Have you recently caught yourself pulling up your teenager saying, “When I was your age, I would walk a mile to catch a bus?” A lot of parents that we see around us say it. Do you wonder at the difference in your behaviour when you were his age and his behaviour today? Parents in an attempt to get their teenagers to do some work or cultivate some habits are invariably caught saying it. When I was your age I would cook for a family of 10 people. When I was your age I would walk a mile to reach school. When I was your age I would finish the house work before going to school. When I was your age I had a bicycle and you want a car? When I was your age I was married and had all my children… when I was your age…when I was your age…..

The counter argument to this is usually ‘so what?’ Or ‘Why did you do so?’, ‘Do you expect me to be like you?

But why do parents do this? What is it that makes them compare their children with themselves? When parents say this, they have in their minds, a wish to inculcate good habits in children. They cannot bear to see their children behave differently from what they think is ideal behaviour.

This kind of comparison has a very unhealthy feel. It leaves a sour taste. Especially for the adolescent who is as it is hard pressed to prove himself in the highly competitive world outside. His struggles are least with basic needs like food or shelter. He has higher order needs of enhancing his self – esteem through building healthy relationships and working towards competence.

There seem to be two obvious reasons that make parents talk like this is:

  1. Parents may fail to understand the reason behind the teenager’s behaviour. “Why does he not put his things in order?” Then there is wondering if all children his age behave in a similar manner. This is followed by comparing with the self. It is surprising though how parents only remember the ideal things they used to do when it comes to expecting behaviour of their children. But they seldom remember the irresponsible things that they did.

Parents forget the fact that the changing times have their own dynamics. Had they been born today or had the conditions been similar in their times they would have responded in the same way as their teenager does.

  1. Parents may think that making the teenager feel guilty about his behaviour may lead to   change his ways. They are afraid that would get too independent minded and thus parents would have control over their children and that would be a rude shock. If they feel the child is spending too much money then they would immediately remind him how hard they have to work hard to earn it. They wish to make the teenager more responsible and see him achieve concrete and observable gains.

How does the teenager feel about this? Well, he would feel…

  • Belittled
  • Worthless and undeserving
  • Distrusted
  • Unloved
  • Unappreciated
  • Guilt

What is the teenager’s reaction?

Most often, it is rebellion and disobedience. Or it could be resentful submission. The adolescent teenager starts questioning the correctness of the parents’ behaviour and choices. He starts to do just the opposite of what is expected from him. When we talk of adolescent we must remember that he is out of the hero- worship stage; he can look around himself and ask questions.

There are other ways of getting teenagers to do what parents think as “appropriate”:

  • If a teenager is not doing what he ought to be, then tell him to do it first, and then remind him gently. He will do the work. But if you pull him up saying when I was your age… he will not do it—does he care about what you did when you were his age? Or do you care how your parents operated when they were your age?
  • Show him the advantages of doing what you wish him to do. This will inculcate self discipline in him.
  • Let him show how much you appreciate his help and cooperation.
  • Gently let him knows if you’re hurt by his behaviour-do not demonstrate anger. Talk about what has upset you.
  • Help him find his strengths; he knows his weaknesses and shortcomings.

But before you go about working things out with your teenager, give yourself a day to think over preset idea, belief, and habits.

  • Do you need to evaluate your definition of “appropriate behaviour”?
  • Would you have not loved to watch TV, as teenager, if it were as entertaining then as it is now? Go easy on the teenager.
  • Would you have still walked a mile to the nearest bus stop if your father had given you a bike?
  • How would you have liked the feeling of a parent constantly reminding of what trouble he is going through to provide your basic needs in life? You may be going through a great deal but explain to him gently and only once. The teenager is not stupid!

Give him a change, a breather. You don’t expect him to prove himself just yet. Your patience will pay off. Start trying today. The next time you want to pull him up, stop yourself; is what he is doing, important enough to warrant a discussion? If not then just lay off. If you have experienced life, you know that he may not have these carefree days WHEN HE IS YOUR AGE..!

10 Mistakes Parents Need To Avoid In Bringing Up Their Children:

  1. Compare ….. Compare …..  and Compare.
  2. Lecture and advice instead of share and discuss.
  3. Setting unreasonable goals / expectations.
  4. Talk more and listen less.
  5. Own / over possess their children.
  6. Confuse the child with dual messages.
  7. Determined to make a man (or woman) of their child.
  8. Except or secretly expect perfection and total obedience.
  9. Listen to your pearls of wisdom without experimenting and learning on their own.
  10. Ignore and negate the influence of media and peers on them.

Strategies towards impactful parenting:- 

  1. Respect and value the child’s uniqueness.
  2. Make communicative a way of life
  3. Listen more and advice less.
  4. Get to know his / her friends.
  5. Respect his privacy and space.
  6. Balance emotions and cognitions.
  7. Be open, clear and emotionally mature and expect the unexpected.
  8. Remember your children were born by you and you cannot own and possess them. They have a free will to live the way they choose.

As your child grows up, you too have to grow up and understand his changing needs. The conversation has to change from parent – to child To an adult –to an-adult. The new relationship based on respect and freedom.

– Dr. Nimrat Singh