Monday, November 25, 2013

Challenges Teenagers Face

If Nirbhaya's brutal assault and subsequent death shook the nation and brought us out on the streets to demand justice, the Roast Busters case, a sordid sag of under-aged girls being exploited for sex, brought New Zealanders on the streets to raise their voice against its rape and victim blaming culture.

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.
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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.


Image Courtesy - http://liberation.typepad.com/liberation/2013/11/images-from-the-police-and-roast-busters-scandal.html

To read more about the Roast Buster case, click here

 
Top post on IndiBlogger.in, the community of Indian Bloggers


29 comments:

  1. It sure is challenging KayEm. And you sum it up aptly- the need is to strengthen the channels of communication.

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    1. It might help make those years of confusing emotions less stressful for our kids. Thanks, Alka.

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  2. One of the most thankless jobs in the world - parenting a teen :) Any thanks you get, if at all, will be much after. While you are doing it, though, you are frazzling your nerves only to have the recipients feel that you are being unnecessarily intrusive :) But very necessary and ever more so in today's world when moral strictures have no meaning and, thus, it is more about educating the precocious than laying down the law.

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    1. For most issues it works, CS, because they understand the benefits to themselves. But when we do enforce boundaries we face their sulks, tantrums, manipulations and rudeness. That's where parental skills come in handy.

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  3. My kid is just 3 but I already wonder (and worry, a bit) how I am going to be dealing with all these with him. Really Purba, if there were a training, I would be the first to sign up. A very thoughtful piece.

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    1. Purba has a blog and she writes her post on Janaki's. I have a blog and I write mine on Purba's. Don't blame you for feeling confused :-).

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  4. It's truly challenging bring up teenagers and it's not even less challenging for teenagers as well..

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  5. When we were in our teens did we have the kind of mindset today's teenagers have? I really doubt that.. at the same time we did not have dark clouds hovering over us in the form of abuse and molestation (of whatever type it might be)... So while kids do not come with the same levels of mental stability anymore nor do parents come with the kind of "education" that is required to help teenagers deal with the issues they are facing today...Unfortunately both have to learn "on the job" and stay safe... will this ever change? The eternal optimist in me hopes it would, the realist in me knows it never will.

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    1. I agree with the eternal optimist in you, Seeta.

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  6. Really Really tough challenge.

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    1. But one we have to take on. Thanks, Benella.

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  7. Being the parent of a teen is a thankless job till the teenager grows up and becomes a parent. I have been a naughty teenager who has made my mom cry many times. Now I have two kids and now when my little babies trouble me I only think how my parents managed with us.

    The only thing I feel is they managed because they kept the communication line open. I could sit and watch any movie with my parents and even discus it and this opened me up with them a lot. In today's world with smartphones and gadgets at every corner there seems to be a lot of conversation and entertainment on but I cant see the two way communication.

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    1. Behind all that indifference and preoccupation we know they are confused and vulnerable.

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  8. The only thing tougher than being a parent to a teenager is the fact that we not only have to be their parents but also their friends. And no matter how friendly we are with them, the fact remains that we will probably never ever make it into their inner circle of friends, or ever be cool enough that they end up sharing their true feelings with us. As parents the best we can do is to imbibe them with the right values, equip them with the right skill sets and attitude and hope that they realize to watch out for these kinds of dangers lurking around every corner of the world.

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    1. There still are great moments together, mahabore. Only fewer. It is hardest for parents whose lives have revolved only around their children.

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  9. So true! The need to communicate with a cool and open mind on the part of parents should come as a step to disarm their loved children's stubborn and 'Know it all' nihilist attitude. No wonder, even if the children roll their eyes, the idea has been planted in their head and the world around will merely corroborate what is true.

    A thought provoking post, I haven't heard the interview yet, will do so in a while.

    Regards,
    Blasphemous Aesthete

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    1. Thanks, BA. I assume the last bit is for Purba? An interview? Share the link please :-)

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    2. No, I was talking about the radio interview, Mike Cagney's.

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  10. Very well written piece delineating the worries of all parents of growing children.
    The last para especially peeps into the minds of all parents and lays their feelings bare,i have seen all this troubling them.And teenagers do make use of all these tactics.

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    1. Kids will always argue, justify, try and reason, shame, yell, sulk, indulge in name calling etc to get their way. Most parents are ill prepared to do battle or stay calmly firm with teens. There must be a better way for us to create some ground rules, trust, mutual respect and a better way for them to handle their disappointment.

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  11. Sigh.... words from my soul, KayEm. I am currently facing (rather bravely) what can be called 'pre-teen' tantrums from a child who knew me once as her idol. Now I seem to be her worst enemy. Striking that fine balance between wanting to stalk her for her protection and wanting her to grow up 'normal' is such a tough job!! "Easy Peasy" nailed it!

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  12. Hang on in there, Nirvana. The tantrums are only to test the boundaries. Your need to strike a balance between letting her be independent and wanting to protect her show that you are a concerned parent. Perhaps there is something on the net that tells you what other parents have done in similar situations?

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  13. I don't know about the case but then I guess I do, after all. What worse nightmare than the tragic tale of Aarushi can be imagined about snapping of communication channels, trust and that most precious of bonds between parents and teens? A thought provoking post.

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    1. Uma, aren't the parents appealing the case? Those 26 reasons given by the judge are all circumstantial evidence. Aarushi's friends say they'll remember her as a lovely, normal fourteen year old who texted friends - male and female - and put up pictures of a birthday party - nothing sordid in that except what's been made of it by dirty minds. Where's the concrete evidence she was having the affair with Hemraj? They were murdered on the same day and not even in the same room. Nothing adds up. I would look at who, for various reasons, wanted to hurt the family as possible suspects and work from there.

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  14. How true Kay Em! My journey with my 'teen' has just begun. And as I 'show' her the path she ''reveals' many aspects of mine, unwittingly. I guess it is a 'growing' up session for me as well at a personal level. Yes, boundaries need to be laid not just for them but also for us to let them grow without constantly breathing down their neck. A subtle vigilance and alertness on our part should should always be there.

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    1. A great reason to set those boundaries, Ilakshee. Hope she is safe and happy through her teens.

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  15. I do have a bit of exposure towards weaning a cousin of mine off his rising anticipation of marrying a girl when he is not even 18! How difficult it has been... explaining the same thing again and again to make sure that the feed is consistently effective.

    Very thoughtful article, KayEm, and wonderful addition to your blog, Purba.

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    1. Thanks, DN. What makes it more complicated is that every individual is so different. Where sex is concerned I would definitely ask teens to abstain till later.

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