I've Never Met a Teenager I Didn't Like

Almost every time a baby is born in our society, the community gathers around to show its support and good wishes for a new life being brought into the world.  We send out congratulations to the expectant parents, even if they are complete strangers.  We will go out of our way to buy gifts for the child of a friend or close relative.  Almost anyone but the most bitter curmudgeon would generally agree that a new baby in the world is the symbol, or even the very embodiment, of hope, love, and renewal of life. 

Then every new parent hears at some point how they need to prepare themselves for when that baby becomes a teenager.  The warning comes: "Just you wait!"  (Cue scary music.) 

It's easy to see why some people prefer babies over teenagers.  Babies are always cute.  Babies don't talk back.  You need money to have a baby, but at least the babies themselves don't ask for money.  Babies don't require complex emotional involvement or you setting a good example.  Babies don't have friends and habits that are bad for them, or freedom that they could abuse.  Babies always want to be loved.  Heck, the only place where babies score evenly with most teenagers is on their mutual habit of staying awake all night!

There is a major prejudice against teenagers, and frankly, it's no stronger than when coming from the (current or former) parents of teenagers themselves.  I think that what makes some teenagers so "bad" is that society and their own families, too often, don't expect much of them.  If I've learned anything about marriage, friendship, and child-rearing, it's that people will raise or lower themselves to whatever expectation you set.  Thus, if you expect your teenager to be reckless, irresponsible, demanding, defiant, (insert adjective here), then that might be exactly what you get in return.  However, if you have a relationship built on sincere respect and mutual trust, then you at least have a chance, as a parent, of getting through to your teenager and having him or her make better life decisions. 

I also think that some parents might feel guilty when teens misbehave, regretting that they haven't spent more time (or resources of other kinds) on their teens; they might take the blame for their teenager's poor choices.  So in response, the parent becomes lenient and acts more like a friend to the teen, both to get closer to the teen and to ameliorate some of the guilt.  The teen then loses some respect for the parent's role, and the cycle continues.  Note that I am not suggesting that parents and teens shouldn't be friends, but just that at the end of the day, a parent is a parent first.

The fact is that I love teenagers.  (Yes, I've been around many of them, from very different backgrounds!)  On the whole, I think they are funny, sincere, wise, caring, and infused with justice and passion for the world.  I wish that more adults would get as outraged over injustice as teens do!  I've never honestly met a teenager I didn't like, as long as I stayed around long enough to listen to what they had to say.  Remember that babies will be held, fed, and cared for by any willing adult, but a teenager requires the special attention of a parent or guardian who knows them and trusts them.

How different a world would we have if we publicly celebrated the coming-of-age of our teenagers and looked at adolescence as the time of self-discovery, rather than as a time to dread? 


  1. I think something important to note is that many parents will assume that one wrongdoing will turn into a pattern and like you said, if they expect it, it will become so. If a kid messes up, their parents should realize that everyone messes up sometimes and that doesn't mean that a habit will be formed. A lot of the problem seems to be that when a kid messes up once, their parents will become that much stricter because they expect it to happen again, and the kids can tell. If they aren't expected to live up to higher expectations of behavior, they won't.

  2. And this is exactly why you are with the youth group! Great post Melinda!

  3. I must admit, teenage years do scare me. LOL, but then again I have 5 year old whom is hell on wheels. ;-)f


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