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Tuesday, Sep 24, 2019

A Calmer You, By Sonal Kalra: Does your child speak rudely to you?

You are not alone. Now take a deep breath and read on…

columns Updated: Nov 10, 2018 17:22 IST
Sonal Kalra
Sonal Kalra
Hindustan Times
A lot of you really need to be politer with your parents than how you are.
A lot of you really need to be politer with your parents than how you are.

I hear that a majority of the readers of this column are youngsters – teenage upwards. And I know I am risking antagonising some of you by saying this – but man, a lot of you really need to be politer with your parents than how you are. I’m not generalising – I have a near-teenager at home, and then nephews and nieces who are pretty well-behaved by some standards. But what I saw at a neighbour’s house over Diwali was appalling behaviour.

It started with a customary (read obligatory) visit to give Diwali (I don’t know how you can possibly give the festival to someone but we Punjabis take pride in Diwali dene jaana) at their home. Now, I know this couple, not really their son. So I’m not surprised that he’d have no reason to come and greet me, and it frankly wouldn’t have bothered me one bit if he didn’t. But his dad wanted him to come and say the Namaste to the aunty (kill me!). The boy wouldn’t budge from his room. And rather than giving it up, the dad raised his volume a bit and said, ‘Saara din phone mein ghusa reh. You have no respect for festivals, none for meeting elders. Useless fool!’ Now, here’s the thing… I would have written this entire column in favour of that young teenaged boy and the needless humiliation his dad was subjecting him to, but then this happened.

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The boy came out of the room. And shouted – I mean yelled at his dad and by-now-frozen mom, “YOU are useless. You are pathetic. Koi aur kaam nahi hai aapko siwa mujh pe chillane ke. I don’t care for your guests. They are your friends, not mine.”

One thing I want to make clear at this stage itself. My reputation of being weird had nothing to do with his response. As I said, I didn’t really know the boy. But was he rude!! Suddenly, the awkwardness meter in the room rose higher when his father responded, “I am going to talk to your teachers and principal about your behaviour. You are crossing all boundaries. And no more using your phone. Enough is enough. We are not your servants, sitting here all day meeting your demands, only to be answered back like this.”

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I forgot to mention that the boy’s age is 13. Also, I did try to say Happy Diwali before leaving but I don’t think anyone heard it. I could hear them shouting even when I reached my car.

Hmmm. Toh yeh Mahabharat between parents and defiant teenagers has continued over generations like the never-ending TV show by BR Chopra. But I guess the difference is the level of disrespect that kids as young as 12-13 now display for parents — sometimes so vocally that your own kid rolling her eyes when you ask you how the school was almost looks like a cute gesture in comparison. So now you have teenagers and young adults who are spending eight hours a day socialising on their phones, but are the first ones to quit and poke fun at your rishtedaar WhatsApp groups. Vaise can’t really blame them. It must be tough to deal with so many good mornings and motivational quotes on your phone screen when you have the guilt of waking up beyond noon.

The problem isn’t so much at Gen Y wanting their space – I guess we’ve all wanted it in our years of growing up. The trouble is the extent of the brazenness of their expression of defiance. Their mannerism is coming from the way they see their western counterparts react to their parents. The only difference is that while the rude behaviour and the swear words have become western, the way of life has conveniently remained desi. So while you can answer back your mom with a cool ‘leave me alone, will you’, you will still expect her to stand with your cold coffee when you wake up at noon the following day, because woh to parents ki duty hai. Till the day and age you would like them to. And then they should have the same patience with the behaviour of your kids. Basically, the thing is that when you produce kids, you sign a bond for life that you will not blink or crumble in the face of insults, bad manners, doing their chores, cleaning their trash after them, unreasonable bouts of silence, and essentially everything short of throwing yourself in front of a truck about to hit them. Oh, actually doing even that. Now what is expected of the youngsters in return – arre thodi si respect, thoda sa pyaar. Who bhi nahi dete. Right? Wrong.

Here’s the twist. No matter how cynical I may have sounded in the above para, this column is indeed FOR the 13-year-old boy, and not against him. There must be something that the parents do – or have been doing for generations together, which makes the youngsters rebel in defiance or withdraw in a shell. I feel that if some of the basic reasons of annoyance are avoided by the parents, it might become an easy breathe, both for them and their kid. So answer this:

Are you all the time – and I mean all the time – preaching life’s lessons to your son or daughter? If yes, please stop. I know it comes so naturally to us to say things like ‘Tumhara hi fayda hai agar padhai kar loge, humein toh kuchh farq nahi padega’. But please. Stop. Saying. It. They know it already… this is no secret. Baar baar repeat karke you’ll only make them react, not study.

Are you nagging your child too much over the level of mess in his room, the hours that he spends on Instagram or the kind of friends that he or she has? Hehe, I don’t even want to know the answer. You know it.

Are you competing with your child in raising your voice when she does at you? I know it’s unacceptable for her to answer back rudely, but don’t counter it by starting a screaming match. Just leave the game and take a time out. Realisation works way better with this generation than competition, they just seem to thrive on the latter.

You see, basic respect, regardless of the age, is a right of every human being. If you give it to your child, you are leading by example, and making it clear that nothing less is acceptable in your home. Set those rules while learning to ignore the minor irritants, and this phase can be beautiful. You and your teenager can leave the shouting for when you are watching a match on TV. Together.

Sonal Kalra diplomatically changed the whole drift of this column in the middle of writing it. One cold glare from her daughter did the trick. Mail your thoughts at or Follow on Twitter@sonalkalra.

First Published: Nov 10, 2018 17:21 IST