How to raise confident teenagers through Conscious Parenting

‘Conscious Parenting’ is the ability of a parent to nurture children’s willingness to listen to their hearts and develop the courage to do so.

 |  7-minute read |   12-05-2021
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If you want your toddler to brush his teeth before going to bed, you can educate, cajole, nag, scold, and try all the traditional methods available. But if you are ingenious, maybe you will try something different: maybe you will deliver a message from the tooth fairy, saying that payment will be less for teeth that are not in good condition. Your toddler may immediately start brushing his teeth. Parenting is simpler when a child is young.

The teenage years can be a lot more challenging. So, let it be a good challenge.

Let autonomy blossom gently

Teenagers test boundaries, already imagining themselves to be adults, wanting to exercise their autonomy. They also start to see the weaknesses and faults in their parents, who were once gods and goddesses in their eyes. Who are we to enforce discipline when the very act of setting boundaries will instil rebellion? From their perspective, they sometimes feel they are treated like children but are expected to act like adults.

main_lokey_getty_051221063914.jpgThe teenage years can be a lot more challenging. So, let it be a good challenge. (Representative photo: Getty Images)

The trick is to honour their growing autonomy and enable their freedom, while also encouraging them to be responsible. In the ’80s, when my boys were born one after the other, I would receive a newsletter on how to raise children. The number one suggestion was, “Never say, ‘Do this’ directly.” It is beautiful advice. Never force a child by saying, “You must sleep now.” Instead, say something like, “Let’s make a rule: when the clock strikes 9, we will all go to bed.” Children understand that. Let them blame the clock. Don’t teach them the art of rebelling at an early age.

The same is true for teenagers. Rather than giving direct instructions, we can say, “Could you please do this before you go to bed tonight?” or “Before you go to football practice, could you please run this errand for me?” You have then respected their boundaries, while at the same time given them the opportunity to do you a favour. Let it be a gentle process.

Research has shown that parents are still the biggest influence on their teenage children, despite peer pressure, teachers and the media, but they will not necessarily acknowledge it or express it in the same way a younger child would. In Nora Ephron’s words, “When your children are teenagers, it’s important to have a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you”. And yet you are still their biggest influence. So if your teenager has a problem with anything, listen to them, and be a guiding light without preaching.

Spend time together

Have you observed a seed grow into a plant? It doesn’t happen overnight. Let your children plant seeds and watch them grow. It improves their observational capacity. Starting with how a flower blooms, keep them busy with inspiring things. Let them see leaves changing colour. Continuously keep at these activities. This training in the observation that we give right from the beginning is very important. It is also a lesson for parents to know that everything needs to be started well ahead. Discipline cannot come overnight, and neither can bonding with your child. In fact, here are two activities parents and children can do together, both before and during the teenage years. There are many more – it is about finding things you like to do together.

Go camping. Go out into the woods, into nature, sleep under the stars, and talk about them. Identify certain constellations, discuss their names, and if there are any stories from mythology or epics, tell them and discuss them. For example, if you spot the Great Bear Constellation, tell stories of the Saptarishis from the ancient Vedic times. Spot the Pole Star. In Indian mythology, it is attributed to Dhruva, the wise boy who became King at a very early age.

Read together. Everyone loves stories. Even when our children are older, we can still read with them. Share some nice jokes with them. They are very intelligent; they are far ahead of us, and they will imbibe wisdom if we offer it to them.

Spending time with our children is one of the most important gifts we can give them. It builds the foundation for the entire parenting journey. Parenting metamorphoses into many things as children grow into teenagers and then adults.

When they are teenagers, an inner awakening is there in them, and they are slowly shifting mentally and emotionally from their dependence on their parents to searching and discovering for themselves. How can we help guide them in the right direction?

Shaming to enabling

When they do something wrong, it is not the end of the world. They are not stupid; they know they have made a mistake, but we make it worse by reminding them, “You see what you have done. I knew you were going to do this.” Then they rebel. They already feel bad enough; they don’t need anyone to rub salt into the wound.

Suppose your child cheated in an exam, and the teacher sent a note home, how would you react? Would you shame the child even more, or would you be empathetic and try to find out why they did it? Any action or reaction is a manifestation of a need. Discovering the need, and fulfilling it, is wisdom. Why did your child felt a need to cheat?

Love enables children. Love gives them space to develop and explore their emotions. Love alone helps them grow as human being, nurtures the human spirit, and helps in their evolution. In the right environment, with parents, teachers and other adults as good role models, they are both enabled and ennobled. 

Handling technology

We are quick to point out how much time teenagers spend on the phones and on social media, but we stop learning things, and that is why our children say, “Oh, you don’t even know about this.” At least have some idea about certain advancements and the changes happening in the world. You cannot insulate yourself from the things that are happening.

If your child has gone camping with friends from school, won’t you feel happy to receive a text from her saying she has safely reached the camping site? Won’t you like to see pictures of her with her friends there? Technology is not all bad.

This is an extremely unique period in human history. Intense changes are taking place in both good and bad directions. We can help our children to go in the right direction.

Becoming stronger

Sometimes teenagers make mistakes, and you are watching. Don’t let them go too far. Keep on guiding them sensitively and sensibly about the perils, but not by becoming negative. They will realise, “My mom or my papa told me that, but I didn’t listen.” And when such things happen a few times they develop the confidence that “They are more experienced than me. Now it is time to listen.”

Play your role in such a way that they don’t feel that you are controlling them. Always be guided by your heart. When you meditate, you will receive guidance about what you can do. Peer pressure is very intense these days for teenagers to try all sorts of things. Give some level of liberty to your child. Smoking is not the end of the world. Drinking is also not the end of the world. It is not that you are giving them the freedom to do these things, but at times you have to let them learn certain lessons on their own by making mistakes.

Help your teenagers to face peer pressure with wisdom. Otherwise, it will be a hard road for them. Help them remove the guilt that develops because of peer pressure. Give them confidence, “You have the ability to say ‘no’ to certain things. Use your wisdom; guide your friends. Let them be foolish if they insist, but you can still be wise.”

Teaching meditation to teenagers

Since time immemorial, we have examples of young people meditating, showing the world through their courage and bravery that the heart’s wisdom shines through at all times. When your children learn the art of relaxing and meditating, they will harness bravery and wisdom when they have a need. Some schools in Baltimore are replacing detention with meditation. There is a lot of thought behind that shift. It allows children to listen to their hearts. That is probably the best gift you can give them.

‘Conscious Parenting’ is the ability of a parent to nurture children’s willingness to listen to their hearts and develop the courage to do so. Conscious Parenting develops confidence in children that, no matter what happens, their hearts will always guide them.

Also Read | Eat, Play, Love: How to be a super dad this Father's Day


Kamlesh D Patel Kamlesh D Patel @kamleshdaaji

The author is a spiritual guide and the President of Heartfulness Institute worldwide.

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