The conduct of macho tough boys
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MOST teenagers, especially the boys, invariably exhibit determination to look for more excitement than everyday life generally offers. This conduct is more apparent among urban dwellers. Reasons that give rise to this situation vary from fearlessness to inability to see the consequences.

Today, I look at the conduct of fearless teenagers, especially the big macho tough boys. At the outset, I must point out here that all teenagers experiment with new types of behaviour, often those associated with adult life. Usually they calm down after a few years to behave more responsibly.

Some teenagers, however, seem almost addicted to the buzz that risk-taking brings and do things that others see as foolish. This is mainly because they actually enjoy the feeling of fear. They may steal a bicycle and ride too fast; they may destroy public property or even family property.

Boys are more likely to be involved in these sorts of escapades, which they often see as macho or a passport to adulthood. It is at this time some come into conflict with the law. For the parents of teenagers who are likely to have encounters with the police, the teenage years can be a nightmare.

But it is reassuring that the majority do grow out of this behaviour quite soon. Parents often feel embarrassed when their children are caught in anti-social pursuits. The first cigarette under the canopy of a tree is often seen as an introduction to adolescence and many teenagers experiment with smoking as they do with other forms of adult behaviour. The problem is that nicotine is extremely addictive.

So a teenager may start just wanting to look big but end up hooked. Parents who do not want their children to smoke should not smoke themselves. Children from non-smoking homes are much less likely to take up the habit.

Children should be told that it’s better never to start smoking. It is imperative that children are enlightened on the hazards of smoking and how expensive the habit is likely to be. They should know how much hardearned money would be wasted on the habit and how dangerous to health it is.

Teenagers are often unconcerned about dangers to health. When I was growing up in a rural village in Tarime District in the late sixties I used to worry my parents over fearless conduct. I was notorious for sneaking out of my hut during impenetrably dark nights and steal my way to village dance parties.

Initially, lashes of the cane failed to work. I didn’t stop walking through pitchdark nights until, one sinister night; I stumbled and fell helter-skelter on a cow that was sleeping on my footpath. The cow, which must have been asleep, scrambled to its feet groaned in terror and threw me into a thorny bush as it fled. I scuttled back home feeling devastated.

Hyenas, which normally came out to forage in the dark, were the most feared beasts of the night. I spent a sleepless night thinking I had stumbled on a hyena. The beast, however, was a neighbour’s cow. This ghastly incident stopped my escapades.

Teenagers often love going out to discotheques or elsewhere at night. Getting teenagers to come home from a night out at what is considered a reasonable hour can be a major battle.

Often it is the worry about the risks young people may encounter that makes parents so upset by this. It is difficult for parents, who are used to knowing exactly where their children are and with whom, to realize that everything has suddenly changed.

But it is important that young people are able to begin expressing their independence and making judgments for themselves about what is safe. After all, it won’t be long before they fly out of the family nest. Sensible parents take an interest without prying or interrogating.

However, it is wise to know where your teen will be and with whom. It is common for unaccompanied teenagers to run into serious trouble. These days, in our part of the world narcotic drugs are available much more freely and widely than previously.

Occasional horror stories emerge of younger children being exposed to drugs--and parents should certainly assume that their teenagers are likely to be offered drugs. Narcotic drugs on offer range from cannabis to solvents and hard stuff such as heroin.

Taking drugs allows teenagers to get high or to shut out the real world. The temptation is obviously much greater for young people whose real world is less than satisfactory in some way. Many teenagers will try something at some time, whether it is sniffing glue, smoking dope or taking ecstasy. Drug addiction is, however, much less common in Tanzania.

It is more likely that teenagers who use hard drugs or become addicted are lacking something in their lives. Alcohol is, of course, a legal and socially acceptable drug, even though it may actually be more harmful to the body than some of the illegal drugs. In moderation, it can make us feel better, lower inhibitions and perhaps, help some of us to interact socially. I do not see any point in allowing your teenager to drink alcohol.

But if he or she must drink you should show him or her that it is good to drink sensibly. Again, it is important to set teenagers a good example. If your teenager sees you regularly drinking heavily or getting drunk, he may be less likely to be cautious about it himself. Excessive drinking can have devastating consequences.

The individual may suffer from a variety of health problems, culminating in severe liver damage or even death. Alcohol abuse also leads to huge social problems, including fights and violence, domestic abuse, and can have a devastating effect on the family of the drinker. If your teenager comes home obviously drunk, there’s no point in creating a scene at the time. It is probably better to make sure he or she drinks some water and gets to bed safely.

However, it’s vitally important to talk to him about it the next day. Do not overreact. Lack of experience often means young people drink too much without meaning to. Some teenagers don’t just come home drunk from the occasional party; they actually begin drinking seriously and becoming dependent on it. If you think your teen is developing an alcohol problem or if you notice he’s very aggressive after a night out, take your fears seriously.

Think about whether your child’s friends are part of a heavy-drinking crowd or why he may feel alcohol is necessary to relax socially. Many young people go through a phase of drinking heavily, then finish with it after a while, but keep an eye on his or her drinking habit. I wish everyone good parenting.

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