Story My 15-year-old son locks himself with his girlfriend inside our bedroom: What THE HELL?
Dr. Harish Shetty
[An Imaginary Conversation]
“The HOME is a Laboratory where habits are shaped. Never fear children, they are waiting for ‘democratic’ conversations but remember you have the veto power. ”
Father: What do I do? He again locked himself for two hours!
Father: Hey it’s not your child! Its mine! I am scared!
Me: Scared of what! They may be just chatting!
Father: There is no sound, no noise at all!
Me: So safe!
Father: They could be having………
Me: So knock and check daddy cool!
Father: I did that last time and he was livid…so angry…not my dude at all ….this girl has ruined him! He had the guts to say, ‘Do not get into my space; leave me alone’. I was almost tempted to say that,’ It is my house and was about to show the legal papers of my flat’, What the…….?
Me: Oh ! his space Ok! Actually my space, your space is largely a concept from the west. Privacy is important but social space for kids does not have ‘steel boundaries’ in India. And with kids remember no latches behind their doors below 18. You can walk in after knocking. Zero tolerance for locked doors is the rule! Are you scared of him?
Father: Yes …scared that he will commit suicide! Attended many suicide prevention workshops….the one you organized too…….. can’t say about the kids today!
Me: Has he threatened suicide or has he been down or depressed?
Father: Never, the heart of hearts I know he will never! He is a topper in the class! But is this not wrong !I am scared to lay the rules…My wife supports him! She says it’s so sweet that he has a girlfriend and doing anything behind closed doors is ok! She says that kids are modern!
Me: Did you tell him that you are keen to have a chat! Talk to your wife and let her be on the same page as far as possible. Share your fears with her too
Father: I am scared and what if he refuses!
Me: Has he been rebellious and has never had a conversation with you?
Father: Not at all! He has been very obedient till he turned 14…He back answers, challenges me and the worst is he disagrees with me so often…sometimes shouts at me! He should obey me na doc!
Me: Obedient he will not be! After 13 14 kids express, disagree, can be loud and it’s so normal! Try to have a conversation!
Father: Yes I will tell him in no uncertain terms that by no means he can have a girlfriend…what if she gets pregnant?
Me: You are jumping a million steps! This is not a scene from old Hindi movies… ‘Mai Tere Bache ki maan banne wali hoon ‘ Na….. after a couple spends a few hours together!
Father: Ok! I will gently tell him, ‘you can sit in the drawing-room my son’…hows that?
Me: Try that but a conversation, not an instruction!
Father: A conversation; trying this; “ Hello my son, don’t you think it’s appropriate for you to chat with your girlfriend in the drawing-room or keep your doors open if you sit in the bedroom “ ..but why the bedroom..you cant sit …you only sleep. Last time his girlfriend had swollen lips…she borrowed ice from the fridge …..and she had the cheek to say that the bedroom had a lot of mosquitoes..huh!
Me: Than you can have a conversation but if he refuses, try it again and again and if you do not want to lend your ice cubes, be firm and ……..share….open doors or the drawing room
Father: He may get upset, sad, angry and lose interest in studies……and also get depressed!
Me: Talk to both of them…hold your cool and be firm inspite of high decibels from the other side. Being upset, angry or sad when kids listen to a NO that is justified is fine. This helps them to learn to tolerate frustration. When kids learn to manage small pains, they will learn to manage bigger downs as they grow…..The HOME is a Laboratory where habits are shaped. Never fear children, they are waiting for ‘democratic’ conversations but remember you have the veto power.
Father: OH that’s awesome advice but will I be able to hold a conversation …I might lose it or chicken out…can never be in the middle!
Me: Well, let us look at your assumptions; 1] My son may not listen to me and that will hurt me 2] He may get depressed 3] He may lose interest in studies. 4] He may stop liking me and my relationship will get strained. 5] I am not a good father. And so many more…..Stare at them. Ask yourself if it’s true and rational. Fears stop you from being firm and reasonably rational. You are not a god or a machine to be programmed and you will lose it occasionally and that’s fine……Try this daddy cool!
Father: And if I yet fail and the boy decides to be ‘Gabbar’!
Me: Seek help from a friend whom you son adores or a similar relative. Sometimes maidservants who have worked with you for long can help. A family priest or grandparents can pitch in too. Sometimes a single instruction from one of them may just work. Kids do not have to be explained always………… At times reverence towards a friend, teacher or relative helps shift behaviors and habits…This is India!
Father: He may land up with a ‘break up’! The girl may just quit!
Me: In fact, 99% of such friendships break and most of the kids have learned to move on. This will not break due to your stand! In fact, I am sure that the girl’s parents are not aware or do not allow them to live behind closed doors….Remember parents are safety nets when kids are in trouble just like the safety net below in a circus when the trapeze artist is walking a tight rope walk above.
Father: Kya Idea hai Sirji! I will tell them that these guys are together! Then I will get support to kill the ..song…’ Hum tum ek kamre me, band, hai our chaabi Kho jay ‘! Break up is the best…and that may happen ! …”Na baje Baaj, na bajegi bansuri!” Ek phatar do chidiya!
Me: Remember daddy cool, Be kind and compassionate towards him, come what may! New Parents are not available to him through exchange offers on Amazon or Flipkart. He cannot find a new pair! It’s you and your wife…..only! Remember, ‘When a child is in distress, hug him a little longer and a little stronger ‘!
Father: You confuse me! Conversations or Instructions …orders I meant!
Me! Conversations are a must! Democratic debates work but when things fail, impose Section ……Clear orders should be spelled out that can be implemented and can work during emergency conditions. We are Indians, and we cannot mutter or utter, ‘It’s your life baby…’..Na! Indian parenting never ends! Taking charge when everything fails is so vital. But never be aggressive, humiliating or violent! Pool Parenting works….KILL SHAME SEEK HELP! Teachers, friends, relatives, and others can help! Never forget the Psychologist …..who will give you creative answers!
Father: Last question! Many kids, I notice, feel they have a right to everything the parents have without being responsible!
Is that true?
Me: Yes indulgence from an early age can lead to a sense of entitlement ! Buying love by giving, providing more than what they need….can harm later! Let kids help in household work, learn cooking and be involved in voluntary work early not as a photo-op but serious ‘joy in giving’! Then the probability that they will be well-rounded adults will be higher.
Father: One more q! If the girl complains will my son land in jail?
Me: As they under 18 the cops may just hear both of them out and counsel them. Yet the Juvenile Justice Act 2015 may come into play and your son may have to spend time in a remand home. Both in such cases need intensive counseling.
Father: Thanks Doc!
Me: Fine Daddy Cool!