Teen trouble

A 13-year-old girl regularly buys cigarettes for her mother from the store across the street. Her group of friends all in similar age group use abuses liberally, watch objectionable content on cellphones, have a culture at their home that exposes them to everything age inappropriate.

 Another teen has a girlfriend, lives with her on and off, pays no attention to academics, is rough, violent and abusive with parents.

 A boy takes another boy’s phone on a school trip, watches porn on it by force and makes other kids watch the same. All in the name of harmless fun even when the boy who owned the phone protested.

These are all real stories. Now, I am not here to pass moral judgments about others but these incidents really lead me to despair.

How do we deal with teens these days? Teens as young as 12-13 are having girlfriends and boyfriends. Children as young as 14-15 are sleeping around and expect their parents to be okay with that. We all know that this is an age when the teens have the greatest influence of peers in their lives and parents and their opinions just fade to a corner of their consciousness.

How much and what can the parents monitor? Even if your children do not have cellphone, their friends do. And they will ensure that you consume objectionable, inappropriate content. How do you keep them away from friends who clearly seem like bad apples. I don’t approve of children being exposed to smoking and drinking and encouraged to try them at that age. What if they are going to friends’ homes whose parents have no such qualms?

I remember Michelle Obama exhorting young girls in a video that No boy is cute enough for you to give up your education.

Yet, we find teens losing their way and compromising these years when they can build their life and get educated. With raging hormones, some relationships may take over their focus and make being with that girl/boy the only consuming need.

Clearly, they are not thinking about the future. What happens a few years down the line? Will college dropouts be able to fund the lifestyles that their parents have generously provided them all these years? How will they get their life back on track?

As a parent, I wonder what we must do? How much freedom must we give our kids? While we trust them, can we trust the company they keep? I feel very strongly about this – why must any parent put up with rank disobedience and abuse of any kind from their child?

With technology putting a lot of things within the reach of our children, who are still young and emotionally immature, how do parents actually keep their own heads above water?

I have seen some children, perfectly normal from hardworking, good parents go totally awry. Any attempts to reason with them makes them give threats of bodily injury, abuses to parents and worse. So many such cases have unfolded around me that I just keep my fingers crossed that such fate does not befall me.

I mean, I personally know their parents and can’t really say that they did something drastically wrong.

I know that I always say that we must trust our children. We do and that is why we give them so much leeway to make their own decisions. We also must talk to them frequently. I am sure a lot of parents are doing that. But one area where I find parents slipping is discipline. Now discipline is a tricky animal. You do more of it and it is stifling. You do lesser and your kids miss out on being organized, sensible individuals.

Don’t hesitate to initiate discipline in your children’s lives. It is good. I see so many kids riding bikes, scooters and cars starting from the age of 13-14. This blame has to go solely to parents. Underage drivers are a menace to themselves and others on the road. Please do not allow your children to drive vehicles till they are 18. Similarly, do not initiate them into age-inappropriate activities and content.

Monitoring your kids is important too. It does not imply a trust deficit. It just shows that you care for them. We are all aware of new threats like online stalkers, bad friends etc. that our kids need to be protected from. As far as possible, keep their online time in check. Make sure they do not get access to objectionable content online at home. And do not give them post-paid accounts on their mobile phones. Avoid giving them data plans as well. As much as possible, keep them away from these influences. Also talk to them and tell them why you are doing so. Make them stakeholders. Listen to their views. An XYZ friend or his parent allowing the same is never an argument that cuts ice with me.

My home, my parenting, my rules.

Lastly, pray that your kids don’t go down the terrible path. We all know how the best-laid plans often go kaput because of how circumstances pan out. If your teen has fallen upon a bad patch, solicit the help of close friends, relatives or even counselors.

Do share your views on this sticky topic.

Pic courtesy: VGStockStudio on Shutterstock

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39 Thoughts on “How to Stop Your Children From Losing Their Way?

  1. Ah.. you have hit a raw nerve and the worst fear of any parent today… I think open communication and leading by example is the only way. I could not believe a mom asking her daughter to bring cigarettes… I pray for all these kids….
    Prasad Np recently posted…Ode to LesvosMy Profile

    • Oh yes. I could not believe it either if I had not seen it with my own eyes. Unfortunately, a lot of crap passes off in the name of liberalism these days by parents.

  2. This is a bone chilling topic. We are living in difficult times and it is more stressful for a child to fit in, both at home and outside. While I agree with you on ‘parenting first’, I also feel it is important to know your child and its needs in parenting. For eg., strict discipline and a strong tone will work for one child, whereas a softer approach for another might work wonders. (Ah! what was it in our times that anyone and everyone could whack us in the name of discipline & learning? :D) A very thought provoking and relevant post.

    • You are right, Anita. There is a tussle for the kid to balance the world at home and outside. It was the same for us as well and I guess for every generation though the challenges change. I agree that we have to listen to our children and also see what strategies work for each child. But I also believe that discipline is important and kids have to follow rules of their house. Giving free rein to our kids in the name of giving them freedom often brings about their downfall. Thanks, Anita.

  3. Lata Sunil on September 27, 2016 at 1:09 pm said:

    I would say communication is of utmost importance. The kids are not grown ups yet. They should know they have to be responsible for their actions. Keep talking to them even if they get irritated. Also, tell them to inform you of any trouble either they have caused or someone else has. This way they will learn to trust us again. I am going through the wringer at home with my 2 teenage boys.

    • My empathy for you, Lata. I find it so difficult to accept when the teen turns so rebellious as to completely lose control as I’ve mentioned in the above cases. It is difficult to bring them back on track then.

  4. That age is coming all too soon and I honestly think we had it better growing up. Too much leeway these days under the guise of attachment parenting and never disciplining kids. We have to draw the line somewhere. Kids had better learn that.

    Not sure what challenges lie ahead. I hope and pray my God will always guide me on this parenting path. And Gy too.
    Shailaja Vishwanath recently posted…Workouts for Fitness and Health: Find your typeMy Profile

    • We did, Shy. I wonder if every generation felt that. I have been feeling the same. Parents are giving up their accountability and responsibility in the name of being liberal. A lot of crap passes around in the name of parenting. Kids grow up feeling entitled and pampered. My younger son is already telling me about the FB accounts his good friends have.

      I was so disturbed when I saw these cases that I’ve mentioned. I have held back on the gory details but it is gutting to see how some kids behave. Like you, I pray that my kids stay grounded and sensible. It is tough times.

  5. Proper discipline, open communication and setting up example can help a lot.
    I have seen lots kids not even in their teens riding motor cycles, cars, using smart phones, whats the use of it? Let them learn and grow.
    Keep your eyes and ears open.
    And rest as you have said pray for best.

    • You are right, Swati. Setting a good example helps. But so many parents have just given up on their responsibility, busy as they are with their own gadgets and other distractions.

  6. You echo my thoughts. I am on the same boat..never sure if this is right or this is wrong. What is too much and what is too little..I know yelling doesn’t go anywhere…I plan on starting the day in a lower pitch and calm tone, but it goes the other way no time. The other day he said, “If there is HW, I will do it. Doesn’t mean I have to do it right now…you guys don’t know how to do right parenting”. And yes, it really scares to see other teens go awry…but 14-15 yr old kids sleeping around..I thought things aren’t that bad in India as they are here….:(
    Found In Folsom recently posted…I hate Desis!!My Profile

    • So true, Latha. We keep second guessing ourselves. Me too. I plan not to yell but all good intentions do down the drain as they continue with their shenanigans.

      Oh that is what we all think that kids are much worse off in the US. But any large city in India and the challenges are the same.

  7. Teen years surely bring in a lot of challenges for parents. SOmetimes testing the parents limits. But they are still our child, and we need to monitor them and be on tenterhooks… literally.. though they won’t admit it, they still need us!And Shailaja as mentioned, it’s more difficult these days.
    Ramya Abhinand recently posted…Parenting Alone? It’s No Easy JobMy Profile

  8. I find that there is a major shift in parenting in India away from the harsh punishments that we were given as kids to something that’s perhaps too permissive. You say that you don’t blame the parents, but I feel like parents have stopped saying ‘no’ to their kids and that leads to a lot of this kind of behavior.
    Roshni recently posted…School and life lessonsMy Profile

    • You hit the nail on the head, Rosh. Most parents are way too permissive now. They consider discipline a cuss word and look where it is taking kids. The worst part is that the child is torn between the home and the outside world where he wishes to fit in. And those kids are doing all kinds of strange things. How are the kids going out of hand like this? Perhaps like you said their parents are at fault. But then it is something to do with the children too. I know some of these parents whose one child is the epitome of good behaviour and the other is the exact opposite. I would assume the parenting to be the same for both. It is tough for parents like me who are clear about what we want to do but also worried about the status quo we see unfolding around us.

  9. You’ve voiced one of my latent worries Rachna. I have seen how kids change as they enter their teens or even before that and it scares me. And like you said sometimes it is despite the fact that the parents are sane down to earth people who did everything right. Monitoring and keeping in touch with the kids truly is crucial. As in really talking to them to understand how they feel and what they think. I thought once they grew up life would be easy!!!
    Obsessivemom recently posted…A milestone and a celebrationMy Profile

    • You know what, I thought the same, Tulika. But you realize that you are not the center of their universe as they get older. They openly argue and test your limits. It is a crucial time when parents must be around and clued in and communicating with them. It scares me with what I am seeing around me. It makes me feel as if the world is going too fast and I am finding hard to keep pace. Or rather, I am not even sure if I like these changes. Some parents are really messed up like that girl’s parents who pass off crap in the name of freedom.

  10. I have to be honest, Rachna, and say that I haven’t thought that far ahead yet. But, yes, I do understand the concerns. And it seems to be getting progressively more complex as generations go.
    I suppose, maintaining ‘open channels of communication’ is the only way forward. Rather, best way, I suppose. The tendency to rebel is also quite high during the teenage years, so understanding their ’emotional and physical’ challenges is also important.
    Coming to you personally, having met both your kids, and you and G, I’m sure ‘all will be well’.
    Sid recently posted…A Mug of …..My Profile

    • Yes, of course. Your challenges will be different as your teen will be another decade ahead. Like you said, it is just getting so complex.

      You know we all want to be that supportive and understanding parent but rebellion is not pleasant to handle. Some kids seem to be on the warpath but I just hope that it is an exception rather than the rule.

      Thank you for your words of support. I am holding on to them and wishing that all goes well. Some recent experiences of friends around me has really made me depressed and despairing.

  11. With my son studying so far away, and hearing all sorts of things happening on campus, I can only pray and hope, besides trusting that he will show good judgement over what to pay attention to, and what not to. This is especially worrisome when they have to manage their lives on their own and take the right decisions for themselves. Growing up is not easy, Rachna. And considering the kind of leeway parents are okay with allowing their children these days, life is tough for everyone. Taking the easy way out and letting children do/have what they want because disciplining them is too much work is not parenting.

    As for the girl buying cigarettes for her dad and the others… what can I say? My blood boils. I watched the children’s edition of Crime Patrol and it shot my figurative BP right through the roof.
    Vidya Sury recently posted…Udaipur the Venice of the eastMy Profile

    • I can imagine how worried you may feel. Knowing you and hearing tales of how sorted V is, I am sure that he is as grounded as you are. But yet we worry. Letting go is so difficult. We also worry about the environment and sometimes pay for the bad parenting of other parents.

      You said it. So many parents just take the easy way out. Either they are control freak maniacs or loose as sand. Not disciplining your kids or investing time in them is a recipe for disaster. Oh and this girl buys cigarettes for her mother who smokes. The entire family is the encapsulation of how you should not be as a family. You can imagine my horror when I see her indulging in such behaviour feeling all liberated. Sigh!

  12. This scares me. As parents, we need to be vigilant and of course, we must keep the lines of communication open, always. The type of company a child keeps is so very important, because, peer pressure / influence is pretty strong in teenage. Aaryan is in a boarding school, and there are all kinds of kids around, so far he seems to be doing well and has the sense of right and wrong. But still, I am worried.
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  13. It’s a difficult time with kids able to access so much more. With the advantages of internet comes it’s dark side too. Discipline is definitely important and as you say, it’s a delicate balance. We can only hope and pray that we do enable the kids to stay in a proper path.
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  14. Rachna, My kids are young but this thing always scare me. My daughter plays on mobile and watch youtube cartoon videos. Today i know, she just play but what after few years.
    Even today’s movies are not at all appropriate for below 15 age children’s but they do watch them. On internet just fill your curiosity and click search, everything comes in front of you and we all know, how much curious a child is. TV media gives them a hint and then they search on internet for more.

    Sometimes i think, its impossible to save our child from these. But still if we brought them up in disciplined manner, the chances becomes less and thats what we want. There are few more things like communication, habits we can think on.

    Rachna thanks for pointing these…..

    • Thank you, Seema, for sharing your thoughts. I agree with you. We can’t stop them from these influences but we can only raise them well, be around to guide them and hope they will have enough gumption to handle these tricky situations. I guess worrying about what may happen does not serve any purpose. Thanks for your lovely comment.

      • You are right instead of worrying, we should make them aware, whats wrong, how it can harm. That’s what we can do and we should do time to time 🙂

  15. strong post it is, some parents are the reason for the disaster of the their children and its worth saying except parents no one can take proper care of their own children, though i think few people can make objections on some of your points…..let them wait to get the final result.
    Jyotirmoy Sarkar recently posted…Festival and FastingMy Profile

  16. I don’t know how to deal with these challenges honestly. Perhaps in time, I’ll learn. It just seems to me that parenting has become harder with all the advances. Things were so different when we were growing up. It scares me actually because I’m not sure I know what to do when the time comes.
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  17. Point taken Rachna Ji. Hearty thanks for the caveat. It’s essential for all the parents of growing up children.

    Jitendra Mathur

  18. Ravish Mani on October 4, 2016 at 8:28 pm said:

    Hey, Rachna, I understand your concern regarding your children. I am in complete agreement with the threats you have highlighted in this post. They are indeed serious, but I would like to differ with your approach of solving them. In my opinion, they could be disastrous.

    As it appears to me from the title of the post, your approach is negative. You are under the influence of fear. You want to STOP your children from going in wrong direction; instead, try to LEAD them in right direction.

    On the surface, they resemble saying the same thing, but they aren’t. There’s a great difference between the two: first is negative and second is positive. It’s about attitude. Only a right attitude can lead you into right direction, which ultimately ends in success.

    You asked, “How much and what can the parents monitor?”

    Nothing. Your monitoring is not the solution. You cannot monitor your children everywhere and every time, but you can teach your children to monitor themselves everywhere they go and every time.

    You said, “I don’t approve of children being exposed to smoking and drinking and encouraged to try them at that age. What if they are going to friends’ homes whose parents have no such qualms?”

    You cannot control the circumstances, but you can teach your children how to learn from any circumstance. You can teach them what to pick and what not to pick from surroundings. You can work on building a healthy attitude in them.

    And, be clear that your approval or disapproval don’t matter. The only thing matters is their approval or disapproval. If they really want to smoke or drink, you can’t stop them. They will do without letting you know. Most of the parents don’t know about these activities of their children.

    My suggestion is do not show disgust and hatred towards these activities to them, otherwise they’ll never let you know that they are involved in these activities. Do not impose your liking or disliking on them. Let them decide themselves, but present the matter before them in such a way that they themselves choose what you want them to choose. In this way, it will appear to them as their own decision, not an imposed one.

    Let me give you an example, Tony Robbins, in his bestseller Awaken the Giant Within, mentioned about an incidence in which he expressed his desire to drink beer, like his father, when he was 11 or 12. Normally, a mother should be panicked and tell his son not to do so and start monitoring his activities, but she didn’t do any of these. She knew that she cannot monitor him everywhere. If he wanted to drink, he could drink without letting her know. She bought six beers because his father used to drink six at a time and asked him to drink all six one by one in front of her. After one, he felt full and wanted to stop, but his mother made him to drink more. After third or fourth, he was feeling very sick in stomach and after that he threw up all over himself and around himself. Puking and cleaning up the mess was so disgusting for him that he immediately linked the smell of beer to the vomit and horrible feelings. And after that, he never touched beer. Intrinsic motivation is always more powerful than extrinsic one for a long lasting effect.

    You can justify that your monitoring is the way of your caring not a trust-deficit, but it’s very difficult for teenagers to see it that way. And when you restrict their resources, such as limiting their online time, avoiding giving them data plans etc. and tell them why you are doing so, they will feel that you are imposing your decision on them. I think this approach will make them more rebellious.

    You asked, “How much freedom must we give our kids? While we trust them, can we trust the company they keep?”

    I am in favour of giving them absolute freedom. Give them complete freedom, but also tell them the meaning of freedom. Epictetus said, “Freedom is not procured by a full enjoyment of what is desired but controlling the desire.”

    Attitude is everything. If you trust your children and help in building a healthy attitude in them then you don’t need to worry about trusting their company. You have skilled them to differentiate between a good company and a bad company.

    You said, “Don’t hesitate to initiate discipline in your children’s lives.”

    Well, Stephen Covey said in his bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Seek first to understand then to be understood.” Most of the time, parents want to be understood ignoring the need to understand their children. I am glad that you believe in making them stockholders and listening in their views. In my opinion, teaching them the practice of self-discipline is greater step towards making them stockholders than forcing discipline on them. From my own experience, I can tell that self-discipline is more effective than forced discipline.

    What I get from your post is that you are talking about age-inappropriate activities and contents in the context of pornography and driving. Let me tell you that masturbation is graver issue than pornography, especially for boys, and it has nothing to do with pornography.

    How do you know the appropriate age for onset of puberty? Like, a girl can start menstruation anytime between 9-15 years; so can boys have night fall anytime between 9-15 years. For that to occur, he doesn’t need the influence of pornography. He simply fantasizes any woman he has crush on in his dream unknowingly and discharges. Now, he learns the secret. Anytime, he could fantasize about any woman and could unload himself to get the pleasure.

    Mostly, boys do this in bathroom while bathing. You cannot monitor him there what he’s doing inside the locked bathroom. If you have trust over him, you don’t need to worry about his duration inside, but if you have this fear that he could masturbate there then you will start worrying as duration of him inside the bathroom increases. You don’t have any choice except to rely on his version. You can fix the time of bath in the name of discipline, but it’ll only reinforce your fear and will invoke doubt and disrespect in his mind.

    There’s a line in your post: “I personally know their parents and can’t really say that they did something drastically wrong.” I completely agree with you that they would not have done something wrong, but I’m also sure that they would not have done the right thing either. Not doing the wrong thing doesn’t mean that you’re doing the right thing.

    You asked, “As a parent, I wonder what we must do?”

    Banning the access to pornography and other inappropriate things, such as cigarettes and liquors, are only the half part of the solution. You have to understand why he wants to go in that direction? What is the driving force?

    Stress is the driving force. Mismanagement of enthusiasm is the driving force. He has loads of energy within himself but doesn’t know how to use it, where to invest it. You have to help him in finding a creative way of disposing his high energies. Closing the available outlets of energy and not opening the other ones are the major cause of disaster in shaping the teenagers.

    What you think the inappropriate age is not the inappropriate age in eyes of Nature. You said, “Children as young as 14-15 are sleeping around and expect their parents to be okay with that.” Mahatma Gandhi became father at the age of 14-15. I am not advocating child marriage but want to tell that 14-15 is biologically mature age. You cannot ignore it and simply declare it inappropriate. They are in biologically active and high energy stage. If you are stopping them in indulging sexual activity then you have to provide them an alternative to engage his energy.

    Also, he doesn’t need pornographic material to get excited. He’s already in excited state because of his hormones. You should talk to him before his first night fall; otherwise, he would go to know about it from his friends and other sources. Night fall is very embarrassing for boys. So to avoid it, they start masturbation, which in excess amount is also harmful for the body. Lots of micronutrients leave the body through discharges. And, it’s highly addictive.

    My suggestion is to involve the boys of that age in some kind of physical activity that demands high energy and also to involve them in some kind of meditation for 10-15 minutes daily. Creative works, such as painting, music, etc., could also serve the purpose of meditation. They help in keeping the mind relaxed, focused, and stable.

    Well, I was away from online world for a long time and didn’t read & comment on many posts of yours. I guess I have compensated them with this long comment.

    Happy Navratra.

  19. Rakesh on October 5, 2016 at 10:22 am said:

    very big problem for young generation ..nice post for awareness

  20. Children change with time, yes! it is literally the same condition for every parent everywhere, however I think with communication, open discussion and clear line of discipline, children can be made to stick to a definite border where they know crossing is a sure no no and a taboo.
    strongly feel children (even with all hormones playing haphazard games) will understand that there is certain rules to stand by, with or without the presence of parents. Making this kind of a change comes through positive parenting which is tough but possible..

  21. So the other day I was on train and there was a small family sitting near me. The daughter was about 11 years old I guess. She kept repeating I hate you mom… and when her Mom didn’t respond, she used the F word. I was too shocked and embarrassed to even look their way, so I don’t know how she reacted. But this is the exact thing I am scared of if I have kids. You fear is valid and I have no idea how parents handle this scenario. Rules and regulations might and might not work. It was very simple in our days. I grew up without phone and without color cable TV. Just good old black and white DD1 till 2007 (that’s right) I grew up just fine 🙂
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