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Tackle Teen Tantrums with Understanding

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May 24, 2017

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Tackle Teen Tantrums with Understanding

Reward and punishment can work to teach a child good social manners and acceptable behavior; but are not effective to produce good study habits, to be honest, to be kind, or to be a cooperative family member. Complex behavior patterns are really not taught, children learn them from their own experience in many situations, influenced by a variety of factors.

I am convinced that most theories about the stress and strain of adolescence have focused incorrectly on factors like adolescents’ physical changes, their social demands, their struggle between being a child and an adult. This is a difficult phase for all, mainly because adolescents become so independent that they are no longer easily controlled by rewards and punishments. Since most parents rely heavily on rewards and punishments, adolescents react with independent and rebellious behavior.

Parents assume this rebellion is inevitable at this stage of development. I think this is not valid – it is more because adolescents become more able to resist and rebel. They are no longer controlled by their parents’ rewards because they don’t need them so much, and they are immune to threats of punishment because there is little parents can do to give them pain or discomfort.

An adolescent therefore does not rebel against her parents. She rebels against their power. If parents would rely less on power and more on non-power methods of influence on their children from infancy onwards, there would be little for children to rebel against when they become adolescents. The use of power to change the behavior of children, has this severe limitation, parents inevitably run out of power sooner than they think. Reward and punishment can work to teach a child good social manners and acceptable behavior; but are not effective to produce good study habits, to be honest, to be kind, or to be a cooperative family member. Complex behavior patterns are really not taught, children learn them from their own experience in many situations, influenced by a variety of factors.

Parents are surprisingly aware of the harmful effects of power. They remember how power felt to them as children but ‘forgot’ when they used power with their own kids. Parents – do you know what could be the outcome of your misuse of parental power – defiance, rebellion, anger, hostility, aggression, lying, hiding feelings, blaming others, tattling, cheating, bossing, bullying, submission, silence, conformity, fear of trying something new, diffidence.
Reactions to adult authority are universal. Children have been defying and rebelling against adult authority for generations. History suggests little difference between today’s youth and those at other times. Children, like adults, fight furiously when their freedom is threatened. And one way they cope with threats to their freedom and independence is to fight against authority, be it parents or teachers.

Dr Shayama Chona, is the former Principal of Delhi Public School, R K Puram, New Delhi; Founder President of Tamana (NGO for physically & mentally handicapped children); Founder of Anubhav Shiksha Kendra (a school for the under-privileged); she has been a member of 96 Advisory Boards and Committees; she has been nominated to Managing Committees of 46 schools and other educational institutions; she has been named in the Limca Book of Records 2007. She has been awarded the State Award for Services in Education 1993, National Award for Services as a Teacher of Outstanding Merit 1994, National Award for Outstanding Performance for Welfare of People with Disabilities 1997, Padma Shri 1999, Padma Bhushan 2008, and 49 other awards. She lives at C10/8, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi-110057. Email: shayamachona@gmail.com, tamanapresident@gmail.com

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