Being a teenager is an amazing time and a hard time. It's when you make your best friends — I have girls who will never leave my heart and I still talk to. You get the best and the worst as a teen. You have the best friendships and the worst heartbreaks. — Sophia Bush, Actor
The American movie star and activist could not be more spot-on. Teenage is the time when children are busy discovering themselves and wondering what lies ahead. While this raises our concern and we end up giving our teen a few words of advice, he usually finds it hard to accept. Therefore, we need to be careful about what we tell our teen and how we put it across to him.
Dr. Kedar Tilwe, Consultant Psychiatrist at the Dept. of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Hiranandani Hospital, Mumbai, and Shailaja Kumari Shyamsukha, Holistic Development Coach and Mental Health Therapist, Mumbai, share with us a list of nine things that we should never tell our teenager.
- How did your classmate get better marks? Teenagers are very touchy about their academic performance — the marks they score and the rank they obtain. Comparing your teen's academic performance with his peers will only make him react in a defensive manner. It can even sow seeds of discord between him and his friends. It will be much more fruitful to offer words of encouragement and guide your teen towards improving his scores.
- Your brother is smarter than you! Yes, at times, it may seem like one child is cleverer than the other and, easier to handle as well. But, spelling this out repeatedly will only fuel feelings of resentment. The resulting sibling rivalry, can in some cases, persist for life. Also, saying so can adversely affect your child’s confidence, self-esteem and ability to take initiatives.
- When will you act like a grown up? This is a statement that almost every parent makes in frustration and which a teen hears in bewilderment! Teenage is about an individual discovering herself, but it is still very much a time of growth and development. Adulthood comes later. So, instead of having high expectations from your teen, allow her the space to err and learn.
- How could you do such a thing! Some things adolescents do can make us wonder if we should appreciate them or admonish them. At such times, take a deep breath, calm down and then, take stock of the situation. Hear your teen’s side of the story before passing your judgment. Remember, teens develop their own sense of right and wrong and usually need a gentle nudge to accept certain social norms. Be understanding instead giving them a verbal lashing.
- If I had your opportunities … Teens are aware of the sacrifices their parents are making for them. They also know what their parents expect and do try their best to fulfil these aspirations. So, nagging your teen about not making use of opportunities available to her only serves to increase the pressure and, deflate her self-confidence. It can also heighten her sense of worthlessness. A gentle, understanding hug and a word of appreciation, will ensure that your teen works harder to make her chances count!
- It was never that way during my time and it holds good even now: Times change and cultures evolve. Not every golden rule will remain relevant with changing times. So, be more understanding of the fact that forcing your teen to do what you did as a teenager may put him at a disadvantage. Let your child evolve by allowing him to mingle with his peers and become more tech savvy. But, do set reasonable limits to keep him safe!
- You won't understand anything OR you're too young to understand: While a teen is still a child, she is capable of making sense of the changes taking place around her. So, telling your teen that she wouldn't understand or is too young to understand, makes her feel left out. She may even come to resent your dismissive attitude.
- Can you do anything right at all? Teens are growing up. So, they are always experimenting and exploring, which can sometimes result in undesirable and annoying outcomes. Berating your teen for his mistakes can shatter his confidence. A wiser approach is to sit down with your child and talk to him about how he can make better judgments.
- I don't like your friend: Friends occupy a place of importance in a teen's life. Teens learn a lot about life from their friends, like how to resolve conflicts or forge relationships. However, sometimes, a teen's best friend fails to create a positive impression in the minds of parents. If that's the case with you, talk to your child about your concerns instead of being critical of her friend. Your habit of judging your teen's choices will make her feel vulnerable.
To sum it all up, in the words of Marian Wright Edelman, a child rights activist, “To all those mothers and fathers who are struggling with teenagers, I say, just be patient: even though it looks like you can't do anything right for a number of years, parents become popular again when kids reach 25.”
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