Listen up, parents! This teen has some sound advice for you

Parents need not find themselves at the cross roads of guilt and frustration when their teen demands something from them. A teenager tells you how to deal with the situation

Teen smiling and parents in background

Here’s a story that you’ve probably heard.

One day, a professor in biology class in school got a butterfly cocoon to class and kept it on his desk. It was in full view of every one and he instructed the class to observe the cocoon carefully and not to disturb it in any way. He left the class soon after. Before leaving, however, he repeated his instructions. During the time the professor was gone, the shell started vibrating and slowly a crack appeared in it. Excited, the class came in for a closer look. Slowly the crack spread and the wings of the butterfly appeared. The butterfly was struggling to break free and seemed to be having a tough time doing it. One child, taking pity on it, went forward and broke the shell, freeing the butterfly. The butterfly quivered around for a few seconds and then fell dead on the table.

The whole class was shocked and in despair they sped to call their teacher. The teacher was neither surprised nor angry. He calmly asked to be told what had happened. The child who had broken the shell stood up and explained his actions, that he could not bear to see the butterfly struggling and wanted to help. Once he was done, the teacher patiently explained how the struggle for release was part of the birthing process and essential to the survival of the butterfly. The child in his eagerness to help had only caused the insect to lose its life.

Your children are like this butterfly and the child helping it in the story can easily be replaced in real life by our parents. Some parents I have seen just can’t resist the urge to go rushing in to help their child or to give in to their teen’s demands all too easily. If you are rich then you’ll probably think, “What the heck, I can afford it,” and of course no one can bear to see their child unhappy even for a nanosecond. This is natural. The moment the child’s face drops, it’s an invisible command to the parents, who feel obliged to dig into their pockets for some monetary compensation.

Some parents can’t resist the urge to go rushing in to help their child or to give in to their teen’s demands all too easily

They open their wallets and surrender their credit cards to the child’s whims and fancies. They end up making the store owners richer and spoiling their child’s life. If only some parents knew better.

Your teen is as responsible as you allow him/her to be

The results of my survey across several schools and colleges reveal that teenagers are neither as helpless nor as thoughtless as they are often made out to be. They are, on the contrary, quite mature, despite their constant demands and whimsical behaviours. The question asked in the survey was:

When you make demands on your parents, reasonable or unreasonable, what should your parents do?

  1. Parents should comply and meet with every single demand that I make because I know what is best for me.
  2. Parents should comply with only those demands that they feel are reasonable.
  3. Parents should comply with demands in accordance with their budget.
  4. Parents should not comply with any of my demands.

Parents would be relieved to know that 77 per cent of teens opted for option ‘b’. Be assured, your self-centred and demanding brat is actually a reasonable and mature individual at heart. So next time you are plagued with, “Buy me this or buy me that,” tell your teen you will think about it and let her/him know later. If it appears to be a wasteful expenditure tell her/him that. Chances are that it is a fleeting fancy and s/he also will forget about it.

Be assured, your self-centred and demanding brat is actually a reasonable and mature individual at heart

Why we ‘actually’ want what we want

While on the one hand there are teens who love to shop, there are others, like me, who detest entering stores to buy things, especially when accompanied by parents. I am in odium of the very act of wasting so much time. However, one needs to buy things and thus the trip to the mall. But as a teen who knows how to get his way, I ensure the trips don’t last long and take minimum effort. What I do is employ a simple tactic of pestering my mother to buy me things. So at every shop she wants to visit, I find myself something worth buying, but not something I need or even want. The result is that by the time we reach shop number three my mom is quite tired of saying no and wary of when I might kick up a scene [which I almost never do]. In the end, she just says, “Okay let’s quickly get our things, it’s getting late.” So we buy what we wanted to buy in the first place and make a hasty exit. Mission accomplished. This tactic, although hard on my mother I admit, works better than nagging her to be quick about her window shopping and it also saves me from some scolding.

While my story does demonstrate the will of any average, intelligent teenager, it also tells parents that we don’t always want what we are asking for. Hence, it is usually quite easy to dissuade us, if only you would give it a shot. If you are a parent who has allowed yourself to be bullied by the selfish monster at home, the future looks rather bleak. Most likely you will find the apple of your eye incapable of working and unable to survive amidst the fierce competition that exists in the workplace. When this kid grows up, s/he is yet to realise that the world is not as obliging or ever ready to shower money, clothes and gizmos on him/her as his/her parents. S/he will learn eventually, but the hard way. Please do your teen a favour and save him/her all this trouble. Poor souls, if only the indulgent parents hadn’t given in to every fanciful wish, life would have been easier for them! Giving a kid those fancy toys that are soon lying in the trash will seem pretty pointless in retrospect.

What to do when your teen makes a demand

We teenagers can sometimes make your life miserable and that’s why I am sharing my thoughts with you. Many a times I am as difficult as I can be with everyone around me. This is especially when I spy an irresistible pair of Air Jordan’s or those sparkling Nikes on the shelf, which look so enticing that it’s unfair. I may still be wearing my last Nike purchase, but that will not deter me from wanting the pair on the shelf. Or a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox 360 or other stuff of which teenage fantasies are made.

I may still be wearing my last Nike purchase, but that will not deter me from wanting the pair on the shelf

So, what is the best way for a parent to handle it?

Assess whether your teen’s demand is practical and necessary. Evaluate the situation yourself. Understand the product and its usage. If the demand is based on a whim that your child would forget about in three days, then there is no point in spending thousands over it. Say a firm “No!” Do not get angry or shout at him/her. Tell him/her politely that it is out of your range and you won’t be able to buy it. If s/he really desires a product, you can set a goal for your teen to achieve and give the desired object as a reward for achieving the goal. However, a word of caution, never promise something that you don’t intend to give.

Always think of the butterfly, keep targets and encourage your teen to achieve them. That way everyone is happy—you, the teen, and probably the salesman. It’s always Christmas!

However, life is not a piece of cake or a bed of roses. When you develop your child’s ability to struggle, you are preparing them for success, and once your teen stops expecting things to just drop in his/her lap, s/he will learn to work.

Adapted with permission from Teenage Blues, Parenting Clues by Anjaneya Mishra. Published by Jaico Books

This article was first published in the August 2015 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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