We can understand the teen issues in the best way by being empathetic

By Saswati Kar

The most difficult phase of human life perhaps is adolescence.

So much changes in appearance itself is enough to put one under pressure, and we burden them with every other stuff under the sun: Hard work, diligence, discipline, sincerity, obedience, goal setting, goal orientation, hobbies, skill development, general awareness, social skills, emotional intelligence, winning attitude, performance in academic and non academic field… and the list is endless.

No wonder our teenagers start behaving in the most undesirable way and become volatile and reactive.

Have we taken time out to see why they behave the way they do? Are we ready to actually see things in perspective? Are we ready to use empathy?

The following important points need to be pondered over:

  1. Rather than reacting to what our children do wrong, we need to give them more chances to do things right.
  2. Repetition is how people learn; biologically, it’s how neural pathways get laid down and reinforced.
  3. Whether adult or child, a person is least able to learn a new skill when he’s feeling confused, incompetent or negative.
  4. We learn best when we’re “catching on” or “getting the hang of it.” Teachers must understand this and see to it that maximum children in the class get the hang of the subject they are teaching.
  5. Finding ways to empower a child is the root of all effective interventions.
  6. In general, children have very little power in their lives. At school, where they spend most of their day, they are told when to move, when to eat, what kind of chair to occupy, etc.
  7. They have no say in the furniture they use, lighting, noise level, duration, time of day or tempo of the tasks they must undertake.
  8. We take away all power except the power to say no, and if this is the only power a person has left, he will surely use it. Hence most teenagers turn rebellious by saying “No”
  9. Remember that growth and development come from nourishing a person’s strengths, not from “controlling” or “repairing” his weaknesses. We must start looking at the uniqueness in every child.
  10. Teenagers have heightened emotional sensitivity to perceptions of unfairness, discrepancy or insincerity.
  11. This can result in behaviours that may look oppositional or rude – refusing to listen, running away, tuning out, becoming angry and defiant and so on.

What we need to understand is that these behaviours actually come from the child’s acute sensitivity and inability to tolerate contradictory impressions. We can understand the teen issues in the best way by being empathetic in our approach. If we can listen and respond in a respectful and non-judgmental way, most of our teenagers will turn out to be cooperative and integrated.

(Kar is a soft-skill and life-skill trainer)