How can we guide our children in their teenage years?
Question- How can we guide our children in their teenage years?
Answer- At times we see, especially in case of our teenage children, that they are not in our control and they like to do things as per their liking. However, it is also important for us that when they mature, they turn out to be good people having good values. We cannot leave this outcome just to destiny, so what to do in such a situation?
We need to understand here that there is a need to harmonize two contradictory factors of “control” and “dependence”. Generally, when we speak of sharanagati (also understood as dependence or surrender), normally the image of Draupadi being disrobed with her hands raised helplessly comes in front of our eyes. In Bhagvad-gita we see a different way of surrender. When Krishna tells Arjuna – “surrender unto Me” (maam ekam sharanam vraja– BG 18.66), Arjuna agrees and surrenders to Him (karishye vachanam tava- BG 18.73). But, how does Arjuna surrenders? He surrenders not by raising his hands (like Draupadi), but by raising his bow. Therefore surrender is not a stereotype thing that it is to be done only by raising our hands helplessly. Sometimes when things are not in our control, we depend on God (like Draupadi), but at other times we surrender by taking up an endeavor whole-heartedly (like Arjuna).
Similarly at different stages of our life, we have different degree of controls. For example, when children are very small, they are very much dependent on the parents and at this stage Parents have a much greater control on their children. But as the children grow older they like to have more freedom and certainly they should be given more freedom. Actually, if we do not give them freedom, they will anyway take it from us. At this stage, we realize that we have much less or sometimes have no control on them.
In the initial stages, our situation is like Arjuna. We are diligently protecting our children. But as we grow older, our situation becomes more like Draupadi.
So, should we act like Arjuna or should we leave it to Krishna like Draupadi when it comes to dealing with teenagers?
In different relationships, there are different degrees of intimacy that works the best. There is a saying – good fences make good neighbours. Different people need different degrees of freedom. We cannot have same fence for everyone in all relationships. If we try to have too much control on some people, they just rebel, which sores the relationship totally. But if we give some freedom, they feel comfortable with that freedom, and relationship remains warm.
In case of teenage children, we should understand that teenage is a very turbulent period. At that time body generates lots of hormones and as a result there is lot of passion. At the same time intelligence also starts to get activated. For small children, the parents are like Gods, i.e. my parents are perfect. But during teenage years, children start to realize that my parents also have faults. Now, if at this stage if we exercise too much control, then due to the presence of fresh hormones and also due to the freshly awakened intelligence through which they have started to see faults in parents, all these factors combine together and the teenagers just rebel. But if some amount of independence is given at that time, then when the teenage years passes and the emotions are much more settled, they start to realize that although my parents have faults, but they have done so much for me, and the relationship gets better.
In relationships, we should avoid the tendency of seeing them as either successful or unsuccessful. We should not see them as “either dependence or control”, rather we should see them as “both dependence and control”. We should not see them as digital (i.e. 0 or 1), but should see them as analog (i.e. there are infinite possible fractions between 0 and 1). In some relationships, we may need a bigger fence, and if keep that fence, the relationship stays. But some relationships we can keep a closer fence. What different people would need in a relationship, we learn by living with them, observing them, interacting with them etc.
Sometimes, some people want very close relationship, but the other person wants to keep a distance. That is where the conflicts come. Some people want their space, which we should recognize. We should recognize that a particular relationship is not playing out exactly the way we want it to be, but just because it is not turning out as we want, relationship should not be considered as a failure. If we agree for a little more distance, little more freedom, the relationship will stabilize. Generally, if the parents have given good samskaras to the children, then even if during teenage there is rebellion, when the turbulent time of teenage has passes, the intelligence stabilizes, the relationship warms up again.
In the teenage years, when there is a conflict and this conflict results in too much antagonism ( i.e. I AM RIGHT, YOU ARE WRONG ) and if in this antagonism there is ego that comes into picture (i.e. I AM RIGHT, YOU ARE WRONG and ONE DAY YOU WILL COME CRAWLING ON YOUR KNEES AND ADMIT THAT YOU WERE WRONG) and if the relationship is parted on those terms, then even if they realize they are wrong, they will not come back, because of ego.
Even if the relationship is not going the way it should be going, then it is important that we should not spoil the relationship. Try to keep the relationship cordial. Even if they are going on wrong track, then in some cases, it is better that they go on the wrong track and then learn and come back rather than we forcing them to stay on the right track and in that process ruin the relationship. Ultimately, we should realize that we cannot control people all the time. Better wait till the point they feel that my parents are there for me.
Certainly it is painful to see someone so close to us going on the wrong track, especially when we have invested so much in them. But sometimes, that is the way the lesson needs to be learned. If we keep ourselves simply available for them, they will themselves realize and come back on the right track.
Bhagvad-gita offers some remarkable insights into this aspect of relationship. Krishna mentions in BG 18.63, vimṛśyaitad aśeṣeṇa, yathecchasi tathā kuru (deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do). What this implies is that even God does not control our independence; even He respects our free will. Note that Bhagvad-gita is not as much a book of commandments (dos and don’ts) but it is more a book of choices and consequences (if you do this, then this).
Mainly the problem in relationship comes when we want it to be on particular terms, but the relationship can continue if we are willing to accept it on different terms. The same principle applies when it comes to relationship with teenage children.