Light your hair on fire.
Swallow a caterpillar.
Bite down your ipad.
Put your finger on a live-wire.
Bad ideas, isn’t it?! But not so to teens. As you imagined the above tasks, if you were a adult and your brain were to be connected to a scanner, your distress and danger area will glow screaming automatically at the mental imagery. You will say these are bad ideas!
Supposing you were a teen-ager, you will still say these are bad ideas. But there is a difference. You will answer a moment later and it will not be a automatic response. No distress! Instead the cognitive parts of your brain will glow as if you were deliberating as to what dress to wear next day for college. You are actually thinking about them. There is no aversion that gets triggered automatically.
Now lets use this study* to bring into perspective the turbulent times of the teens. I was a terror in my teens to most people who knew me. There was the time when I was thirteen and I challenged my friend that I will break a slate, “palagai” as it is called in Tamil (A small writing tablet made of sandstone I guess) over my enemy (a classmate who complained on me to the teacher) and I actually broke it on her head and let the frame hang on her neck. And everyone kept throwing this question at me,
- “Why did you have to try it? Didn’t you know it was a bad idea?”
I stubbornly stood my ground though guilt crept in later. But now in retrospect I can see that I knew it was a bad idea, But I couldn’t “feel” it as a bad idea. And ‘feeling it’ as a bad idea is what will keep you from doing it. I didn’t have enough life experience to draw upon then for the feeling part to be triggered by my topbox.
There must be some kid somewhere who is in the same position as I was, going through hell for attempting a bad idea. When I was in your shoes, for some time I was very scared about all the scoldings. Later I took it to heart. They branded me as troublesome and I really believed them. In every situation I enacted the role that was given to me like a programmed robot. I attracted trouble like a magnet. The truth was I was just passing through a phase which I would have outgrown naturally sooner, if I was not branded. Maybe you are in the same boat as I was. And wasting your precious self, in meaningless role-plays. Just a word to you, you cannot expect everyyone to understand what is happening to your biology. But YOU can understand and not get stuck there.
Don’t take any name that is given to you or a behavior that is attributed to you into your personality. Don’t feel compelled to act them out and make it your comfort zone. Life is just too beautiful to waste out being fixated into a personality. Explore yourself beyond that tag.
If you are a adult and are flabbergasted at your teen’s behavior and now after reading this post are wondering if you should or should not scold your teen, here is something to keep in mind. You should definitely correct any reprehensible behavior, but make sure to condemn the behavior and not the person. Do not character-assassinate the child, and give him a ‘cross’ to carry forward into life. For these derogatory names will be duly registered by your child and he will use it as a weapon against himself at some later point in life.
*Experiments by Dr. Abigail Baird at Vassar