No kidding!!

Nalini Suryanarayan

On a recent web browsing trip, I made a casual visit to a ‘parenting’ website and came across distressed parents concerned about their teenaged children. The more common concerns were,
“My 16 year-old has panic attacks.”
“My 15 year old daughter has low self-esteem.”

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My immediate thought was, ‘Weren’t these adult ailments some years ago?’

What are the causes for this disturbing picture? The answer is not as complex as one would imagine. It is right there in front of you if you care to look. The challenges that children face today force them to grow up sooner than they should. The most prominent being exposure to unbridled information, and peer pressure.

Unlike with earlier generations, when information was ‘regulated’ and ‘filtered’ through identified and ‘restrictive’ sources, usually parents, teachers and elder siblings, today’s children have access to a global media – television and Internet topping the list.

As a result, teachers and parents only play the roles of ‘interpreters’ and ‘translators’. They are no longer the ‘people who could do no wrong.’ Armed with a variety of information children confront parents/teachers about issues which, until a few years ago, were taboo.

Readiness to do anything to keep pace with peers is the other worrisome trend among young people. The one adage that children subscribe to these days is ‘THE WINNER TAKES IT ALL!”

As if high academic performance was not a stringent enough scale on which to access the success of a child, many other ‘performance measurement tools’ are involuntarily thrust upon the hapless adolescent. Appealing physical appearance, premium brand preferences, aptitude for sports, ability to excel in song, dance or any other of the performing arts are some of the things that the modern-day young man or woman should have. The 21st century youth better be the ‘Queen’ or ‘King’ of all trades.

Today’s youngsters believe that they can lead their lives in their own way and that they don’t need adult supervision.

Gone are the days of regulation and control. It is time to replace ‘counsel’ with ‘feedback’. Youngsters want their views to be ‘endorsed’ or ‘considered’, and not necessarily ‘corrected’. Advice has to be diluted to ‘suggestions’. Parents and teachers need to be mentors and coaches, and most of all friends. It’s ‘Bye, bye, innocence. Make way for ‘attitude’.

It is time for a modern-day Eric Berne to redraft the Freudian psychoanalytical theory of Transactional Analysis. There is a fourth ego-state at play, beyond Berne’s identified states of Child, Adult and Parent.

Welcome and include the Teen-Adult!

Nalini Suryanarayan teaches at Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan Vidyalaya, Malad, Mumbai. She can be reached at [email protected].

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