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Teens are not babies

Teens are not babies
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First Published: Sat, Jul 19 2008. 12 24 AM IST

Play the mediator: If your teenager ill-treats his or her grandparent, you need to intervene. (Photograph by JupiterImages, India)
Play the mediator: If your teenager ill-treats his or her grandparent, you need to intervene. (Photograph by JupiterImages, India)
Updated: Sat, Jul 19 2008. 12 24 AM IST
My 14-year-old daughter often hides her grandmother’s things—books, spectacles or pens. The poor lady really goes mad searching for them. She never played such tricks on her before and now I think it is just not on. We have tried telling my daughter as much, but she thinks it’s just a lot of fun.
Play the mediator: If your teenager ill-treats his or her grandparent, you need to intervene. (Photograph by JupiterImages, India)
This sort of behaviour does sound a little immature on your girl’s part, bordering on the nasty. It is also a bit surprising, coming as it does from a young girl, not a small child. Is this behaviour an isolated thing vis-à-vis the grandmother, or do you find that she does this with other people as well?
Do try and explain to your daughter—as you must already have—that a joke is funny when someone else laughs too, and never funny if only the “joker” finds it so.
Also, you need to tell your daughter that her behaviour borders on the cruel. Sit her down and ask her what makes her do it. Don’t ask this question rhetorically: Gently insist on an answer. Get her to spell out, articulate in words, what it is that she feels when she watches her grandmother’s confusion and distress. First, is she reading this emotion in her grandmother, or is she not even able to do that? This will give you an insight into the level of her disconnect from her harassing act and from her grandmother.
Don’t be blown off by replies such as “Just for fun” or “Chill, it’s just a joke”. Let her know that this sort of behaviour is as bad as pushing someone or lying or bullying a weaker person.
Now, your next strategy. If this doesn’t stop her from introspecting a little and desisting from these pranks, I’m afraid you and other family members might just have to play the trick right back—hide some of her things and have her deal with the consequences. She’s going to shout, “Not fair!”, and possibly sulk—but you may find that she’ll stop the pranks.
However, before you give your daughter this old-fashioned dose of her own medicine, do ascertain that something else is not at work. For a 14-year-old to be displaying such repressed hostility (that’s what it is, you know) towards her grandmother, there is a possibility that her grandmother is hassling her in some way. For instance, is she a hypercritical person, constantly correcting or advising your daughter? Even the most well-meaning advice isn’t welcome to adolescents, but if it comes in the form of nagging or sarcastic remarks, it’s a real no-no. Sometimes, grandmothers have not-very-nice things to say about the middle generation— which is you or your husband. Maybe this is something your daughter is picking up on?
Whatever the prompt, if there is one, being horrid and mean to the grandmother is not the answer of course, and your daughter needs to know this. If there is some such issue at work, you’ll need to play mediator and see to it that both of them put this odd and inappropriate behaviour behind them.
My 12-year-old goes on using baby talk with her father (who travels a lot and is at home only a few days of the month) and sometimes with me. He, too, finds it odd now, but is reluctant to stop her, since he knows she misses him and wants to be babied by him. But I find it irritating, and other people too have commented on it. How do I stop her?
While you should tell your daughter baby talk doesn’t suit her any more, this would work better if her father gently told her to stop it. He could do this when she is not in the baby-talk mood, and when he can talk to her maturely—perhaps just one-on-one. He could also tell her that people find it silly, and so does he. This will hurt, but he will have to insist, if you want the baby talk to stop. He can spell out, or through his actions show that in some ways she is still his “little girl” and always will be, but this does not involve acting babyish and regressing into baby talk. Because that is what it is—regressive behaviour. And if I may say so, to indulge her in it is also regressive parenting.
Why is it regressive? Because both the father and the child are choosing to slide back to a time when baby talk was the best form of communicating love and closeness. Now this need—the need to demonstrate love and closeness—is not regressive; it is something that is part of the child-parent relationship for all time. However, the form it takes has to be age-appropriate, and that means it has to be updated now and again.
While it’s understandable that your husband wants to be extra nice, warm and comforting with his daughter because he’s away so much, he will have to find other ways to do this. In a way, his indulging in coochie-cooing her is, frankly, the easy/lazy way.
The more demanding, but much better, way would be for him to find things to do with, and say to, his 12-year-old that make her feel special. If he were to do this, he would then not feel guilty telling her to cut out the baby talk, don’t you think? Many parents also do the baby- talk thing when they can’t fully accept that their kids are not needy, “manageable” babies any more. However, be sure that this may make it all fuzzy-cozy for a while, but your 12-year-old is missing some real, solid and comforting inputs from her father that can never really be replaced by this method.
You perhaps need to help your husband find areas, interactions, conversations and activities that he can undertake with your daughter, however brief they may be. This will demonstrate to the girl the reassurance, stability and love from him that she’s looking for, and could be something she looks forward to when he’s home. The daddy’s little girl fluff has a very limited shelf life and efficacy!
Send your queries to Gouri at learningcurve@livemint.com
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First Published: Sat, Jul 19 2008. 12 24 AM IST
More Topics: Teens | Babies | Love | Age | Daughter |