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Shoot-outs in schools are not common occurrences in India. Which is probably why we have ignored the rising graph of crime among youngsters. Teen violence includes not merely shooting, but also fights, gang-violence, self-mutilation, aggressive sexual activity, explosive tempers and tantrums, threats or attempts to hurt others and suicide. The victims of teen violence are most often other teenagers. Youngsters who commit acts of violence are often involved in other kinds of risky or criminal behaviour. They may use drugs, carry weapons, drive recklessly and have unsafe sex.

When we read about incidents like the one in Gurgaon in newspapers, we feel surprised. But we wouldn’t if we paid any attention to the violence that we witness everyday in schools by teachers or friends of a child, in public transport, or even in the safest abode for a child — his home.

When a child refuses to be disciplined, the most common parental behaviour is to shout at him, punish him, or beat him. The power struggle between a child and his parents is replicated in school between the child and his teacher. We may shed tears watching Darsheel Safari play a dyslexic child in Taare Zameen Par, but, in real life, how much attention do we pay them as parents and teachers?

Bullying is also a part of a school-going child’s life, but we hardly ever recognize it as violent behaviour. For some, the effects of bullying last a lifetime. Youngsters often find it difficult to cope with the pressure thrust upon them by their so-called well-wishers to continuously perform, achieve and excel in as many disciplines as possible. Violent behaviour is liable to pass into children from their families, neighbourhoods and peers.

Anger triggers anger. If teenagers are spoken to angrily, or shouted at, they are likely to respond in the same way. Parents must not shout or resort to physical punishment too often in trying to discipline children.

When a teenager shows aggression:

Try to find out the reason behind the behaviour. Frustration and anger can cause teenagers to speak rudely or shout.

Make neutral statements.

Talk about the problem, try to avoid attacking the teenager.

Help him or her understand your concerns. Sarcasm doesn’t work.

Avoid power struggles, which you may win, but at too high a price.

Do not think spanking is a good way of disciplining a child.

Regardless of the teenager’s tone, rate or pitch, keep your own voice low and cool.

Be rational in making him understand a problem.

The symptom of aggression and violence among children are intense anger; frequent loss of temper or blow-ups; extreme irritability; extreme impulsiveness; susceptability to frustration; tendency to harm or threaten themselves, other people or pets; damage or destruction of property; lying or stealing; faring badly in school, skipping school altogether; taking to smoking, drinking or drug use; early sexual activity; frequent tantrums and arguments; consistent hostility towards authority figures; and inability to concentrate in studies or a sudden dip in performance.

Teachers and parents need to be alert to these symptoms. Usually, a child is referred to a psychologist only when his parents/ teachers identify a significant abnormality in his behavioural pattern.

Adolescents must learn to deal with anger as well. One must learn to express his feelings to a trusted friend or confidant. Disappointment, anger or displeasure must be expressed without losing one’s temper or fighting. Even while facing criticism, a young boy or girl must try to find out whether any part of the critical comment is justified. If the answer is yes, he must try to change himself for the better. It is always a good idea to work out one’s problems with someone else by looking at alternative solutions and compromises. There should be no inhibition or fear in seeking professional help.

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