Every once in a while, something crosses my Facebook page alluding to teens being either smart-mouthed, unappreciative or lazy. I don’t ever re-post these nor do I “like” them. I also don’t join in with the comments made by hoards of adults who have forgotten what it was like when they were teens.
It’s a conversation my 15-year-old and I have often. She’s always asking me what is wrong with her that adults immediately judge her just because she is a teenager? My reply is always the same. The real question is what is wrong with THEM that they would judge you because you are a teenager.
Being a teenager is not something one chooses. It’s a phase of life and one must go through it. Most teens are just doing their best to come out on the other side without being in therapy. Likewise, so are most parents. It’s obviously a difficult time. Do we really need to make it worse by labeling them and putting them into categorized boxes? No, we really don’t. We were there once and we hated the stigma attached by the older generations just as much as they do. So why would we do that to the younger generation when we should encourage and help them?
Here’s the bottom line:
1. If you think teens are smart-mouthed/sarcastic/etc – Rethink how you communicate. Perhaps they are only reacting off of you. I get more from my kids when I talk with them than at them. Ask them open-ended questions to spark communication. Take the time to get to the heart of the issue.
2. If you think teens are disrespectful – Check yourself. Lead by example. This is the time when parental respect is no longer expected as much as earned. It’s OK to earn your teen’s respect. And it’s OK to demand it. But learn when to do which one at the proper time. When you’re out in public, do you respect other teens? Do you smile at them or scowl because you just “know” they’re up to no good? Be honest. Respect given is usually respect earned.
3. If you think teens think money grows on trees – Educate them. Sit them down with you one time when you’re paying bills and let them know exactly where the money goes. My mother did this with my 14-year-old a couple of years ago and it worked wonders! She now looks for ways to be frugal and if she wants something, she looks for coupons, sales, second-hand, etc…anything to help cut the cost. She then presents it to me so we can talk about it.
4. If you think teens are unappreciative – Show them the value of things. Educate them on how little so many have it (without rubbing it in their faces) and guide them into an understanding. I’ve done this with my girls their whole life. Their whole life, they’ve known there are others who have less and therefore, they appreciate what they have. Yes, they want more, updated and newer but they’ve learned the value of being content. They’ve also learned the value of people more than things. Time spent together is more precious to them than getting a new iPod or a new cellphone.
5. If you think your teen dresses weird – Didn’t you at that age? Do you not realize that most likely, this is just a phase on their way to finding themselves? My older daughter is a Furry – aka a movement that imitates animals. She wears a tail almost everywhere she goes. In telling this to a co-worker, that co-worker instantly scrutinized her. She’s also received the off look from the older generations judging her for her choices. What they don’t know about her is that she is in color guard and earns As and Bs. She texts me every place she goes and checks in constantly. She worries about her grandmother’s health and thinks time spent with family is the best birthday/Christmas presents ever. She also likes to cuddle with me and nothing is taboo when we talk. Do you still think she’s weird???
6. If you think teens are selfish – Have you ever asked them what they would like to give back? My daughter gets such a kick out of shopping at Goodwill. Not only is she saving her family money, but she loves the odd things she can get there and she loves helping others get jobs by supporting the Goodwill. She wants to volunteer there. My other daughter wants to volunteer to help with animals. It’s the way she combats crimes against animals. So perhaps your teen isn’t really selfish; perhaps you just haven’t tapped into their generosity. Find out where their interest lies and support that! Encourage it. It may mean you have to drive them somewhere or you will have to get involved on some level. If you don’t help them give back, you cannot call them selfish.
7. If you think teens don’t ever use good judgement – They don’t! It’s a proven fact that the part of the brain where judgement takes place doesn’t even start forming until the age of 18! Figure that teens are growing up emotionally without the ability to reason and you have a recipe for disaster unless adults step in and take an active role in their life. I have moments with my girls where I sit take them one on one and ask them what is on their hearts and minds. Then I promise them my head won’t explode. Spending time with teens is really a GOOD thing!
8. If you think teens are just boy/girl crazy – They are! They are emotionally changing at a rapid, rapid pace! They go from thinking boys have ugly germs and girls have cooties to boys being cute and girls being hot! It’s a critical, critical time for them! This is NOT the time to be shy about sex, relationships or anything like that. You MUST establish communication with them. I talk about this stuff constantly with my girls and guess what? They come to me and talk with me! It is possible to have these conversations with teens and not only be informative for them but have a sense of humor about it. They’re shy and having trouble talking about stuff like this. Be empathetic! Remember what it was like for you! And for Pete’s sake, DON’T SHRINK AWAY FROM THEM or they will soon be seeing a shrink!
9. If you think teens sleep all the time and are lazy – Guess what? Remember that rapid growing I mentioned earlier? Take that and combine it with physical growth and hormonal changes. The body is physically tired. The only time a body goes through that type of change is when we’re babies or pregnant (obviously for women) and what do babies do? Sleep! What do young children do? Nap! What do pregnant women do? Sleep – well, as much as is possible but we do get tired when we’re pregnant! So why would anyone think that a teenager would NOT be tired??? Their bodies are growing, maturing, changing, hormones raging and growing and changing….they’re tired! And they should be! I’ve learned to respect that (keeping it all in a form of moderation) and I’ve gotten really good results from my teens.
10. If you think teens stay up all night and that’s why they’re tired – It’s a little known fact that most teens do not naturally go to sleep until about 11pm. Teens need a minimum of 9.5 hours of sleep and with school starting early in the morning, can you imagine? My daughter doesn’t naturally fall asleep until midnight. Her bus leaves at 6:40am. That means she is up at 6am to get ready. She tries to function on 6 hours of sleep. When she comes home, she’s exhausted which leads her to nap which leads to later sleep times. A few smart school superintendents did a trial in their high schools. They started the school day an hour later. They noticed immediately teens were more alert. The grades soared and the absenteeism reduced by 75 percent! That’s a huge change for one hour!! Sleep deprivation can lead to things like depression, weight gain, skin problems, concentration issues and loss of control of emotions. So get a clue! They’re not lazy – they’re tired and they have every right to be!
These young people are our future. I keep hearing young people are getting worse and worse but what are we, as adults, doing to help them? We still in judgment but are we really doing anything? We need to stop being lazy ourselves! We need to start listening to what they’re saying. I heard a great quote on Law and Order: SVU. Det. Stabler says to his teenage daughter: “What is it with you kids?” His daughter answered (most intelligently, in my opinion): “You’re always judging us. You expect us to be like you and get mad if we’re not. It’s just easier to talk to our friends.“
We also make the mistake of thinking our job is done once they’re teens. People, that’s when they need us to be parents the most!!!! That’s when they need us to be adults the most!!! Usually, that’s when we desert them! We assume they don’t need us anymore. We assume they’d rather be with their friends. We assume they’d rather be without us. I’m living proof that you can have your cake and eat it, too! My girls love spending time with their friends (all of whom I know) AND they love spending time with me. They talk with their friends AND they talk with me (usually with me first). They have no problem telling me they need me and they are still my reason for living.
And you know what? As much as they learn from me, I learn from them. Teens are brilliant people!!!