Wipe that frown off your face!
Of course, no one is as good as our own angels. As difficult as it is, when kids start to develop their own relationships, we have to consciously avoid being extra-possessive or judgemental about the friends they make. So while you might prefer 'studious Sameer' to 'hurricane Swapnil', unless there's a real threat of bad influence, accept your kids' friends, warts and all.
Talk, talk, talk
No, don't yawn! If you've read our other stories, you're probably as fed up of reading the four-letter word as we are of writing it. But really, it is the golden rule. While you talk, you'll catch clues about what's going on in your children's lives-even if they don't tell you directly. A child who has to bite his tongue to keep from using profanities at the dinner table is obviously hanging out with a less-than-ideal bunch of friends.
Being clued in also allows you to pre-empt problems and solve them before they become bigger. You've realised she feels the need to knock off five kilos off her already petite frame? Time to slip in a gentle word about body image and how healthy people are beautiful people. Say it during a casual conversation over dinner or while watching a movie, like a general opinion instead of making it sound like a comment directed at her. You'll realise there won't be any need for a lot of the dreaded intervention 'lectures' to control the damage.
The more secure your kids are...
The less likely they are to blindly follow the leader. For insecure kids, the need to 'fit in' takes priority over following their hearts. How do you do it? By letting them make the choices-with gentle, unseen nudges from your end, of course. You'll be surprised how long you can get away with it-why it's a technique the bosses at yowoto use with their editor, even! Every time a story doesn't make sense, 'The Force' starts working backwards-the desired result, the path and then the most logical starting point. And the editor leaves the room beaming, secure in the knowledge that it was her idea to change the brief. Kids are pretty much the same, as long as they believe it's their decision, they'll do anything to prove it was the right one.
"All Sachin's friends wanted to go for hip-hop classes," says Shweta from Mumbai. "He preferred singing but was swayed by the popular vote." Shweta didn't tell 13-year-old Sachin what to do. She simply asked him to explain his choice. After a few questions here and there about giving up his talent and dropping his favourite singers' names a couple of times, Sachin decided he wanted to go for singing classes after all. Sachin chose, but Shweta won, too.
Tried this line yourself? How and why-and did it work?
You just don't approve
Hopefully, you will be able to manipulate them (it isn't always a bad thing, you know!) into making the right choices themselves. But it isn't a completely foolproof plan. There will be times when they simply won't listen. When Ram Bansal from Delhi sat down to explain to his 15-year-old son, Ankur, why he couldn't drive until it was legal, even if his friends were; he wanted Ankur to understand the reason behind the 'no'. "I heard him out," says Rajiv, "But he just wasn't ready to see the mature point of view." If you still can't convince your kids so see your reasoning, well, just remember the bottom line...
You're still the parent. And the home is not a democracy, so, every once in a while, it's okay to put your foot down and just say, "Because I said so!"