Parenting teens is often portrayed as an ordeal of sorts. Here are 5 tips for better parenting that dismiss misconceptions about raising teenagers, and can pave the way for a more beautiful parent-child relationship.
Sadhguru: Let me tell you a joke. A couple was struggling with the decision whether to have children or not. The husband wanted to have children. The wife said it wasn’t necessary – they could get a dog instead. They could not settle the debate, so they went to a marriage counselor. They said, “We are not able to make up our mind whether to have children or to get a dog. What should we do?” The marriage counselor said, “This is very simple. Do you want to ruin your carpets or your life? You must decide.”
Like infancy, childhood, adulthood, middle age, and old age, adolescence or teenage is just a certain developmental stage. We are trying to segment it, but essentially, this is the journey of a body. Some are suffering infancy problems, some teenage problems, some are going through middle age problems, some are going through old age problems. Looking at it from this perspective, every phase of life seems to be a problem. Instead of seeing it as different facets of life, people see it as different problems.
There are various types of situations in your life, and that is all they are – situations. Some of them you can handle – some of them you cannot. Whatever you cannot handle, you call a problem, rather than seeing it is only a situation and trying to equip yourself to handle it. The moment you call it a problem, unpleasantness is a natural consequence.
#1 Be a good friend
If you look at it from the teenager’s perspective, every day, life is changing within you because you are growing rapidly, and the people around you are not able to grasp that. Usually, grandparents become a little more endearing than parents because they look at things from a little distance. As a teenager, you are slowly getting hijacked by your hormones. Old age means you are being released from that, so they kind of understand. Those of you who are middle-aged have no clue. Even historically, the Middle Agers represent a confused state of mind!
There are many aspects to teenage years. One thing is, your intelligence is being hijacked by your hormones. Suddenly, the whole world looks different. What were just people are suddenly becoming males and females. Suddenly, you are only interested in one half of humanity. It is a huge change. You must understand it is new to them and they are trying to come to terms with it.
If you were a good friend and they had problems, they would talk to you. Because most parents are lousy friends, they make other friends, and those friends give their own whacky advice since they are also in the same state. It would be best that if your children have a problem, they come to you. But they will not come to you if you think you are the boss. They will not come to you if you think you have ownership over their life. They will not come to you if you are “that horrible father or mother.”
They will come to you if you are a good friend, because when they have problems, it is natural for them to seek a friend. So make sure from an early age that you are their best friend until they reach the age of 18 or 20. You have to earn it. It will not happen because you delivered them. Because you delivered them, you get the title of mother and father – you will not get the title of a friend. This has to be earned by you behaving responsibly every day.
#2 Make them responsible
Do not deal with your teenagers. Make yourself available for them. Make them responsible for everything. One month, have the courage to hand over your monthly income to them and give them the responsibility to manage the house. You will see, things will change dramatically. If you really want to do something with your children, you must allow them to expand, because that is all they are trying to do. It is not just their body that is growing – the potential of the human being is also growing. You must allow them to expand, rather than seeing how to restrict them.
If you try to restrict them, you will have huge problems. If you have boys, you will have one kind of problem. If you have girls, you will have another kind of problem. Do not think restriction is a good way of controlling life. Responsibility will put them on track. As I said, hand over your money to them and tell them to handle it this month – you are on vacation. If you are afraid that they will go and blow it up – if they do, what happens to you will happen to them too. Let them go through it for a month. Of course you can keep some reserve, but let them understand if they blow up the money, there will be no breakfast tomorrow morning. It is better to learn in a protected, caring atmosphere than out on the street.
#3 Stop eulogizing helplessness
Your children are growing up and becoming teenagers – that should be a joyful event. But you are distressed about them growing up. Unfortunately, we have eulogized infancy and childhood, which are helpless stages of life. When children are small, they are helpless and look to you for everything. You think your children are magical because they are helpless. Suppose the baby popped out of you, stood up, and said, “Hey, who the hell are you?” you would not like this baby. But they take 14 or 15 years to ask that question. In fact, that is all a teenager is asking, “Okay, who the hell are you?”
If you eulogize childhood, this helpless phase in life where without someone else’s support we cannot exist, you will remain helpless forever. Because people get used to their children being helpless creatures, when they reach the so-called teenage and start standing on their own feet, people do not like it.
If you want to be someone significant to that fresh life, you must not have defined boundaries of who you are. When the child was an infant and he crawled, you crawled with him. Now when the teenager wants to swing, you must be able to swing with him. If you still want to crawl with him, he is not interested. In the eyes of young and energetic adolescents, parents, who think you still need to be crawled around with, look ridiculous.
#4 Don’t “own” them, include them
Drop this idea that your child belongs to you. If you think these children belong to you, coming into their teens, they will tell you in their own way, “Goddammit, I don’t belong to you.” That is all they are trying to tell you – which you are not able to digest. Another life does not belong to you. If another life has chosen to be with you, please cherish that. It is a tremendous thing. Whether it is your husband, your wife, or your children – value the fact that another life has chosen to come through you or be with you. You do not own them in any sense. If you do not get it now, you will get it when you die or they die. You do not own them, but definitely, you should include them.
#5 Do something about yourself
If we really want to bring up our children well, first of all we must see if we can do something with ourselves. Everyone who wishes to be a parent must do one simple experiment. Let them sit down and see what is it that is not okay with their lives, and what would be good for their lives – not about the world outside because that needs cooperation from others, but about themselves. Let them see if they can manifest that in the next three months.
Something about yourself – your own behaviour, speech, modes of action, and habits – if you can alter that in three months, then you would handle your son or daughter also with wisdom. Otherwise you will go by some consultancy from someone else. There is no consultancy. It takes observation of a particular child as to what should be done and what should not be done with that particular individual. You cannot do the same things with every child because each is a unique happening.
Editor’s Note: Find more of Sadhguru’s wisdom on parenting in “Inspire Your Child, Inspire the World”. Enter ‘0’ in the price field for a free download.