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.
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