Friday, April 15, 2011

Teen troubles -3

We hear a lot about teenage suicides these days. We had a seminar on the subject and it pained me to learn that teenage suicides in our industrial township are around 4 times the national average. Around the time when exams are held and results announced the suicide rates tend to peak. These days we feel less confident about scolding students. The other day a girl was talking to someone on the cell phone for over 30 minutes during class hours and I objected. Had it been two years back I’d have taken the instrument away, sent her to class and asked her to bring a note from her parents that they had given her the phone. This time around I merely said “If you wish to chat with your friends, do it anywhere in the college except this corridor. I have the habit of snatching phones. Please don’t give me a chance.” You see the teaching learning process continues and I am learning a new lesson every day. Who knows what the girl would do. If she prefers to talk over the phone during her class hours it was her problem not mine. Before I retire from my present job I plan to learn to smile at the girl and say “talking to your friend?? Please pass on my good wishes.”

I may appear to be joking. I am not. Our youngsters are ending their lives for reasons that seem to be trivial to us. According to experts there is a huge communication gap between parents and their teenage children. What is the reason for such a huge communication gap? My husband often recalls his childhood trips to his maternal grandparent’s home. The children would indulge in collective mischief and would be spanked by any adult who spotted their pranks. This adult could be an uncle, a neighbor or even a servant. Sometimes the actual culprit would escape punishment and someone else would get punished. They never took much notice as long as they got to spend time together. For every adult who spanked them there would be two others who would pacify them. No one bore a grudge and soon all was forgotten. These days one is not able to say anything to one’s own children, let alone a neighbor’s child. One reason for this could be lack of social interaction. When one interacts with those around it becomes evident that it takes all sorts of people to make the world.

Another reason is parental interference and support for wrong reasons. It makes them uncompromising and ill prepared to take set backs. Parents indicate that they would go to any extent fair or unfair to see their children outshine other children of their age. An unhealthy competition sets in and the child strives not for excellence but for one oneupmanship.


A third reason is misplaced expectations by parents on the children. A little girl I knew was good at elocutions and debates but she was just not interested in sports. Her parents enrolled her to play chess thinking that she would take to the game since it required mind power. Her father was a sportsman and he just could not accept the fact that his daughter was different. She had to excel in some form of sporting activity. The smart 10 year old asked her parents why it was necessary for her to do what they wanted her to do. When would she ever get time to do what she wanted to do? Her parents were intelligent. They let her grow at her own pace in the direction she chose rather than the one they had in mind for her. This is exactly how parents ought to act. Learn to draw a line between one’s ambition and its enforcement.

8 comments:

Renu said...

Now a days less interaction and friends make teenagers very lonely and parent extra pampering is making them very sensitive to small things.

Deepthi said...

"Spare the rod and spoil the child" is what most parents are opting for these days. In my opinion character building starts at home and parents lay the foundation for it. When the basics are wrong, the building becomes vulnerable.

R's Mom said...

Very True HHG..you never know what these kids will get angry about..but I think you are very patient with that girl :) My mom also has mellowed down a LOT as a teacher. She used to earlier be very very strict..now she just warns and let them be...she has the same logic as yours..you never know what the kids will do if you scold them!

dr.antony said...

This is difficult terrain.
It has become routine to blame the teachers if a student commits suicide,for reasons,whatever.Recently a Dental student jumped from the top of a college building and committed suicide.Promptly ,some political parties came in with strike and destroyed the college office and blamed a teacher. The girl was later found to have a failed romance.
The use of internet and mobile has totally disrupted peace at homes.Innocent girls are emotionally hijacked.There are thousands of mms scandals on the internet.The future of many girls are destroyed and they fall victims to extortion and sexual exploitation.
The reasons for suicide are many.A recent study done in Kerala town showed at least 30% of school children had sexual relationships and exposure to drugs.Staggering! Isnt it?
Parents have to be more watchful.Whatever be the kind of trust between them,young girls will hide their relationships from parents till it is too late.The daughter of a close friend of mine ran away with a boy.I couldn't believe the story when I heard it first,that girl was too good.But unfortunately,that is the way it works.

KADMANIVASI said...

Yes, teenage is an age beset with problems. And in learning to accept it and handle it, we are doing a service to society. Communication is important and parents need to think of their child more than what people around would be thinking about them. Hip Hop Granndmom, another insightful observation.

SUMANA said...

HHG, Forget teenage, I see the things you have mentioned in a very early age group itself. Sometimes, i feel i would need counselling or my kids when things go out of hand. But sitting back and thinking tells me that may be, we need to relax a bit and explain the pros and cons of each action that a kid does to him or her. Lack of time that parents have these days increases the communication gap multi folds.

Hip Grandma said...

enu:Children are missing out on the lessons of adjustment and accommodation i feel. Earlier there would be a grandmother/aunt or an older sister in law who'd identify the problem. Now people tend to keep to themselves and depression sets in.

Deepthi:'when basics are wrong the building becomes vulnerable' - very true. parents too are unable to be firm and considerate at the same time. They are too scared to impose rules. An occasional NO will not harm the child. The usual excuse is that since the child is an only child or since they don't want him/her to go through what they themselves went through they easily give in. Children were dear to parents of the previous generation too but they did not have the means and that helped.

r's mom:Your mom and me can't help mellowing down. Students are more exposed these days and that makes them much more vulnerable.

dr.antony:teenage suicide is a threat to society these days. Children just cannot take setbacks. why the percentage is more in our township is something I would like to know. i plan to post my opinion in a follow up post.

Kadmanivasi:Most of the clashes that happen are because parents think that they have the child's welfare in mind and impose their will on the child. It would help if they took into consideration, the child's perspective as well. 'Log kya kahenge' is what worries them more. If the child is sure of what he/she wants it works out well for him/her. Otherwise depression and teenage suicides take place.

SUMANA:Children are growing at a pace that baffles people like me. We had less exposure and therefore more naive. A child in her pre teens claims without any inhibition that a woman who vomits is going to have a baby. thanks to our non stop soaps and serials. The child is innocent but informed. Parents need to handle such situations satisfactorily. We had no TV back then and so there were no questions asked or answered. Your generation of young mothers have to do the balancing act regularly. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Children are under immense pressure these days. Pressure from parents to excel, pressure from peers, pressure from the environment they grow up in et al.

There comes a point when they crack up under all that stress. Some end up in suicides, some end up requiring years of counselling and therapy.

Living inside a University campus, I get to interact with students. Per se, majority of them are good. There is one professor whose room gets filled up with Teachers Day gifts. Several of us wondered why? He would never raise his voice at his students. He was approachable to them and they in turn loved him dearly.

If a teacher is friendly with them, the students understand what the teacher expects. Who likes a teacher who is verbally abusive? When a teacher points out something in a student, it can be done discreetly. Why do they have to scream in front of a whole room of students? Any human will feel humiliated when spoken harshly in front of a crowd. If what the student is doing is a disturbance, the teacher can make a general statement in the class spelling out her issue.

I know several students who come from economically poor homes. Their only means to come up in life in through the scholarship they get. I know how tough their lives are. Many save up little money from the scholarship fund and even send it home. But to get signatures on their scholarship forms, they have to bribe their teachers. What respect can anyone have for such teachers.

In India, teachers live in the same age as the British era. They can loosen up a bit and relax, instead of being uptight.

Years after I left school and college, the teachers I remember with joy are the ones who were kind and genuinely interested in their students. Not the ones who screamed hysterically and were stern for no valid reason.