Words spoken matter-of-factly is significant for your Teen

Every one of us has a hero inside of us, we believed this as a child, then adults in the guise of parents, teachers, relatives, friends of our parents came along and crushed this belief, limited our capabilities, shackled the genius that lay within us. 

As kids, did you run after kites, watch stars letting your minds wonder if there are others like you residing in them? Have you run after butterflies to catch them, look at their beauty as they fluttered in your hands, and then let them fly off? Did you watch the ants move in a line from one point to another and wonder what could they possibly be telling each other as they met with their antennae? Curiosity is innate in us as is imagination. As we grow older, we forget to be bold, enthusiastic, to love, and to dream. 

Harsh experiences of broken promises, dirty politics, fake people, large egos bring us to “our reality” and we then throw that at our kids as their reality.

Let’s not undermine how stressed and anxious adolescents are these days, most of this has been contributed by well-intentioned parents. You speak to these young teens in a matter of fact way, but how they receive those words and create their own world is very different. A young extra-ordinarily bright 14-year old was suffering from exam anxiety. Most of you would say, it’s no big deal, most kids do anyway, but are you conscious of how such anxiety saps the performance capability out of your teen? Their percentage score can drop by as much as 7 to 8 percentage. So, someone who’s scoring 85 to 87% can actually raise their score to 93% just simply by reducing their anxiety during exams, along with some parental support. 

As parents, you may believe that you know better, seen more, experienced more, and understand more than your teen, however, the sheer lack of compassion and desire to keep adding value to their lives damage them much more than you could ever imagine. 

Teen: “I am going for group study today at Arshya’s”. 

You: “How many of you are going to be there? Are you sure you will study and not watch a movie or something? 

You probably wanted your teen to understand that you are aware of alternate possibilities in this situation, what you’ve successfully done is reduce her trust factor with you. You have subtly encouraged her to tell you a story when she really goes to watch a movie. 

You: “The next few years are very critical for you. Make sure your marks are good”

Possible responses from your teen:

Should your Teen be highly responsible, she will take full ownership of what you said, and this will create a huge amount of anxiety in her as the pressure mounts of living up to your expectation. 

Should your Teen be competitive then too, she will delve into the need to live up to your expectation. 

If you Teen is a happy go lucky kid and doesn’t heed what you say, then in all possibility your rising anxiety at her constantly not-up-to-the-mark grade would blind you to explore other possibilities to motivate her. 

Parenting is not easy, but what we say to your kids matters a great deal, know your Teen’s uniqueness to be her true mentor.  


Girl-hood – remove the complexities

Today is International Girl Child Day. The day I was born, my mother says, many of my dad’s colleagues had expressed their sorrow. I have an elder sister, and according to my mother, most of these people looked at my birth as a bane in the family. My parents, however, were elated. They had no qualms of having a second daughter in the family. I grew up, but then just like millions of girls born in this world, was victimised at the tender age of four. The man was no other than a close relative. Even before I was aware of the uses of my genitals, a man who my family trusted used it as his toy. Unfortunately, I never even understood what was happening, and when I did, it was too late. I was then trapped in my own world, victimising myself, “I should not and could not speak to anyone about it”. What followed was avoidance, confusion between right and wrong. As a young lady, I registered the importance of dignity and respect for myself first, and others later. 

According to Wikipedia, in nature, males evolve aggressive mating behaviours as that helps them acquire mates, this happens because there are more males available to mate at a given time, making females a limited resource. Harassment and aggression are used by males of many species including mammals, birds, insects and fish – the objective is to herd females and keep them away from other males. Primates, however, such as the Bornean orangutans exhibit aggressive behaviours, even when the females do no resist, probably to train females to be afraid of them and be more likely to surrender to future sexual advances. – The objective is to procreate, not to entertain. 

Males of certain water striders species intimidate females into mating by signalling predators to attack the females. In order to seek protection from the predators, the females give in to copulation by the males. – The objective is again to procreate, not to entertain. 

In certain beetles species, the males resort to grasping and grappling the female. It is a form of mate guarding technique and to force copulation for procreation. 

We are humans, supposedly, higher-order animals, the reason we are higher-order is that we have what is known as the mind. One of the most powerful tools in this universe. Yet like the lower-order animals, our males harass, use aggression, intimidation, grasping and grappling to overpower, our girls – not because our species would be endangered but because the human male seeks entertainment in their females. 

How often have you restricted your girls from wearing what they choose to wear, from going where they choose to go, to use their time as they would choose to use it? Do you give them a choice to decide how they should lead their lives? Isn’t the right to make choices an inherent right of every animal on this earth? According to BBC, free-will doesn’t exist in the animal kingdom. Every animal chooses what to do, how to do, when to do. For the majority, this is out of survival instinct, not so for our girls.

Whilst I am a coach, I am also the mother of an 18-year old boy and a 14-year old girl. When my son turned 13, I sat him down and we chatted. One of the most important and probably awkward conversations we had, was when I told him, that whilst he will go ahead and have maybe one maybe more girl-friends, he must first respect their choices. He must have dignity for the human that she is first, for every girl is first a human being just like him – with emotions and dreams just as he has. He remembers this chat even today and often talks about how that has shaped his approach towards the girls in his class.

Similarly, a few months back, I told my daughter that she must first respect herself, her choices, her dreams, her body was important. She has the first and only right on all of that. 

When we train our children to think right, we train them to feel right and to act right. It’s about time we celebrate our girls and their potential


Picking up when your teen’s dreams shatter…

Personal stories are always more challenging to put in words for the audience to read. Probably because there is so much of association along with it. It’s not just the situation but more the emotions and memories that go along with it. As a student coach, I pride myself for being able to handle both parents and teens, from a compassionate yet subjective perspective. Now was the time, I had to apply it to my own life. 

It took me six weeks to get my son out of anxiety and disappointment from his IB result and I am still working with my husband to help him tide over the shock. 

Parents, always have a default parenting style, and I have mentioned in my book, A Parent’s Handbook To Help Kids Set Up Goals 

My husband and I are also parents, so while I consciously implement what I preach, it is not so with my husband. An extremely successful leader in his own right, he strongly believed, in Marshall Goldsmith’s “I have succeeded” syndrome. Hence, when we began with the college applications to the UK last year, it was game that was already won, similar to, a batsman hitting off balls from his favourite bowler, reflecting an air of confidence that would be implicit of “I own this guy”. Goldsmith says, “That’s not surprising because to successful people past is always prologue and the past is always rose-coloured.” The game to college admission was strategized for an almost sure-shot win. 

Then, with countries around the world getting hit by COVID, the most rigorous board, International Baccalaureate cancelled their grade 12 graduation exam. Based on Artificial Intelligence and course work that IB evaluated, student’s result across the world collapsed. Those who had conditional admission to global universities in the UK witnessed their dreams coming down like a pack of cards. My son was part of that hara-kiri by IB. My husband had a huge stake in his dreams, he had been a great dad, always supportive of what our son desired as his goals. Last year when we had visited London he had even promised our son a shoe from Barker when he would have gone there to drop him this year. Years of hard work, dreams and hope all came tumbling down on July 4th 8 pm. 

Through April and May, whenever I would speak to either of them of a “What if” scenario, not so much out of fear as much out of pragmatism, and being open-minded to Plan B, in case it needed to be implemented, it was met with a “Please don’t talk about that! Not yet, anyway”. 

This led to the last six weeks being very difficult for my son and husband. From disbelief to there’s nothing more to work for, there have been all kinds of thoughts and emotions that my 18-year-old and my husband have gone through. My voice of “Control what you can control and let go what you can’t” was heard, but not registered. The pain that the father and son were going through was very intense. I keep coaching my students and parents and telling them that what defines success is resilience and a pinch of positivity. But the two continued to remain morose. While my son still had offers from colleges that stand strong on the global top tier universities ranking, he hadn’t visualised going there. Then one day, I sat him down. We needed to take a call, mourning over spilt milk, that too, milk that he hadn’t spilt, won’t help. The larger goal was more important. 

We worked together to draw a Mind-map, with his ultimate goals in mind, this revealed much more than what he had thought it would. Small but important details unfolded that he hadn’t thought of earlier. I drew him into each scenario asking his feedback for feelings, opinions, facts, finally narrowing down to where he wanted to study. 

He hadn’t been himself for almost six weeks now, and the day after this, I finally saw him, with his usual spring in his walk, smile on his lips and laughter on his face. My husband is still dealing with the blow, and I have been working with him to reduce his anxiety on this matter, as I do with many parents. He would be tougher to work with, not just because the pain is deep but also because of his belief “I can succeed”, making failures very difficult to take. I have been sharing a philosophy I strongly believe in with him, 

as they say in Nicheren Budhism, 

Wining and Losing

are both 

part of life, 

but I pray to the Budha 

for final victory.  


Why would you keep judging your teen?

As a student’s coach, I work with parents every day, after all, they are partners in their child’s journey so they can’t be exempted from it. 

Parents are the greatest boon and the biggest bane in a child’s life. Now, if you are a parent, you’d probably be thinking that I know nothing of raising kids. I have two teenagers of my own and the past 28 years of my career I have worked very closely with the youth. Parents profess they know everything there is to know about their children, my view is that’s a delusion. Submissive kids succumb to parent’s choice of career and lifestyle, often to break every rule they have lived by when they get an opportunity to do so, or live with a sense of unfulfilled desire, “if only I too could …, and kids who are assertive in their viewpoint are termed as rebellious. Parents are so strongly opinionated about their children they take seconds to pass judgment or stereotype them. This is extremely disappointing, for the child is never given a chance to express her innermost thoughts or her emotions. 

Teenagers are more often not considered in decision-making processes. Why do parents believe they are the best guides that the child can have? In my experience, parents believe they “own” the child, pretty much like they own their car or the house they live in. Hence, they can treat their child however they wish to. Negative experiences of your life are like sticky notes in your minds. They stand out, reminding you again and again, how you have failed, how you have suffered, how you have pained, and since you don’t want your child to go through the same failures, sufferings, and pains you are quick to pin them down and box them. And of course your success leaves you with the belief, you know best. 

“You are lazy, this laziness won’t get you anywhere.” “Your attitude won’t be accepted by the world when you go for a job” “Your bosses won’t be like your parents, they won’t care for your sentiments, only we will.” “I am fed-up of telling you the same thing again and again”. “Look at Yateen, he’s smart and knows how to manage his studies”. Every statement is indicative of you adding more value to your child’s life. But are you? Read these statements that you as parents make, ever so often, to your kids, each one is pregnant with words that discredit your child. You believe you can influence your child to become successful with words that leave negative connotations. And that’s the paradox of great parenting. You have all the right intentions but your processes are all wrong. 

In your drive to lead your child are you a serious liability? You will confuse her into believing that she has nothing that’s praiseworthy. She may begin to believe that this preconceived shortcoming is actually accurate and demonstrate it even more acutely than before, and even if what you say is correct, she may get into denial and argue with you. You may justify your actions by saying, “I praise her, I really do, but there is still scope of improvement if I don’t show that to her who will?” However, when she criticises you in return, you will vehemently oppose it, for, in your mind, the criticism doesn’t apply to you, you are after all the successful professional, you know the ways of the world. Then when all else fails, you attack with aggression or resign muttering, “You will remain like this always! You are a hopeless case!” 

If you do any of this then think again, happy children are resilient and creative. Work on giving them that chance to live a happy life. 


I know best for my kid – fact or fiction?

There was an interesting post I saw on LinkedIn today. A gentleman had asked for career counsellor for his child who was in grade 9. I noticed a whole lot of parents immediately respond back saying, parents are the best counsellors, don’t go to any counsellor just yet, one even went on to say that the education policy has changed and so this was a bad time to go to counsellors. I am not a counsellor, for I am a career coach. I help students develop better study habits, work on their strengths, identify what they are passionate about, evaluate how their values define what they do and work with parents to become coaches to better their kid’s lives. I couldn’t help but begin keying my story.

While I am sure, each of these parents had their own logic for their comments, I couldn’t help but smile. After years of working with teens and parents, I have realised that it is the parents who in their endeavour to do the best for their kids “mess it up”. “We know better than you – we meaning parents, you meaning kids” is the general mindset. The reason is clear, they have lived longer, given birth to these kids and hence surely have more wisdom and complete control on what the kid should or should not do. It is this idea of ‘absolute’ that often leads to emotional turmoil, conflicts, rebellions and anxieties in children. 

Parents suffer from what is known, in psychological terms, as generalisation, projection and negative bias.  I have dedicated one chapter on this in my book, A Parent’s handbook for helping kids set goals available on Amazon Kindle. 

Generalisation – STEM is the only study stream that will lead you to success. Teenagers are rebellious, they are not mature enough. I am your father/mother, so I know best. You can only be a teacher or lecturer if you study languages or history. We must focus on your weaknesses. 

Projection is when we behave with the child with a certain preconception. You may have had a sister or brother who’s been very disorganised. The experience may not have been pleasant for you, so when you see your child throwing her things all over the place, you begin screaming at your child. If you have had a close brush with disloyalty and your child has been untruthful to you, you would react/ respond far more aggressively than the situation may demand. 

Negative bias – is the tendency for us to pay more attention, or give more weight to negative experiences over neutral or positive experiences. Branding your child as someone who’s not serious about studies. Voicing your dissent on certain friends who you believe are “bad company” for them. Bad memories from your childhood can impact how you behave with your children. 

Each of these three aspects can impact the way we think and treat our children, thereby impacting the choices they make in their lives and how they, in turn, look at the world. 

I realised as a young mother, that I spent so much time with my son, I was inhibiting his social development. My intent was noble, as is every parent’s, however, my approach was wrong. We must as parents sit back and get someone to tell us what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong as parents. A third-person perspective is what works. As parents we are emotionally entangled in our project – our kids life, this makes us very closely associated with everything they do or don’t do.

When I work with teens, I work with their parents, helping them know their generalisations, projections and biases, because unless I work with them I won’t be able to get the teen to be happy and successful. 


‘Life’s not fair’ – let your teen own this!

I am a mother of two teenagers. This year when the IB results bombed on July 5th, I had a tough time dealing with my 18year old son. Predicted at 42, he landed with a 38 and couldn’t make it to his dream college. He did, however, make it to his second-best, another top ranking global university and got three different scholarships across the world.

My team and I have always worked towards helping NexGen understand what they need to do to attain happiness and be successful. Success is relative as they say, it is what we make of life. My son had won scholarships and international level competitions and many awards at the various Model UN sessions that he chaired and participated in during his high school years and suddenly he saw his years of intense labour evaporate in a swish. “What use is hard work, Mamma? I always helped others, done all the right things, all I wanted was to study at one of the top global universities.” All I could do then, was let him have my shoulder for comfort. This was not the time to give worldly gyan. Was I in pain? Sure I was, seeing your kid’s dreams shatter is heart wrenching.

The evening the results were declared was emotionally charged. IB results were based on an alogorithm where the child’s performance had no role to play. Like many other boards, they didn’t have an exam this year. Years of practice and coaching youngsters had taught me that the biggest mistake when we deal with teens who are emotionally hurt, was to justify the outcome with pragmatism and disregard their pain. So, I played along with him. ‘Yes, IB had been very unfair, yes, there is no justice, yes luck was not on his side, yes his life was in shambles.’ I knew this was a time when he just wanted to rant out his sorrow. He was heartbroken. It took him two days to come to terms with his result and then he came to me and asked, “What now?” It was a tough decision. Being my son, he was coached over the years to develop clarity on what he aspired to do and the path for it. Now, was the time to adapt to the changed strategy. We sat down to go through all his options, declining, with words of gratitude, offers that he knew he didn’t want to take. Then, we evaluated the subject choices, what he loved to study, his choice of location, being born and brought up in Mumbai he loved the noise, and the city. We lead him to deliberate on his negotiables and his non-negotiables. Finally, he made a choice. 

I believe that being able to live in ambiguity, understand that we may not always get what we want, mend that broken heart and learn to be happy again, have been critical learning for him. I know that soon a part of my heart would be flying off, but what would keep me at peace then, would be that he’d succeed no matter how big a blow he may confront in future. He’s learnt life’s not fair all the time and whining won’t get us anywhere. As a mother and a student coach, that’s my personal win.  




Stop blowing up your teen’s self-confidence

R. Gopalakrishnan, the executive director of Tata Sons Ltd. has an interesting story where he reveals the importance of seeing through the eyes of others, its impact on our personal growth and the consequent trust that we win.

He speaks of a day in Ludhiana where he was doing a sales call with his junior, let’s call him Rajesh. Rajesh, was a junior in rank but a senior by thirty years in experience. As the story goes, R Gopalakrishnan used to carry a small diary with him in those days, where he jotted observations that he saw at the marketplace. One particular hot morning after a series of sales calls as they broke for lunch, he whipped out his diary and asked if he could give Rajesh a feedback. Rajesh agreed. Technically, Gopalakrishnan was doing his job. So he went on to share his observations with Rajesh and whipping out his diary, he said, “You’ve spent 52.67% of time in greeting the customer, hardly 20% on product presentation, hardly another 15% on closing the deal and the last bit on exit. Rajesh responded, “I have been doing this for 30 years so what’s wrong with it?” To this, Gopalakrishnan said, “Yes, but you should spend much more time on product presentation and closing the deal.”  Rajesh said, “I am quite intrigued with your jot-pad and the calculator you carry in your pocket, why don’t you do it and show me?” This ruffled Gopalakrishnan, he thought that now nemesis has stalked him. At this point he had three choices, he could tick Rajesh off for being arrogant and rude to a senior, he could do a half-hearted attempt and give up after two calls, or, the third was to do the entire haul. He knew he was incompetent but still decided to do the entire haul. It was as expected, a disaster. He wrapped up each call in 4-5 minutes. There was no inquiry with the customer and he did just the technical parts of the job and came out. 

At the end of the day, Rajesh put a hand on his shoulder and said, “You shall advance in this company.” Taken aback by this, Gopalakrishnan wondered if Rajesh was sarcastic. However, the gentleman went on to tell him, those who haven’t done the job of the subordinate won’t ever be able to feel the pains and pangs of being in his shoes. Since, Gopalakrishnan actually did the job and experienced the challenges, he would surely rise up the ladder. 

I would like to take this story to parenting. Parents complain about their teenagers, their arrogance, their high handedness, their stubbornness, rigid thoughts, idealistic opinions, and the list goes on. Adults seem to have forgotten the days when they were teens themselves. It’s important for parents to get into the shoes of their teens and understand their pangs and pains. Teens are difficult years, hormones play havoc, teens develop a sense of independence, they are at the threshold of becoming adults, it’s important for us parents not to undermine them. You may not agree with them, but be sure to take their point of view seriously. Chances could be that they have given some thought to it, you could attempt at understanding their perspective and help them develop it further. 

Parents are the first Gurus that children have. They are also the first to undermine them. If you wish to earn their trust them empathise with them first.    

Ref: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0IHiZMsa3k


Corporate diaries for parenting right – Think through your child’s career

Being a parent is a 24×7 job and is more difficult that being a CXO of a Fortune 500 company. There are however, plenty of experiences from the corporate world that we can use as parental guides. Here’s one such interesting story. A group of American car executives went to Japan to see a Japanese assembly line. At the end of the line, the doors were put on the hinges, the same as in US, the missing link was that in the US there was a worker who would take a rubber mallet and tap the edges of the door to ensure that it fit perfectly. In Japan, that job didn’t exist. The American executive was confused and asked, when do the Japanese check the door fit perfectly? The Japanese responded, “We make sure it fits when we design it.” The Japanese auto plants didn’t examine a problem and accumulate data to figure out the best solution, they engineered the outcome they wanted from the beginning. If they didn’t achieve their desired outcome, they understood it was because of a decision they made at the start of the process. 

Learning from the story:

  1. Do we wrongly design our children’s career and then use a mallet to fix the problem? 
  2. Does your teenager have a say in decisions taken for her or his career? 
  3. What do you do to help guide your teenager? 
  4. When do you design her/his career? Do you believe that the best career for her/him is still just medicine or engineering and thrust him/her into coaching classes? Are you aware 29% of those who qualified JEE Mains in 2019 opted out of JEE Advanced?
  5. Are you aware that many of those who pass out of leading engineering colleges opt for careers in blogging, photography and social entrepreneurships? 

Many of those who pass out “use the mallet to fix the door”, for the simple reason that they graduated with subjects that don’t excite them as a career. We see too many who pass out coming back disappointed with their career and needing to redesign their lives. 

We strongly recommend you to explore what your child enjoys. Plan their path taking their thoughts into consideration, ensure that, like the Japanese design, our children have a smooth take off. #Corporate diaries for parenting right

Build your teen’s character

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<p class="has-drop-cap" id="Empower-or-overpower" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">Power like respect has the greatest impact when it is not commanded but earned. Let your teen trust you enough to reach out to you and seek your guidance. This can happen when you give your teen an environment of respect and “I hear you” approach. Let your power inspire and not force. Focus on your inner strength and the inner strength of your teen. Power will have the greatest impact when you understand and value why your teen thinks, feels and behaves the way she does.  Abraham Lincoln had said, if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Develop your teen’s character and give her the right to make choices. She may err, allow it to happen for that is how she will learn best and develop herself the most. Power like respect has the greatest impact when it is not commanded but earned. Let your teen trust you enough to reach out to you and seek your guidance. This can happen when you give your teen an environment of respect and “I hear you” approach. Let your power inspire and not force. Focus on your inner strength and the inner strength of your teen. Power will have the greatest impact when you understand and value why your teen thinks, feels and behaves the way she does.  Abraham Lincoln had said, if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Develop your teen’s character and give her the right to make choices. She may err, allow it to happen for that is how she will learn best and develop herself the most. 

You probably have gotten used to taking decisions on her behalf and asking her to implement it. As children there are many decisions one is incapable of taking on her own, so you took the decision for her – which doctor to take them to, the school they will study in, the clothes they will wear and probably the initial years you controlled who they played with and befriended and so on. 

These are all essentials. In your mind you began believing that this was the way to go, after all even as your child grew to become a teen, she continues to remain immature and cannot make the right choices. “How can she decide which college she wants to study, what she wants to study, why she wants to study it?” Your say would be the last. You are after all the individual who’s going to bear the cost of all her decisions – good or bad, and you must minimise the risks, – surely such thoughts continue to hammer most parent’s minds.  

There’s probably nothing wrong in your thinking, however, are you permitting your own biases to ruin your teen’s choices? We all are run by our innate characteristics or talents, (the 34 talents as defined by the Gallup organisation is shown in the picture, they exist in every individual across all strata, race and country) and they define 

  • how we are and thereby how would want our kids to be?
  • what are our characteristics and what aspects of their characters would we enjoy most and which aspects we will dislike?
  • what kind of thinkers/executors are we and what kind of thinkers/executors would we want them to be (would we want them to be logical, data driven or sensitive and ruled by their hearts)?
  • how are our trust patterns, hence what kind of trust patterns would we encourage them to have? Some of us trust fast, some of us don’t. 

If you are unaware of it, your talents and values systems could begin overriding you, both as leaders and as parents. Often jockeying for control and authority you land up arguing with your teen. You like to win, and win you shall, even if it is at the cost of your child’s career. 

I met a gentleman, Nikhil Mani (name changed) who’s a senior executive in the food industry. Used to expressing his thoughts at work,  invariably adding the “but” to the main thought, “I like your ideas …but…if you could also …” He maintains this winning spree at home as well. His son came to him with the desire to study political science and history, he invariably added his bit as well, “There’s no harm in wanting to study pol-science and history, but it won’t lead you to a lucrative career. You’ve grown up using high end gizmos, how will you finance yourself with an arts degree?” Once the conversation took that turn his son got defensive and the conversation took a complete turn to accusations and how his son “wastes” time on the Internet and so on. 

Have you as a parent thought through the conversations you will have with your teen? Political science graduates can pursue careers in international relations and work in global organisations, they can make a career in public policies, and the list can be endless. What Nikhil effectively did was put down his son’s ideas, create a rift in the father-relationship, show who’s in control and reduce trust. 

Know what your teen wants, why he wants it, understand how his innate strengths (Clifton Strengths) will drive him to excel. 

You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’”
– George Bernard Shaw

Value-add or devalued conversations?

Grow your teen’s decision making ability

Have you ever wondered about the connection between how your kids behave, and how they feel? Why just your kids, I mean the same applies to you as well, and to your teams at work. We all behave just as we feel, of course over time most of the adults have specialised in the great act of masking it. 

Kids behave right when they feel happy. When they don’t feel happy, they don’t behave right. A fairly simple equation. What’s complex is not their behaviour but your sensitivity to them. Have you ever realised how your adolescent may have just walked out on you, simply because she was speaking to you, but you were busy on your phone? 

Picture this: 

Teenager: My results have come and I have made some careless mistakes, lost some marks.

Parent: I have been telling you for so long, you should stop listening to music when you study.

Teenager: How are the two even connected?

Parent: It’s all about focus!

And the conversation takes on a sudden turn that will begin emanating lack of trust, blame game and probably end up in a screaming contest. You may coin your daughter as ‘insolent’ coupled with “during my time I wouldn’t have dared to speak to my parents like this!’

Has something like this happened to you? Probably it has, could be a different issue, slightly different dialogues, but the tonality and emotions remain the same. As a parent you probably are ever so quick on your judgment, taking on a philosophical, advisory, or psychological twist to the talk. Your child didn’t come to you for a sermon, she came to you because she might be any one or more of the following: afraid, confused, worried, anxious, concerned, ill at ease, apprehensive, and or any such similar negative emotions. 

What did you just do? You surely scored a point, but at the cost of your child drawing the conclusion that going to you is not a solution to her problems. If she doesn’t go to you, then who else can support her? Probably a friend, who may not be able to give her the listening that she needs at that time, or advise her from another teenager’s perspective. 

First things first: Acknowledge your teen, by looking at her as she speaks, nodding your head, saying an “okay, aha, alright”. 

Understand she’s speaking to you in angst, develop a compassionate attitude. Ask her questions so that you can give her emotions a name, “Does that make you worried?”

Your failure to acknowledge her emotions and thoughts will create doubts in her mind about her own self, she will seek outside support relying on them more than on her own mind. This will “condition” her mind and further manifest itself in other areas of life. 

When you look at your phone or do something while your teen is speaking and do not focus on her, she will understand that and in self-defense get argumentative. 

When you speak out of compassion, you create mature teens, capable of tackling sensitive and serious issues. 

Can you identify what the teen feels? (compassion, empathy)

Do you express what your teen feels? (show an understanding of it)

Let your teen believe coming to you is safe. Let her experience that comfort through the dialogue you have with her. Acknowledging your child’s feelings, “I understand, are you anxious about what has happened?” Or “Are you apprehensive of the results?” helps your child get in touch with her inner reality. Once that’s done, then you help her cope with it. “Is there any way you can undo it?” Or “What’s the next best thing you can do now?”

Instant advice from parents prevents children from exploring their own solutions and deprives them of the experience of wrestling with their problems. Develop resolute youngsters, give them a chance to explore their lives through their inner compass.   

Don’t just stack tasks for your teen, coach him to draw the big picture

Have you ever spoken to your teenager and told her she’s not committed or responsible or maybe she needs to pay more attention? It’s easy to be directive, but the impact of being directive isn’t that strong. Often you hurt your teen’s sense of pride and self-esteem and this could give grow into a serious problem in the years to come. Here’s a fantastic story about Chris Shanker who is Executive Vice President and Group Head at Infosys. 

35 years ago, Chris used to work with Hindustan Lever as a personnel manager at Kandla. It was a garment export-oriented factory with a huge garment operation. In those days, Hindustan Lever was majorly into exporting garments. Ones a year, the head of exports, Gopala Krishna came over for a review, and as he sat in a fancy conference room with carpet and mirrors and air condition along with the factory manager he asked Chris what was happening in the factory. So Chris started off with how they’ve conducted a volleyball event, a cricket event, training for certain people etcetera. Hearing this Gopal began to smile, he told Chris that he is reminded of his daughter who’s in class 8. He said, when his daughter came home from school, she’d tell that they had English class and Math and so on, “she’d be all over the place”, he said. 

Chris was stunned at this. Gopal didn’t stop there. He asked Chris what was the biggest problem the factory was facing at that time. To this, Chris said, they had a large number of contracted labour but he believed that was a business issue, not a factory issue. To this Gopal coached him to look at this issue from the business perspective. He asked Chris and the factory Manager to come up with a plan and talk to the business about it. So that’s what they did. They made a plan and implemented it over the next year. They reduced the contract labour and took many of the women on their rolls and that was the beginning of a transformation.

Chris believes that was a single coachable moment for him, Gopal made his views clear but it did it in a nice way, giving them some direction to walk along. Chris looked at his role and viewed everything from that perspective. Post his conversation with Gopal, he just took ownership of a problem he didn’t view as his own and began to create a larger circle of influence and look at the big picture. Chris mentioned activities or tasks that he was doing as a personnel manager, they were not focussed towards a distinct measurable result. It was important for actions to stack up as results. Gopal seized that moment and turned it into a coachable moment, without being derogative or demeaning he imparted a huge lesson that transformed Chris into a great leader. 

What are you doing as a parent? Do you restrict your perspective as a father or mother or do you consider talking an alternate view of a coach? When we coach teens and youngsters we ensure we work with parents helping them take on moments of conflict or challenges and convert them into one that’s coachable. Do you help your teen get a larger picture or are just directive in your speech? Think about it. 

Tough time with your teen?

Change your language pattern.

Is being a parent of a teenager an everyday test for you? Having lived the 40 something of your life, you would be aware of importance of failures, however, how can you get this through to your teenager?

For the first part, stay alert to the importance of the teenager’s need for independence. Once the teens set in, so do the hormones, this drives them naturally towards being independent in mind and spirit. You would need to respect their independence and be able to guide them keeping that in mind. Should you micromanage your teenager, then you would surely be impeding their growth. 

So, never demean their behaviour by caustic remarks; “I knew you would land up in trouble”, “I told you earlier not to get into this”, “what makes you think you are old enough to take decisions on your own?” Such communication does not help. Your teenager does not need to be reminded of his follies, but needs your emotional support. 

“I understand this is difficult on you.” Keep in mind, your teenager may be feeling despair, humiliation, self-deprecation, anger, awkward, frustrated. Your job as a parent is not to lecture them at this time, but to provide them with the emotional support they are seeking. They may not be able to express themselves appropriately when they are emotional, consequently, as a parent your job is to lead by example. Don’t disrespect and belittle their emotions saying, “It’s alright,” or “Such things happen”. You know that through your 45 years of experience, however they don’t. It’s not alright for them, and in their scheme of life such things don’t happen. Instead, maybe you should listen to what they have to say, and just be there for them, “I hear you.” Don’t be judgemental. 

Never micromanage your teen, let them grow and fall. They will develop a strong sense of self-assurance when they know they are trusted for the decisions they make. Encourage them to make decisions of their own. Once they trust you for trusting them, they will come to you on their own accord to discuss it. Then you could ask relevant questions to analyse the pros and cons of the decision. Micromanagement will only result in your teenager going to a peer with their decision That may not end too well, considering the peer will only have as much experience as they themselves have to rely on. 

Social media plays a big role in the lives of your teenager. See how you can maximise the use of blogs written by teens on how to deal with failures, or inspire them with stories on Instagram or Pinterest. They don’t have a large presence on Facebook, so avoid it, they won’t feel connected to it and will mark you off as the “oldies” who don’t know their stuff. 

Working and being with teenagers can be fun, all you need to do is change your language pattern with them.   

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