How to handle teenagers?

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Every parent goes through trying times dealing with their teenagers. This is simply because parents have not equipped themselves on how to handle this situation. In this entertaining and highly insightful talk, Sadhguru advises on what parent must do to make it an enjoyable journey for both- the parent and the child. A teenage child is seeking a "Friend" and not a "Parent" and most parents are lousy friends because they don't work towards earning that title.


Duration: 25 min


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16 min read

How to handle teenagers?

The following is an unedited transcript of Sadhguru's video. For better readability, breaks and highlights have been added by the editors.

Questioner: How should one deal with teenagers?

Sadhguru: I think you are a little too old to deal with teenagers! See… Every age is a problem. No, no I’m talking about the ages. Stone age was a problem, iron age was a problem, bronze age is a problem, computer age, serious problem. Isn’t it so? Middle ages are serious problems, modern age is immense problem. Teenage – another problem.

I hope you had a normal birth and.. You were born normally? So, if you were born normally, you were born like ‘this’ [infant] and slowly grew up, and somebody counted your age and you also passed through 13, 14, 15 – which you are referring to as teen. This is just a certain developmental stage. Like an infancy, like childhood, like adult, like adolescence. Adulthood, old age, middle age, whatever. These are all different… We’re trying to segment it, but essentially this is a physical journey of a body.

Tell me one phase of your life which is not really a problem

Tell me one phase of your life which is not really a problem. Some are suffering infancy problems, some are suffering toddler problems, some are suffering childhood problems, some are suffering teenage problems, some are going through middle age problems, some are going through old age problems, some have transcended all problems. Yes? If you look at it in this context, every phase of life is a problem. Then death is the only solution. If you look at every aspect of life as a problem, what is the solution? Death is the only solution.

Now, the moment you identify every phase of life as a problem, unconsciously you start seeking death – please know this. For yourself and those around you. You do not know this, but you are creating an ecosystem in your mind where the solution is to be free from all this. You came here to experience life. Instead of calling these different facets of life, you’re calling it different problems that you have.

If you die, you will have funeral problems. Because it’s not easy to have a funeral in Mumbai city. No more dignified funeral, isn’t it? Yes? There is no four people carrying you. Your whole family and friends walking behind you with a drum. No more like that. Boom…pee…pee…pee – stuck in the traffic. Even dead, you are stuck in the traffic!

The moment you identify every phase of life as a problem, unconsciously you start seeking death

I want you to understand this – there are various types of situations in your life. They are just situations. Some you know how to handle. Some you are yet to know how to handle. Whatever you do not know how to handle, you call it a problem. The moment you call something a problem, the moment you identify a situation…. it’s a simple situation… because you have not equipped yourself to handle the situation, you call it a problem. The moment you call it a problem, unpleasantness is a natural consequence of that.

Your children are growing up, it should be a joyful moment. Yes! They become teenagers means, they are growing rapidly. Yes! Or in other words, unfortunately they are beginning to become like you. And, you are distressed! Because you can see, they are becoming like you. I can understand! No Sadhguru – that is not the problem. They are beginning to become something different. They don’t even look like my children anymore.

We have unfortunately eulogised helpless states of life

We have… we have eulogised, we have unfortunately eulogised helpless states of life. When you say infancy, and childhood – what you are talking about is, a certain phase of our life when we are pretty helpless. Without outside help, we can not survive, or be anything. So, we have eulogised this. Even so called spiritual teachers are going about saying – I am a child. I don’t want to meet an adult, who is a child. It’s another way of saying – I’m retarded.

If you are stuck for your life in a six year old’s body, you are called dwarfed, isn’t it? I’m using bad words, I know. It’s not politically correct words. Ok, you are height impaired! Vertical impairment has happened. If you are stuck in a six year old’s mind, you are mentally retarded. No – you are a…. what? Differently abled, you become. These are pretty words, alright. We don’t want to insult people who are in such situations, we appreciate that. But, if you are eulogising that state of a helpless phase in our lives – which is childhood, where without someone else’s support we can not exist. If you eulogise that, you will remain that way forever. And that’s what has happened.

I can not live without you – is not have any great value

I can not live without you – do not understand this as some kind of a love affair. It is just like saying – I can not walk without a crutch. I am fine the way I am, but still I am willing to include you, and involve my life with you – this is of great value. I can not live without you – is not have any great value. I can live without anybody’s attention, but I am willing to throw myself with absolute involvement, with whoever is here right now – this is of value. Because you are eulogising helplessness, or helpless phases of our life…. when you are a little baby, you can’t even pee by yourself. Somebody has to take you. I’m saying – I am like a child means – then I’m looking, where are the diapers! Please let’s…give him one, you know.

Now what’s happening with the so called teenage is, you got used to your child as a helpless creature. Now if he’s finding his own feet, you don’t like it. You want to condense him. boo…boo…boo…my boo boo. What you need is a toy, or a doll to play with, or maybe a dog.

A couple was struggling, not able to make a decision whether to have children or not. The debate between the husband and wife was, the husband wants to have children, the wife says it’s not necessary, we can get a dog instead. Because they couldn’t settle it, they went to a marriage counselor. So they said, we are not able to make up our mind whether to have children, or to get a dog. What should we do? So marriage counselor said, this is very simple. You want to ruin your carpets or your life, you must decide.

So, you must understand this – if your life is a concrete block. When I say a concrete block, it has clear defined boundaries – this is what I am. Like just now what Anupam was saying – even a, you know, a little child is saying – this is how I am! That means I have become a concrete block. Because a certain amount of stupid information has come my way, with this I have formed a definition of ‘what I am’. So once I have formed a clear, concrete block kind of definition of who I am… If two concrete blocks meet with great passion – what will happen? If there is a loose boundary to you… if two people come [together] with great passion, wonderful things of union may happen. Otherwise two concrete blocks clash – what happens? You know, friction. Friction, and breaking of one of the concrete blocks, or both will happen.

So, once you become like a concrete block, you should not beget more concrete blocks. Because you are incapable of including another life as a part of yourself. Because you have defined the boundaries of ‘who you are’ so absolutely – you should not even get married, if you ask me. Because two concrete blocks living together – alright, it may make a house. It will not make a home. Concrete blocks together will make a house. Nothing more beautiful than that will happen. We are already too over built in Mumbai! We don’t have to build more, ok.

So, children when they come… when they’re helpless and for everything they look up to you, you think your children are magical, because they’re helpless. Suppose the baby popped out of you and stood up and said – hey, who the hell are you? You won’t like this baby. But he takes 14-15 years to ask that question. In fact that is all a teenager is asking. Okay, who the hell are you?

So if you want to be somebody to that new fresh life which has come, you must not have defined boundaries of who you are. Like when the child was infant, when it crawled, you crawled with him. Now your teenager wants to swing, you must be able to swing with him. No, you still want to crawl with him. He’s not interested. He’s beginning to ask. Parents are looking ridiculous in the eyes of adolescents. Yes or no? Didn’t your parents look ridiculous in your eyes? Unless you were old by the time you were 12. If you were young and energetic, your parents look ridiculous, because they think still you need to be crawled around. Every day life is changing within you because you’re growing rapidly. And the fools around you, not able to grasp that. Whoever they are.

Usually grandparents become little more endearing than parents, because they have little ‘far away’ look, you know. Little far away look, because teenage means, you are slowly getting poisoned by your hormones. Old age means, you are being released from that. So, they kind of understand. So, those of you, who are in middle age, have no clue – where the hell you are! Even historically, the middle ages represent a confused state of mind.

Don’t deal with your teenagers. Please make yourself available to be dealt by them

So don’t deal with your teenagers. Please make yourself available to be dealt by them. Make them responsible for everything. One month… I’m telling you… one month you have the courage to hand over your monthly income to them, and say – manage the house. Just give them responsibility. You will see, dramatically it will change, you know.

Because you must understand – I am… I have been a telephonic father, ok! From the age of 3.5 months, my girl travelled with me, alone in the car. We built the Isha Foundation in a Maruti 800, travelling 1000s of miles. In one calendar year, or in actually 14 months, I did 135,000 Km on my Maruti, ok! So, she was 3.5 months old – one hand on her in the front seat strapped, and my right leg doesn’t go easy, you know, boom. So she grew up in the car till she was 4 years of age. I thought I will never send her to school, because we had bonded, and she had such wisdom. Because she had seen the road, she’s seen the people, she’s been in all kinds of families – I thought I shouldn’t mess this up by sending her to a school.

But you know, that age group, that company. Unless you have a whole cricket team of children at home – just one child, doesn’t work. Just keeping them alone, because they may become too old when they are young. So, I put her to school after that. After that, always, she is continuously in one hostel to another. And… but we kept a very active engagement, thanks to the cellphones.

Earlier it was the black phone. I would stop somewhere on the highway, because I know only at a particular time you can call her in the school. Because the school opens that phone time, only one hour. So, I am somewhere in a highway, find that black phone, and get on. And for that one hour, I’m on the phone with her. That side for her, all the children outside are screaming at her. Here at the booth, all the people are banging on the booth.

I always had this thing at that time… I am driving on the highway, I have many many phone calls to make, local, international, all kinds. First I would get down, and go to that phone booth guy and give him one five thousand rupees. He is surprised. [I say] just hold it – deposit. And, I get into the phone booth, and now I am a valued customer. The other people come, and they want to make the call within 3 minutes. And they are all standing in a queue, and making faces at me, and gesticulating. But that guy says – no, don’t disturb him. Because straight five thousand rupees – I’m making international calls, all calls, because there were no cellphones at that time.

So, I find this time and speak. And after that she went to college, and everything – whatever she’s been pursuing. Always on phone, and we’ve kept a very active engagement and we’ve never really stayed home. If she comes for vacation, next day we’ll be travelling somewhere. Somewhere, somewhere, somewhere – but never really at home. But a very active relationship I kept with her, largely on the phone. Thanks to all the telephone waves that are going on.

So, it was such an active engagement – why I am saying this is… And whenever… I saw there is a certain intelligence in every child – I am not trying to project, this is a ‘special’ child. No – she is just normal. Brought up in a special way, for sure. The thing is just this – if she comes home, or if she is with me – I leave all my important decision in her hands. She is only five-six. People’s problems, foundation issues, administration – I just put it to her. She comes up with her own whacky solutions. But five out of ten times, she would come out with something brilliant. This is not… I want you to understand, I am not projecting, this is a special child. It is just that, most people never give that opportunity to a child’s intelligence. Because they want to do – boo… boo… boo… boo…. du… du… du… du, with the child.

I never bought toys for her. If she wanted to play, I took her out for a walk in the jungle. I put her up on a tree. She learnt to climb trees, and do things and stuff. Never bought her toys, ever. Here and there, somebody gifted. But she never was interested in them. Because there were more exciting things. I caught snakes for her, I caught garden lizards for her – more exciting things! Live things to play with.

If you want to really do something with your children, you must allow them to expand

If you want to really do something with your children, you must allow them to expand. Because that’s all they are trying to do. Their body is not the only thing that is growing. The potential of being human being is growing. You must allow them to expand. Instead of that, you are seeing how to constrict them. Then you will have a huge problem. If you have boys, you will have one kind of problem. If you have girls, you will have another kind of problem.

If you try to restrict – you think restriction is a good way of controlling life? No. Responsibility will put them on the track. Hand over your money to them, and tell them – this month you are on vacation, you handle this, whichever way. You are afraid – maybe he will go and blow it up. What will happen tomorrow? If he blows it up – what happens to you, will happen to him also. Let him go through it for a month. Of course, you can keep some reserve. But let him understand, if he blows it up – tomorrow morning there will be no breakfast. And let him go through that. What’s the problem? Let him understand – that’s the way it is. It is better to learn in a protected, caring atmosphere, than out on the street tomorrow morning, isn’t it?

Drop this damn thing – that your child belongs to you

Ans above all, above all, drop this damn thing – that your child belongs to you. If you think this child belongs to you – when he is just coming into teens, he’s telling you, goddamn it I don’t belong to you. That’s all he is trying to tell you, which you are not able to digest. Another life does not belong to you. If another life has chosen to be with you, please cherish that – it’s a tremendous thing.

Whether it’s your husband, or your wife, or your children – they don’t belong to you. You don’t own them in any sense. If you don’t get it, you will understand when you die, or they die. They don’t belong to you. Another life has chosen to come through you, or be with you – cherish that, value that. Don’t think you are the owner of this life. You are not. So, if you believe you are the owner of the life – a teenager is beginning to make his own statements, well you don’t goddamn own me. He’s just telling you that, that’s all. In his own language. Yes or no? They are just telling you, you don’t own me. But, do they…. as another human being, you think they don’t want to be included? They definitely want to be included.

So, teenage means… there are many things. Because one thing is – your intelligence is being hijacked by your hormones. So certain things are happening. Suddenly the world doesn’t look the same. Some scrawny little girl in your neighbourhood, who you had nothing to do with – suddenly there are little bumps on her body, and your chemistry is poisoned. You look at her, suddenly… it’s a new world. The whole world is looking different. What was just people, are suddenly becoming male and female. It’s not a small change, you know! What were just people are suddenly becoming something else, and something else. Suddenly you are interested in only half the humanity! It’s a huge change. You will see boys don’t even look at their mothers directly, because they still can’t take their eyes off the body parts. You must understand this, that this is new, and he’s like trying to come to terms with it.

If you are a good friend, if they have problems, if they had struggles, they would talk to you. Because most parents are lousy friends, they make other friends. And those friends give their own whacky advice. Because they are also in the same state. It is best, if your child has a problem, they come to you, isn’t it? Yes! But they will not come to you, if you are a boss. They will not come to you, if you have ownership over that life. They will not come to you, if you are that horrible father or mother. They will come to you, if you are a good friend. Because when they have problems, it is natural for them to seek a friend.

Make sure, from an early age, that you are their best friend

So make sure, from an early age, that you are their best friend. Till they reach 18-20, you are their best friend. Make it that way. And this you have to earn. This will not drop, because you delivered them. Because you delivered them, you get the title of mother and father. You will not get the title of a friend. This has to be earned, and everyday responsible behaviour from you.

I don’t want to go too hard on you [looking at the questioner]. We’ll leave you here!


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