Friday, November 26, 2010

Hey, like stop dissing teenagers, like!

As the mother of a child entering the teenage years head first, I've decided to share some of my feelings about the way our society treats teenagers. We spend years forcing children to be independent, forcing them to sleep on their own, use the toilet, feed themselves dress themselves, sending them away from us for six hours a day and many other historically odd practices. Yet as soon as they hit twelve or thirteen and want to flex some of their independent muscles we start wishing they were babies again.

As a whole, society has unrealistic expectations of teenagers. People literally can't stand them. I have heard countless people complain about the behaviour they have witnessed teenagers exhibiting in public - or at home, but what people seem to forget is that teenagers are not adults, and expecting them to sit quietly, politely conversing. on the bus when there are members of the opposite sex present is insane! You may well be tired out from your day at work, and concerned with relaxing, but this is hardly the fault of the teenagers you encounter.

What people forget is that teenagers are just children, tall ones, pretending to be grown ups. No one batts an eye at a two year old pretending to talk on the phone or cook and serve food, so it baffles me that we don't grasp the need of adolescents to play. Play grown ups, with boy friends and girlfriends, play responsible people, able to confidently make their own decisions, play dress ups (in skinny leg jeans and makeup) and play at navigating their way successfully through life. When you see them engaging in loud, obnoxious behaviour, try to remember that they're probably on their way home to eat the food their parents have cooked, have their clothes washed (although they often don't see how dirty they are) and "chillax" on the sofa watching Channel V.

Another thing that strikes me as absurd is the way adults demand respect from a bunch of tall kids with raging hormones, that they offer no respect to in return. Respect is a two way street! I remember when I was a teenager I would sometimes encounter older people who were simply rude to me because of my age. Why on earth should a teenager behave respectfully whilst they are being judged and disrespected? Keep in mind that an adult struggles to maintain equilibrium under such circumstances, what skills is a teenager in possession of that enable them to respond calmly? I think rule number one of living in harmony with teenagers is RESPECT! Try to stifle your laughter at their undersized jeans and over sized sun glasses until they have left, eh?

If you have kids then you have probably realised that one day you will have teenagers. Try to look fondly, or at least with more compassion, upon teenagers when you encounter their strange play. Chances are that they aren't doing it solely to irritate you, chances are that they're trying to impress you with their astonishing maturity! Respect them, simply because they are people. and all people no matter their age, deserve respect.


Anonymous said...

Great post Meg. I SO remember being a teenager, and what a frustrating time it was for me.

I thought the world was mad - at 16, i could have legally had a baby, but i couldn't drink or drive (or even both at the same time!)..Adults making these rules were clearly insane! I was lucky my mom was very liberal and gave me lots of freedom, but lots of my friends parents didn't..

I also think, in this crazy 'litigation/bogey-man fear' age, parents give children so little freedom before their teenage years (no walking to school alone, no playing in the park alone, dont do this/that it's dangerous...etc..), that when they reach their teen years, they have no idea what to do with life, no idea of their own limitations and potential - and then they get dissed by adults for acting like kids!!

Jen said...

Great post! I am planning a blog post on ageism, more about segregating the young and old, and I would love to link to this! I couldn't have said it better myself.

mamapoekie said...

great post!!! I'll be using this in an article about parenting teens