Love, Communication And Accomplishment Ideal For Teens

Love, Communication And Accomplishment Ideal For Teens

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

After the "baby boomers," came the "generation X" and "generation Y." Ever wondered what we call the children born in this generation? The "millenials," I am told!

I saw a lot of millennial girls in Chattanooga last week. Came to find out there was a national cheerleader contest that weekend. An army of bubbly and aspiring children, parents and escorts, whole twenty thousand of them, descended on Chattanooga from all over the country.

The happiness and excitement of the cheerleading contestants was infectious. It got me thinking how the times have changed. Due to a wide variety of activities available to our millennial girls, they can express their personality and talents in many ways and have opportunity to compete and excel.

When baby boomers were babies, the avenues in which girls could excel was limited to perhaps cheerleading, academia and some talent competition. As regards athletics or gym for girls, there was not much to brag about.

It is still not a leveled field for girls, but the situation has greatly improved. There are more opportunities for girls to excel in academics and sports. However, of concern, is a new phenomenon, which often becomes focus of self-expression for some children.

In this age of consumerism where the market cleverly exploits teens' vulnerability for appearance, products such as clothes, shoes, watches, phones or make-up products have become a major avenue for self-expression and "excellence," at least for some children. This has implication for a child's future. Unless one wants to have a career in modeling, product-driven competition beyond a certain degree does not serve the cause of a balanced and all around personal growth.

Distorted need for self-expression and personal recognition can be unhealthy. For example, the need for recognition by an off the mainstream, nonconforming and defiant group can become problematic. Human beings want to be recognized by the group of people they identify with and look up to, often called as, "the reference group." Reference group is what really matters for the individual. For example, majority of peers in one's class may regard smoking not cool, but if the members of the reference group think smoking is "cool," he or she is more likely to try smoking.

The climate and culture of a school also matters. In a school where academic or performance oriented excellence is greatly valued, children are more likely to be focused on the pursuit of those activities. Schools, which are somewhat lax in their demands and expectations from children for constructive activities may unwittingly provide unhealthy avenues, such as engaging in deviant or unsocial behaviors for peer recognition.

Bullying is one such unsocial behavior. Bullying is not confined to the "big bad boys." Girls, though in minority, can also become bullies in order to gain peer recognition.

Both genders exhibit similar behaviors; however, one gender may exhibit a particular behavior more often than the other. Some social scientists say that boys when angry or jealous tend to resort to physical violence. Girls, when angry or jealous, tend to resort to passive-aggressive ways such as gossip, rumors or lies about the person they are angry with.

Gossip, rumors and lies can be just as traumatic and damaging as the physical assault. Children who resort to the former behaviors don't often acquire skills they need for healthy competition in the larger world. We should be cognizant of passive-aggressive behaviors as we are of bullying.

Being "popular" in a school setting can be a misleading term. It is conceivable that a child perceived popular by your child may only be popular among the few. Those few may constitute the reference group for your child. Furthermore, being popular doesn't always mean that the child has positive and desirable attributes to succeed in the larger world.

Perception doesn't always match reality. For example, when children think that "everybody smokes, doesn't have curfew hours or watches TV as long as they want to," they may be referring to just a few peers they are identified with.

Emotionally healthy and socially secure kids have good communication with their parents. They are assured that if they have something on their mind, they can unhesitatingly discuss it with their parents. They believe if they ever get in trouble or do something against the values of their parents, they can talk with them.

They know that parents would get upset and be very disappointed in them, but they'll always be loved. They are confident that parents would hear them out before telling them what to do. In such a climate, teens can accept the consequences and loss of privileges without feeling too angry or rebellious.

Does your teen feel close to you and basically like you? Does he or she like to talk with you and spend a little time with you at home? When children like parents that much, they may just refrain from actions they think would hurt their parents.

Return to Self Help 

Copyright 2004, Mind Publications 
Posted March 2004


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