Handling day-to-day interactions with teenagers can be a veritable minefield. Reams have been written about this subject and Google-ing it throws up any number of websites giving advice on how to go about handling the thorny issue. While these websites provide guidance on sorting out big issues, I have found that avoiding day-today conflict with your teenager can help in keeping communication open and creating an agreeable atmosphere to tackle the bigger issues. I spoke to some teenagers and asked them to list some ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ that parents could follow to reduce strife at home and here is what I came up with:
- Don’t talk to friends: Teenagers do not appreciate parents talking too much to their friends when they visit home or meet elsewhere, especially on academic issues. The line between ‘being friendly’ and ‘talking too much’ is very thin, so beware!
- Dress well: Teenagers want us to dress well when they bring friends home or we visit their school for events/PTMs etc. This is a difficult area as what a teenager considers ‘correct’ for parents (read mothers) may not match the mother’s style of dressing
- Allow us to dress as we like: Teenagers do not want to be told how to dress – this is in direct contrast to the previous point! They don’t want to wear traditional clothes even for festivals, family get-togethers or weddings
- Don’t get ‘historical’:Do not dredge up past incidents/mistakes and throw it in their face. Teenagers feel that the past should remain buried!
- Privacy: Teenagers feel that they are entitled to their privacy and do not appreciate parents eavesdropping on their phone conversations. Personally, I have found teens to be very touchy on this score and even accidental overhearing is misconstrued as intentional eavesdropping! It is sometimes difficult not to overhear conversations, especially when they are conducted in the living room
- Dinner time is TV time: Don’t try to convert dinner time into family time. This is a difficult one – dinner is the only meal a family is able to eat together in today’s busy world, especially in a metro like Bangalore, and we always try to make it into a time for family bonding, exchanging news about each other’s day or sharing problems. Teenagers, especially those who are pressed for time due to multiple activities and stringent academic schedules, view this time as TV time and prefer to catch up with their favourite (read inappropriate!) TV serials! They do not want to sit at the dining table or participate in a ‘family’ conversation. I got the impression that not watching the ‘in’ serial would result in ‘knowledge gap’ at lunch time discussions in school the next day!
- Don’t try to pin them down to a schedule: This is another difficult one – especially when we find teens dawdling over every activity (breakfast, lunch, etc) in the study holidays preceding board exams. Procrastination is the order of the day and asking them when they intend to start studying is like waving a red flag before a bull!
- Don’t compare: This is something every parent knows but I guess we are still doing it without our knowledge or it wouldn’t be on teenagers’ lists. Either that or teenagers today are more sensitive
- Avoid unpopular topics: Teenagers get very irritated when parents persist in talking about some topics which they do not want to discuss
These were some inputs I got from my friend’s daughter and my son and are by no means exhaustive. I am sure each mother will have something of her own to add depending on her experience. But I hope it will be of some help to all those parents who deal with unpredictable teenagers on a daily basis. Most of these are minor irritants and I have found it is easy to reach a consensus on these issues leading to more peace at home. Also, avoiding conflict on these day-to-day irritants will pave the way for harmonious resolution of other bigger issues as it is important for parents to choose their battles wisely.
(With inputs from my friend Rajani Ravi)