Monday, February 6, 2012

Taming of the Teenagers

Long time ago, back in my country of birth Bangladesh, as a boy I had my first introduction to Shakespeare through a television drama, a translated version of the famous play ‘Taming of the Shrew’. It must have had a deep impact on me because I still remember it – more than three decades later. For the readers who are not aware of the play, very concisely: a newly married man resorts to clever means to tame his wife – the vicious and ill-tempered daughter of a rich man. What does it has anything to do with the teenagers? You must have already guessed.
I’ll take a step back at this point. It would be difficult for anybody to not take note of the Shafia murder case where the head of the family planned and killed four family members – three teen age daughters and their dotting step mother with the help of his other wife and young adult son. Aside from the fact that the jury has returned a verdict of guilty if one scrutinizes the bits and pieces of evidences against the defenders (shared by the police) there remains not a shred of doubt that they have done it. An appeal is in progress we learn. Whatever happens at the end that barely changes the fact that the murders were committed solely based on the defiance of the three teenage sisters. It takes little observation to find out that the way of life that the three demised sisters were attracted to isn’t anything out of the world. The truth is in the western societies such lifestyle is becoming increasingly common for young adults – early sexual endeavors, provocative dress up, propensity for drugs and defiance against parents or any kind of authority figures. Let’s forget about the Shafias and shift our attention to the teenagers in general, especially the ones who are out of control - disobedient, addicted or simply deviant from the established family values or life styles.
One must wonder whether this phenomenon is primarily impacting the Muslim communities due to their general reluctance to accept excessively liberal social behavior of young adults, especially of women. Often westerners with generations of ties to the local culture foster a view that the inability of the new immigrants to blend into their new surroundings is a sure sign of narrow faith based practices. The truth is the problem doesn’t solely lie with the immigrating population who may have relatively conservative views. Part of the blame must also be borne by the existing western society.  A quick research on the net revealed hundreds of local families completely outwitted and helpless with their defiant, troublemaking, sexually active young adult kids – boys or girls, some parents even went as far as to ask for legal advices on forcing the kids out of their lives, forever, something that is called emancipation (a term used to free slaves which is irreversible). This to me is a sure sign of encroaching social trouble brewing at the very core level. 
Folks who have flocked in the western countries to escape either harsh conditions back home or simply to ensure a better life for their next generations are rarely closed minded; if they were they wouldn’t be stepping out in the first place. However, it is not totally fair to expect that one would simply give up their cultural and moral heritage and allow their kids to get sucked into a social travesty that is increasingly being blamed for higher rate of unwanted pregnancies, underage drunkenness, drug addiction and youth crime. This writer believes the existing western society must morph into something more acceptable to allow the incoming population a fair chance to integrate. What is bad is bad – here, there, anywhere. 
Now the question is why do the teenagers act the way they do?
 A little research revealed some basic but important information:
·         Recent studies show that neural insulation isn't complete until the mid-20s. This would have definite impact on how a teenager thinks.
·         Two common problems that teens (as well as pre-teens) usually suffer from – ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder) and CD (Conduct Disorder). ODD is a pattern of behavior that can be defined as negativistic, hostile, and defiant.  CD is a repetitive pattern of aggressive or nonaggressive behaviors against people, animals or property. 
·        The cause of excessive disobedience may be the outcome of many things: puberty, dysfunctional family, high expectation in achievements in life, easy access to addictive stuff, peer pressure from kids of too lenient families, working parents not spending enough time with the kids, no proper system in the family etc.

Next - how do we handle the troublemakers? What to do as a parent if you are in a situation where your teenage children are engaging into activities that you simply cannot approve?
The available choices are not always easy. Let’s try to itemize the ‘Do’-s and ‘Don’t Do’-s.
·        No harm policy: Do not hurt, harm, even when you are mad. Remember, many kids turn around and put together their lives once they pass the tumultuous years.
·        Preventive measures:
o        Spend more time with them
o        Try being less controlling, allowing them some space to roam.
o        Be cool, learn anger management. Defiant kids often do things just to get their parents mad.
o        Try sharing some family related responsibility.
o        Pick your battles. Don’t pick on everything they do.
o        Have a good family bondage. That is probably the best defense.
·        Seek help of the professionals:  Youth Counselors, psychologists, psychiatrist
·        Boot camp: Worth trying if nothing else seems to be working.
·        Seek Legal Advice: In some situations you may be better off speaking to a lawyer first
·        Emancipation: The absolute last resource.  Once they are 18. If you can’t live with them, let them free. Each state/province may have specific regulations. 
A defiant kid regardless of their age is probably the one nightmare that no parent wants to have.  Unfortunately, at some point of their life each kid behaves badly, more or less. The truth is, there are no panacea that would be effective in handling every kid and every situation but it has been proven that with patience, strong family bondage and genuine love it is possible to turn them around. The question is, as parents, do we have what it takes?

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