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Identifying extreme and deviant behaviors in teenagers


44 year old Ghani Khan nowadays worries about his 14 year old son Wahid, who smokes and loves driving rash. Moreover, he is least bothered about his studies. “He thinks that whatever we are telling him is either wrong or useless for him,” says the frustrated father. Wahid also has craze for gadgets like mobiles, tablets and other devices. He spends most of his time on social media and internet surfing. He is also over confident and pretends that he can complete any task at any time if assigned. “He thinks he is very strong. But the reality is that he fails almost every time in completing his tasks,” adds the father.
According to psychologists when children enter their teenage years, they go through many physical, mental, and social changes which affect their personality in different ways. “They can express strong feelings and intense emotions at different times. At times they may behave decently while other times they may be rude, shout at someone or get into conflict with parents,” says Prof Mowadat Hussain Rana, Chief Editor of Journal of Pakistan Psychiatric Society.

Deviant or extreme behavior can also be seen in this age group. “They can indulge in risk taking behaviors like rash driving, smoking, drug abuse, law breaking, violating domestic rules, getting into fights with family members or fellows,” says the Professor.
A pertinent question here would be that why do children of this specific age group fall prey to extreme or deviant behaviors? Experts believe there are many reasons to it. Family environment comes first. “When a child sees extreme behavior at home between his parents, sisters and brothers or other relatives, he keeps absorbing them silently,” says Prof Mowadat. Besides this, streets, school and playground environment can also affect them. “Unfortunately, most homes in our society have people with extreme nature.” Moreover, people on streets, markets and roads also exhibit such tendency. They drive in a rushed manner and have less tolerance.

According to Dr Mumtaz Fatima Jafari, a psychotherapist, educationist and adviser at COMSATS University Islamabad says, the theory of Social Learning or Observational Learning tells us that a child learns by observation and then tries to act the learned behavior. Children observe people around them behaving in various ways. Individuals that are observed are called models. In society, children are surrounded by many influential models, such as parents, characters on children’s TV, friends within their peer group and teachers at school. These models provide examples of behavior to observe and imitate, for example masculine and feminine, pro and anti-social etcetera.

Misbehavior with women at home is also another thing the Prof Mowadat points out, which is considered normal in our society. “If a mother is beaten or abused at home or treated like a commodity, she stores resentment in herself,” says the professor. Then she tries to find a weak object for releasing her anger and depression. “And in many cases children become the victims,” he adds. When children suffer from these things they also retaliate. “They express their anger on weaker objects like pets or younger siblings,” he adds.
Moreover, children who suffer rejection, humiliation, physical, mental, or sexual abuse enter adolescence with a depressed and negative personality. “Since they have been suffering from a sense of weakness they want to be powerful so nobody can harm them. And they start spending their time with people or groups who make them feel secure and protected,” explains Prof Mowadat. These people or groups usually give them a sense of strength and help them during any problem.

Sometimes these children can become part of so-called religious cults. “They are taught extreme ideas. For instance, the followers of other sects or religions are not on the right path and should be punished,” adds the professor.
But all this learning comes from how a mother brings up her children. “If women are intolerant in their religious views, they will inculcate them into their child,” he states before adding, “religion is such a matter that whatever is said in its name is neither questioned nor studied.”

Parents can play a great role in bringing up their children in a positive way. They need to be vigilant in picking up signs in their child that may go on to become problematic for them and their child.
If you notice your child not behaving normally, then listen to him carefully and try to understand his problem. “If a child expresses extreme behavior, he should not be isolated,” adds Prof Mowadat. In such cases, most of the parents get angry and stop talking to the child, threat him or shut him in his room. “The parents think that these strategies will correct him. But this is the worst way to bring him back to normality,” he warns.

He suggests that parents should come close to him. His friends and age fellows should also be asked for help. “It is the nature of a child that he listens to his age fellows more than his parents, so his friends’ help for the purpose is important.” If the situation is out of control then parents should seek professional help. “But rehabilitation centers will not be of much help as there are other issues associated to them,” he adds.
As far as the role of teachers is concerned, they should also have an eye on such children who demonstrate violent behavior at school. “If a child is bullying his fellows, they should take it seriously and inform the parents,” says Prof Mowadat.
Besides, co-curricular activities can help teenagers utilize their energy in a positive way. “Sexual and anger instincts can be expressed through games and physical activities,” says the professor. When a society does not have avenues for these impulses then they are suppressed. “And later on these suppressed instincts result in extremism and criminality.”

nother problem is that parents are not becoming good role models for their children. “Unfortunately we just tell our children to be honest and kind to others. But we do not demonstrate these behaviors for them to follow,” laments Dr Mumtaz.

Our society lacks good role models. Our role models usually are film stars who are shown fighting and murdering people. “Such models and their actions penetrate in a child’s psyche and he tries to act like them,” says Dr Mumtaz. She emphasizes that we should introduce our children with peaceful and loving models and should ask them to adopt their way. “Nevertheless, parents are the biggest role model for them. If they are extreme either in their views or actions, there is a fat chance that the child will adopt them.”
Parents and the society need to realize that treating their children in a positive and sensible manner can go a long way in building a better society. “Moreover, media should not glamorize violence, the government should maintain law and order in the country, and take stern action against the monger of hate, intolerance and violence,” says the Professor. We should behave decently at our homes, streets, and markets so that our children can follow our footsteps.

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