Dealing with your unreachable children
“The phone rings in the middle of the night
My father yells, ‘What you gonna do with your life?’
Oh daddy dear, you know you’re still number one
But girls, they wanna have fun.”
It is frustrating for some parents who are instilling values in their children and expecting them to walk the ‘straight and narrow’, then they end up in the wrong crowd.
Many curse them out, turn them over to state homes or just give up in frustration. However, communication specialist and mentor, Joan Andrea Hutchinson, shared with Family and Religion that it important to change strategies when dealing with rebellious teenagers.
The key, she said is in meeting them halfway bearing in mind that they are evolving adults and despite them giving the impression that they are full of bravado and very brassy, many have areas of insecurity and lack confidence.
“Teenagers have a lot going on, the world around them is changing. When we were growing up, we had to go to school, do homework, eat our food and go to bed. They are affected by political issues, crime, health issues, among other things,” Hutchinson said.
Difficult as it may be, she is advising parents not to crowd them, but to instead give them space and the assurance they have the support of their parents, even if they have made a mistake.
Pointing out that young people need guidance, Hutchinson said parents should be good leaders, as even if they appear as if they are not paying attention, they are, so the right examples should be set.
Giving an insight into teens’ resistant mindset, Hutchinson said parents should go back to their growing up years, when their own parents thought the same of them.
“We have to remember that our way of doing and thinking are not the only ways of doing and thinking. We know what we know, but must remember that as much as our teenagers learn from us, we can also learn from them. Make them feel important to the process,” she opines.
She said their opinions should be sought on how to do things, as well as process situations, as well as showing them that you rely upon them.
According to Hutchinson, an attribution to their resistance could be the fact that they are trying to chart their own way as well as to figure out things for themselves.
“Look at the hair issue and young guys not wanting to comb their hair. Many parents are having nightmares, but there was a time in the part when our grandparents were angry with our parents for wearing Afros, locks, bell-bottomed pants and miniskirts and listening to Elvis Presley music and Bob Marley music too,” she reminds.
Hutchinson, in warning about some of the mistakes parents make in their zeal to correct their children, said they push their way as the only way, refusing them the chance to explore other ways of doing things. She said there is a lot to learn from young people.
“They choose their friends and sometimes we see that these friends might be trouble ... but these are their friends. Find a gentle and factual way to deal with it rather than (saying), you just don’t like their friends based on how the person looks or where they come from,” she notes.
However, if all that fails and they seem to have locked off totally from society and starts exhibiting antisocial behaviours, then it is time to seek outside intervention.
It is hard for some parents to deal with their teenagers as everything that they think is progressive and introduce to them, they show no interest in it.
Responding to this issue, Hutchinson asked the question, “what defines progressive?”, pointing out that there is not only one path to success.
Stating that not everyone will be a lawyer, doctor, Indian chief or that not everyone will go to university, she said if your teenagers are interested in anything, then the parents should find a way to get them to do some training and build their capacity in that area.
“Validate their interests, if they want to be a plumber, let them get the training and be the best plumber in the world. Eventually, they may own their own plumbing business and make more money than their doctor friends,” she said.
Parents who find it hard to put their frustration aside end up being blind to the needs of their teenagers. Hutchinson’s advice for them is to remember they were young once and adults at the time had issues with you too. She said it would do parents well to also remember that they were never perfect. They should instead be grateful they have a decent teenager, even if they are not performing at their academic zenith.
She advises parents to enjoy the teens while they can – as difficult as they may be now as many adults have teenagers in prison or running gangs.
“It’s your home, but if his room is a little messy sometimes, don’t start world war three over it.”