Khoty Mathur, author of Never Mind Yaar and a concerned parent, talks about this alarming trend of teens veering towards dangerous territory for the sake of few cheap thrills. A long time resident of Wellington, she also blogs here.
We all know that freedom has a price. It is rarely free.
Take the recent “Roast Busters” case in NZ. Young men of eighteen slept with under-aged girls - as young as thirteen and fourteen - in 2011 and then boasted about it on facebook, naming and shaming the girls.
What came as a shock was the role the NZ police played in the whole sordid affair.
Apparently, the girls were so inebriated they didn’t know what was happening. The difference between the rapes that hit the headlines in India recently and the Roast Buster rapes is that the youngsters were known to one another.
This post lets you know the facts of the case but isn’t about being judgemental. It is about the challenges teenagers and their parents face today.
Teenagers, whether in NZ or India, are getting a taste of freedom as never before and it is important for them to know the responsibilities and consequences that go with it. I am aware that in India the majority are content to go for healthy, light hearted fun, are busy trying to excel at studies or are under strict parental authority. Yet, the videos about boys from ordinary homes misbehaving with girls on Delhi roads were pretty alarming.
What can parents do about their young with raging hormones who indulge their own desires uncaring of the feelings of their victims? Mike Cagney, who has worked with scores of abusers, says abusers go ahead because
– it felt good at the moment
– was gratifying
– they couldn’t stop
– they felt they could get away with it.
He says almost 80% regret it afterwards. [I wonder - Do they realise how disgusting and unpleasant the experience was for the victims and that isn’t a nice feeling?] Before they become repeat offenders (who regret it afterwards) he talks to them. Here’s the entire radio interview. Perhaps we, as parents could pick up some pointers on how to prevent our own teens from becoming abusers instead of feeling helpless in the face of their unchecked raging hormones.
What about our normal teens out to have a good time with friends? The ones who are definitely growing up and need to be out amongst their peers more often than with parents, and yet, need to have set boundaries?
Teenagers are at an age when their bodies are changing and evolving. Parents watch their little babies growing up. But while they mature physically, mentally they still have a lot of growing up to do. Some parents marry them off! But most parents, brave souls, take on the terrible teens.
We understand it isn’t easy growing up and that in spite of their temper tantrums, their harsh criticism and manipulative behaviour they need to feel safe and loved. We know they face hormonal changes and grappling with new emotions is confusing and exhausting.
Like everyone, they want desperately to love and be loved. But hateful parents and the boundaries they set enter the picture. We know, as they grapple with their own changing emotions, what (or who) they think they desire could easily change. We know that they could get saddled at that young age with the added responsibility of pregnancy and babies themselves. There’s a strong possibility that the object of their attraction is also growing and evolving. They might change their minds too.
We hope they’ll listen when we give them advice about enjoying ordinary friendships with both sexes, with a stress on ‘ordinary’. We know that learning to live in the moment will help as will tons of shared laughter, strong family ties and an absorbing activity - a hobby, an aim, goal or purpose.
To add to our woes we not only have to tell them it is best to keep a lid on their own emotions and those of their beloved but that they have to watch out for the nefarious intentions of a handful of others. Today, since parents don’t chaperone teens as heavily as they used to, there are a few things we need to let them know for their own safety. We have the lovely task of letting them know it is smart to recognise monsters, some of whom might be their own friends – wolves in sheep’s clothing. We need to let them know how to give them a wide berth. [They may use flattery, force or emotional blackmail (I’ll kill myself if you don’t) to make the victim give in. They might take the teen away from the crowd. What did the Roast Busters use? Alcohol to let the young thirteen year olds believe they were cool and sophisticated with the sole intention of lowering their physical ability to defend themselves.]
How do we let our teens know it isn’t the beautiful world they thought it was without increasing their confusion and anger? Is it any wonder they throw temper tantrums at us? Let us face it - whilst we know arming our kids with knowledge and wisdom about the times we live in is necessary we don’t really know how to deliver.
How do we tell them without upsetting them that their admired “friend” could use flattery, spike their orange juice with a drug or ply them with alcohol to lower their resistance? Not everyone is like the Roast Busters. How do we explain our fears and our need to keep them safe from danger without putting them off? Or worse, without sounding like the high hand of authority out to thwart their fun? How do we talk to our kids without sounding like we know best?
Today, thanks to technology kids have too many role models they can look up to and too many ways to corroborate the information parents dish out. The job was certainly easier for parents until kids became tech savvy. They (the parents) were the ultimate authority. If I were honest I’d have to admit that whenever I’ve tried telling my kids one of those “horror” stories with a strong message I’ve often felt them roll their eyes heavenwards. Their expression has said it all.
Oh no, a lecture!
We know, mum. Heard it a hundred times before.
Google it, parent, and you’ll get 270,000 different opinions on the subject in .23 seconds.”
On another plane I’ve been aware that they’ve taken the message on board. One of my pet grouses is that there is much wisdom out there but no training for parents. To be effective at any job we accept that training is involved. The exception is parenting. Our challenge as parents is to convey our messages better. Our challenge is to find the right balance between giving them freedom and laying down the law. Our challenge is to resist trying to seek their approval if they don’t abide by the rules that make them safe. Our challenge is to understand and resist their manipulative tactics (a topic in itself). Our challenge is to remain stoic in the face of their disappointment and therefore their wounding insults. And, in spite of all the above, our challenge is to stay connected and to keep the channels of communication open. Easy-peasy.
To read more about the Roast Buster case, click here