Why being critical of teens is unproductive

Is your teenager not listening to you? Is your teenager lazy and unproductive? Does your teenager get your blood pressure up? Stop being critical of your teen, instead follow these tips to help them channelise themselves in the right direction.

I love working with children, of all ages, from pre-schoolers to students on the threshold of moving into the real world. Most adults do not easily understand the challenges faced by kids. Parents and teachers of children whose grades don't match those of their peers, often see them as unmotivated, disinterested.

No one delves into the reasons for what could be going on in the child's world or his mind. Everyone assumes it to be lack of motivation, without stopping to ponder over why the child could be disinterested.

I have covered the topic in three parts - The first article deals with the challenges parents face in raising teens and how to overcome those challenges and guide the teens. The next part discusses teen behaviour of questioning everything, and solutions to their questions. The last article is about
motivating a disinterested child.

but this is such a vast subject, and I am not done yet, there is still more to discuss. There is still so much to explain how children and why they seem disinterested and steps that can be taken to set them on track through proper guidance and motivation.

Why being critical of teens is unproductive

Adults, both parents and teachers are quick to critique a child. A child whose grades are poor gets condemned; we focus on grades and academics and close our eyes to everything else. We judge our children based on these narrow parameters, and it's so wrong to do that.

We believe that the child should become motivated with our constant nagging and lecturing, and when we don't see that happening, we become disappointed in the child and take the criticism a level higher. We shame the child and do all sorts of things that do little for his morale. Our focus is on what they didn't do right and what they shouldn't be doing.

Experts in child education opine that parents must shower their children with praise for the things they do well. How would you react if your child gets an A+ in arts and just scrapes through the other subjects? Would you even notice the A+, or would you make the poor grades an issue?

It's important to praise the child and the good qualities that he exhibits. Why focus only on the negative. Everyone craves for praise and positive feedback. Learn to compliment your child; it's crucial for his mental and emotional health. Stop nagging him on his failures, instead of strategies how he can overcome hurdles. Your child is overwhelmed, and he needs your help. Maybe he doesn't show it, but he probably is a bundle of nerves.

He struggles with uncertainties and low self-confidence. His mind is flush with negative thoughts - 'I can't do it', 'I am useless', 'This is tough, I'll never be able to do well in life'. And, all the while, you continue with your tirade of how inept he is. Imagine what that must do to his belief in himself. As parents and teachers, you are supposed to encourage the child, not pull him down.

A word of encouragement from you can do a load of good for the child's ego. It acts as an instant mood uplifter and encourages the child. Don't label him as useless, lazy and good for nothing, instead try a new approach. Praise him for the cup he got in sports or the certificate in the music competition. And gently bring up academics into the discussion. You can make a definite statement, such as, let's try for a B in the next cycle test. I'm sure you can do it. Or else, ask pointed questions, to which you can find a solution.

What questions must you ask the child

Before I get to the questions, I want to point out that it must be a dialogue and not an interrogation. Remember that you are looking to find solutions. Start with acknowledging the child's feats. 'You've done well in biology and chemistry and in the other subjects, what happened in social studies and maths? Are you facing problems with these subjects?' Listen to your child's response. Is the teacher going to fast? Does the child under the concepts? Listen with the intent of understanding the issues and finding solutions.

Here is where you take your child on board, you're going to help your child get through the stuff he finds difficult, and you're going to let him know that. How you do that will depend mainly on the issue. You could think of tuitions or a systematic study regime, just about anything that will make him a successful student.

Long term goals

Set short term goals, but after you discuss the long-term goals with your child. Setting goals provides a vision; it works as an incentive. Ask your child how much he would like to achieve in the next cycle test. Show him you believe in him and let him know that you support him. Let him set a target, and conclude that he can do it. With a plan in place, he'll find his goals reachable.

Help him get organised, make study time-tables, but don't forget leisure breaks. Build a healthy environment where your child feels accepted and loved. And watch him take the challenge to succeed. Applaud every little effort and watch him pace ahead. Your faith in him can be his biggest motivator. There will be rough days when the child is irritable or stressed. Stay calm and try to calm your child. Let him do something that helps him unwind.

What if the child slackens

Sometimes it can take a while for a child to get into a new routine. He faces peer pressure; he faces stress and anxieties or becomes disappointed because the results do not match his hopes or the effort that he had put. He might want to get back to his old routine.

In such cases, go back and reinvent the wheel. You can't give up on your child, so you will need to start all over again. Always keep the dialogues open, don't shut your child out and don't allow him to shut you out. I know it can get exasperating at times, but take it as a challenge and start all over again.

Don't hover and control

Your children need you, especially as someone who brings in positive energy into their lives. Your goal must be to push them, but also allow them to test their limits. Babying and spoon-feeding a teenaged child can backfire. I have also insisted that parents must stand on the side-lines and steer the child.

As parents, we hold ourselves responsible for every little folly and ineptness that our children display, and step in to correct them. It is fine to do that, sometimes, but to be doing it every time, is unadvisable.

I think it is best sometimes to let your child figure things out themselves, and face the consequences, of their actions and inactions. You need to step in and put out a fire if there is one (that's a metaphor, of course), but there are lessons a child can learn, through his mistakes. There are times when you need to let them find a way out of the situation; they have themselves. Short-term inconveniences can teach valuable life lessons, and children need to tackle those themselves.

Say, for instance, your child forgets to buy chart paper for school the next day and remembers to tell you, late in the night, it is fine to let the child go to school the next day, and face the consequences. Don't call up friends to check if they can spare a sheet, or find other ways to ensure he gets it in time for class.

The same goes for projects – don't sit late into the night, doing what was meant to be your child's project. If he hasn't finished an assignment, let him bear the consequences. Your child will learn to be responsible, only if you stop doing his work for him. As long as he knows you'll step in and be his saviour, he will never learn to take his responsibilities seriously.


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