By Saswati Kar
It was an experiment with my first article, “We can understand the teen issues in the best way by empathetic”, where the issue of ‘empathy’ was raised and dealt with a voice of a rational thinking person who is active in the field of guidance and counselling.
I wanted to make my 15-year-old daughter read the article. The first look on the title, and she said, “See, Mama, now you know, how important it is to become empathetic towards teenagers?”
A little later, when she saw that I have written it, she laughed aloud and went on reading the article with a strange look on her face. She said, “Mama, it is all about me, right? You have written it because you find me behaving like that very often. I wish our teachers also understand and become little empathetic towards us.”
This gave me an idea about my next article. This article is not exactly about parenting right, or understanding the teen behaviour. I just have tried to share some thoughts about issues of adolescence from the lenses of an adult and also of a teenager that may be of some help to parents of teenagers.
Dealing with my own teenage daughters, I have found out that going back to our own past to find an answer to the multitude of problems we faced as teenagers actually can ease a lot of pain we tend to face as parents.
I will be glad to get some interesting responses from readers who would wish to share some teen aches of their own or successful strategies dealing with problem behaviour of teenagers.
It is only when the cherubic smiles turn into frowns of disgruntlement, you realise that your child has entered his/ her teens. Both our daughters undoubtedly have their own difficulties managing their own moods as well as the weird ways of their parents, teachers, and other advisors from extended clan who behave as though they were born as matured rational adults.
Both our daughters are so different from each other that what worked for the elder one grossly is failing for the younger one, leaving us utterly confused. We never had any difficulties raising the older one, but we are nearly at our wits’ end finding ways and means to tackle the challenges thrown by the younger one.
There are some absolutely thrilling moments to see her growing up as an individual with a sharp mind. But, before the spell of joy becomes a normal go, there awaits the razor sharp tongue ready to cut deep, leaving us wounded. Many a Mini battles are fought every other day at home. So, we keep oscillating between exhilaration and exhaustion. We congratulate ourselves if we manage to win one tiny battle against her when she willy nilly agrees with us. But such congratulatory moments are rare. Other times, we stand in solidarity just to keep the coalition strong to maintain the balance of power.
I need to make a candid and honest declaration here that my specialisation in guidance and counselling during M Ed, and all the counselling experience so far seem to be inadequate when it comes to actual parenting of our younger daughter. While seeking help to become a better parent to her, I have ended up reading innumerable articles on “dealing with difficult teenagers successfully”.
In that process, many a times, I found experts reiterating that mostly the teen behaviour (misdemeanours, angry outbursts, arguments, etc.) are actually triggered by the parents. And perforce, I start to look at my own self objectively. Needless to say that in my own court where I am the judge, and I am my own advocate too, I struggle to build a strong case in my defence.
So, a journey through my own past has become a necessity of sort to view my own adolescent years from a teenager’s perspective.
The first and foremost truth that is revealed to me is: Teens in every age are more troubled than troubling.
With this revelation, a sudden empathy fills my heart for my own self and I growl beneath my breath for all the pain inflicted by my parents on me – this poor soul – at that point. I realise, I was a victim of parental pressure of all kinds, all those years, and I was actually made to believe that I was wrong.
It means, when I never could understand the reasons behind most of the scolding I received at that time, I wasn’t actually wrong; I was just a teenager. This realisation to some extent helps me to build empathy amidst all the chaos and I start to look at my daughter with some amount of empathy.
She is a darling daughter when it comes to showering her love and affection on us. But disobedience is her second name. Before even we say something, she decides not to do it.
But as a mother, I just can’t overlook at the behavioural part. I have to keep harping on the fact, that no one will tolerate bad behaviour unless she is the boss.
In the process of the real world workshop, we have our good days and bad days. Good days are just like dreams and bad ones feel real. They put me under a scanner. I try to gather all the patience and good sense in me together and yet fail on some moments. It takes a while to think of the right method of communication that will work with her.
Last week, my daughter and I had one of our bad day and it needed a lot of effort to think of the right words and right method to communicate to her. During our conversation, when I found her listening to me with a desired attention, I told about how helpless a mother can feel when she witnesses bad behaviour from a child who is so good otherwise.
Her response was more than I expected. It made the block in my heart start melting like wax. I didn’t find right words to respond when my troubled teenager asked, “Mama, do you think I am not trying to mend my behaviour? I am trying, but, I just don’t understand, why I get so angry when you scold me.”
She looked so adorably innocent. I saw honesty in her teary eyes. My heart had melted, but I still persisted and asked, “But there is no repentance I see after you misbehave, why?”
I was forced to reflect after the reply I got. “Who said I don’t want to repent? I just want to be left alone to reflect and repent in my own way, but before even I start doing it, either you or papa start calling, come beta, have food…go to sleep, stop behaving that way, etc. and my rhythm breaks.”
We couldn’t help laughing as we knew she was right.
After a rough and difficult episode at home, she asked me, “Mama, how come you can love me so much even when you are angry with me?” I felt that is a big reward a teenager, rather, a difficult one can ever give any parent.
It left me wondering about her observation. It was not a question she asked, and I didn’t want to find any answer to that. Perhaps that is what most parents always do. We set examples through our own behaviour. As parents of teenagers, every single day is different. We must look at the challenges as source of enriching experiences and an opportunity to make the bond with our teenagers stronger.
(Kar is a soft-skill and life-skill trainer)