This blog is the fifth of a 12-part series on ‘Parenting is a Journey’. Ignatius Fernandez also blogs at http://thechildisfatheroftheman.blogspot.in/.
“Dear Mum and Dad,
We never have a decent parent-child talk. I apologise if this seems insensitive, but your ‘I’m always right’ attitude results in our quarrels. I am an individual who wants more freedom, despite the dangers. I know that this is your worry. Sooner than later, I will have to face reality. Even if I get hurt, I will bounce back. Isn’t life like that? Signed: Silenced” (condensed from The Straits Times, Singapore June 29, 2005)
The third stage, adolescence, which includes the teen years, is perhaps the most difficult period for us and the children. For boys, 10-15, and for girls, 9-13, are times when they pass through puberty; when hormones bring about major changes in the body and mind. At such times, they are vulnerable, irritable and rebellious, but firmly believe that they are more sinned against than sinning. They want to conform to standards set by peers or us, based on were the pull is strong, but will not admit to this urge. The letter reproduced above, is a case in point. At such times, we grieve that there is a huge wall separating children from us, and we wish we could tear it down.
Despite the trauma we suffer, it is a fair option to let growing children evaluate their choices; even as we gently persuade them to think well and think again. We should oversee them without appearing meddlesome, because at this stage they detest prying questions. Tact is the word. The option of letting them evaluate their choices is to help them gain confidence in their own decision making powers. This process would include the choice of courses they opt for in college, and the career that would interest them. Very often we pressure children into course and career choices that we prefer, even though children show no interest in them.
If children make choices that are perilous to themselves, the family or the community, the persuasion from us has to change from gentle to severe. Right through the parenting journey, we should remember that every child is unique, to be handled differently. Even when teens answer back or reject us, we cannot give up on them. One mother calls teen-parenting ‘tough love’, which she explains is: ‘staying firm, but loving’.