Although discipline is genuinely unpleasant for all, if parent-child relationship is built on a foundation of warmth & kindness, it can withstand unpleasantness of discipline. Parents need to remember that the prime directive of adolescence i.e. ‘independence’ prohibits teenagers from admitting that having parents set firm boundaries is actually reassuring. Some of the odiousness of enforcing rules can be eliminated by engaging children in the process of setting the rules and assigning the consequences before the rules are breached.It is quite natural on the part of parents to react emotionally when children break rules because they perceive it as an assault on parental authority. The temptation to react emotionally can be alleviated if they consider, it is by the authority to the family as a whole that the rules were established. Helping to set the rules may not dissolute teenagers from breaking them sometimes, but it can help parents to avoid a power-struggle with their teenagers.
Another big trap in parent teen relationship is the confusion of psychological control (the opposite of psychological autonomy) with discipline. Too many parents are caught up in focussing to control their child; believing that controlling the way their child thinks will translate into controlling what their child does. There is a fine line here; parents need to help children make sense of the world by offering explanations and/or interpretations of events. When parents cannot respectfully consider and discuss the teenager’s interpretation of his or her own experience, the psychological control takes over. During such situations, the adolescents start going into shell adding bitterness, even more bitterness to their behaviour.
Thus when discipline becomes a matter of calmly enforcing family rules about behaviours, many of the problems associated with ‘psychological control’ are alleviated. Psychologically controlled teenagers are depressed and they like to be in their shell as the surrounding is never favorable to them. They are always under stress giving rise to behavioral problems & conduct disorders & if not taken care in time may lead to serious consequence like suicidal attempts.
Recently, there was an article in India Today, as per the study carried out by the department of child & adolescent psychology, AIIMS; India is having top position for the incidence of teenage suicide. In today’s hustle-bustle stress management in teens is getting difficult for the parents who are already under stress in their day-to-day life. Most teens experience more stress when they perceive a situation as dangerous, difficult, or painful and they do not have the resource to cope. Some teens become overloaded with stress which may lead to anxiety, withdrawal, aggression, physical illness or poor coping skills such as drug or alcohol use.
Parents can help their teens by recognising that the teen is under stress & requires counselling. Parents need to monitor if stress is adversely affecting teen’s health, behaviours, thoughts or feelings, listening carefully & watch for overloading; learning stress management skills, supporting by involvement in sports & other prosocial activities, asking help of adolescent health professionals are a few steps to help your teens to come out of their shell by breaking it. Hence, the compassionate alternative to carve your child into a better person & yourself into a better parent is “SMART LOVE”.
Dr. Mrs Prajakta Kaduskar
Consultant in Adolescent Paediatrics
Dr. Ajay Kaduskar
Dr. Mrs. Prajakta A. Kaduskar