents. Meal times become an ordeal for both.
Experts say this critical period of development is characterized by fear and lack of confidence. They feel a psychological sense of security in having parents, who are protective and strong willed. But at the same time they resent their parents’ attitude because it threatens their own need for increased independence. In order to establish and reinforce the fact that they need freedom to do what they like, they, at the slightest excuse, cut their parents down to size, criticizing them, attacking them and pointing out their weaknesses and faults. But parents need not despair because experts say it is a passing phase. After the age of 22, their perspective changes and they realize how smart their parents are.
Teenagers, today, seem to be unhappy. Short tempered and self-centered, but if you make an attempt to understand their behavior, you will find that more than anything else, they are actually confused. A teenager is confused because most of the times the things going on in his head make absolutely no sense. He may be so upset over some trivial issue that he contemplates running away from home and then get angry at himself for thinking like that. One day he is so moody that the mere presence of his best friend irritates him and the very next day he begs the same friend to accompany him for a movie. He oscillates between strong emotions and that makes him frustrated and confused.
Today’s teenager is also confused because he is getting lots of conflicting messages. For example, parents advocate alcohol is bad. Do not drink. Then he sees his father enjoying drinks with his friends then he talks to his friends and they say, “We are all drinking. Why aren’t you? ” And when he switches on the TV he sees his role model, a larger-than-life hero promoting a certain brand of liquor. So, whom does he believe? Isn’t it confusing? And don’t forget, he has sexual hormones in his bloodstream that make him react in a way that is alien to him.
Experts say that parents need to be not only understanding, but also empathetic. Keep in touch with current trends and reality. Try and see the world through your teenager’s eyes, yet do not forget that you are a parent. The main grouse teenagers have is “My parents do not trust me; they do not understand me.” Trust your teenager. Expose him to decision- making situations. Give him the freedom to grow. If you need to criticize him, be direct and clear. Teenagers find it hard to deal with indirect criticism. They respond better and much more effectively to direct and honest criticism. You will reap rich dividends if you develop listening skill. Listen to your teenager. Do not pre-empt a situation by trying to outguess or outwit him. Never “prejudge.” Give him a fair chance to express his feelings. Create a conducive atmosphere at home for your teenager to feel secure. Assure him that despite all disagreements and conflicting opinions, he can always count on you. Lastly, remember your child is not an extension of you. He is a complete individual. Respect his individuality.
Khalil Gibran says it aptly, “You may house their bodies, but not their souls. For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them but seek not to make them like you.”