The summer holiday has been quite interesting. I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with various teenagers across that age spectrum from different backgrounds (rich, poor, middle class). We’ve had some pretty engaging conversations – from fashion to dating to exam malpractices. One thing that’s kept the wheels in my brain churning, is how differently the views of a significant number of these teens and young adults, on some key matters, are from parents. While I understand that their prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that helps people make rational decisions) is not fully developed till probably age 25, I still can’t help but wonder about how effective our parenting methods in dealing with the real problem.
Let’s take the issue of exam malpractice for instance. As far back as 2007 when I started running programs for teens, one thing became very obvious to me – many did not see exam malpractice for what it is – ‘cheating’. Fast forward to 2019 and the situation isn’t much different.
Telling a friend the answer to a question during a test or an exam is seen by them as ‘helping someone who is in need’, ‘being kind’ or ‘sharing’.
It’s interesting that in different groups where I have probed a bit further, some have asked me how I can say it’s wrong to help a friend after all “didn’t Jesus say we should share?”
In one of the places I went to speak with teenagers, only 4 (2 male and 2 female) out of a group of about 100 teens said they wouldn’t ‘share’ the answer with their friend. Of the 4, the girls said they wouldn’t ‘share’ because it was wrong while for the two guys, it was so the friend wouldn’t get a higher score than them!
Have you ever stopped to wonder why there appears to be such a disconnect especially when you did all you knew to do to raise your child right?
Spending time having conversations with our children and actually listening to them can help us gain greater insights into how they think and help us parent more effectively. Unfortunately, on this side of the globe, we tend to use fear or aggression as our default parenting tool. We are also not naturally inclined to listen to our children, particularly when the conversations border on things that go against our own beliefs. We either start shouting, using emotional blackmail or manipulation “because I am your father” or we play the religious card – “God forbid” “it’s not my portion”.
My dear parents, you need to learn the art of keeping quiet once in a while and absorbing shock when they say things that make you want to fall off your chair! That way you can gain deeper insight into what’s really going on and are more likely to be in a better position to deal with the root cause or the real issue and not just symptoms.
Let me leave you with something to chew on. Exam malpractice like bullying, fraud, drugs, “sexual experimentation” are not the real issues, they are just symptoms.
These symptoms could be as a result of a faulty belief system or blurry lines about what is right or wrong – “it’s a way of helping a friend in need”. It may stem from fear – “my friends will not like me and I will be ostracised” or it may be because moral values are not being reinforced or properly modeled. As the holiday gradually winds to a close, take time to have conversations (not lectures) with your children, and really listen.
Parents, to save our children, ourselves and our nation from avoidable embarrassment and much worse, we really need to be more painstaking about dealing with the real issues, and not just the symptoms.