How NOT To Talk To Teens

As with most blog entries, spelling, grammar, and usage are all subject. I’ll correct as I go… or not.

Alternate title:

How to Ensure Your Kids Shut You Out of Their Life

Regarding the meme that says, “This should be posted in all schools and work places” and attributes some “advice” to Bill Gates.

This should be posted in all schools and work placesA friend on Facebook posted this meme a few weeks ago. I used the version with the American Flag because is seemed to represent the appropriate level of jingoistic blindness we hear a lot of these days. I took issue with it because it is the exact sort of self-satisfying and lazy response that has created the caricature of the old man yelling at the neighborhood kids, “Get the hell off my lawn!”

“Cut your hair.”

“You call that music.”

You get my point… well, for your teen’s sake, I hope you get my point. But let me elaborate a bit.

First point of clarification. Bill Gates didn’t write this or say this. Bill Gates is nerdy – but he certainly does not come across as culturally and emotionally deaf. He’s pretty woke, yo – as the “kids” like to say these days.

The real problem is that it is NOT written for teens at all. It’s written specifically to the angry, or at least snidely unaware, adult who has created a mythos where he or she was a fully-aware, mature, well-behaved, and attentive 14 year old. They, and their friends, cannot understand teen emotions today because during their teen years they were busy discussing their futures, saving money, and the vital career choices they would be making in 8 to 10 years.

They were always respectful of authority and they’d receive a quick kick in the ass if they weren’t – and that was just good parenting and community, dagnabbit!

I responded to the post on Facebook and thought afterward, this is a decent blog entry.

My Facebook Response (w/edits)

Having read some of the author’s work previously, I feel as though he is actually writing to adults who are of the, “Kids these days don’t know what work is,” cliche. It is the sort of slow-pitch list given the parents so they can shake their heads disapprovingly and post it on their child’s door rather than connect and communicate.

It is unfortunate because this parenty “trash-talk” is fed every generation and only serves to confirm the lines from Bowie’s Changes.

“And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re goin’ through”

I’ve always tried to maintain an open-door/open-home policy for my children’s friends – resulting in many conversations that continue today into their adulthood. Some of those kids lived in our home when their parents could not “tolerate” them. I’ve NEVER heard a child or young adult express the overly simplistic ideas warned against in this list.

I would imagine that some might but that THIS generation is, like every previous generation, somehow wildly off-base, lazy, and/or unaware is an over-played narrative.

Additionally, the number of positive traits that millennial and young adults exhibit seems to place them significantly more aware than me and my peers at a similar age. Less violent crime, less drug use, fewer teen pregnancies, and many other critical metrics that speak well of preparedness for the world.

Just my thoughts on the topic.

At this point, my friend responded that we probably have different values.
I’m not sure.
I value kids and young adults, their input, and allowing them a voice.
Not sure what they different values are that depart from that… but, I responded below.

I would guess that we have much more similar values than different. It is likely that we both want young adults who are respectful, ambitious, self-aware, driven, compassionate, intelligent, etc. But I’ve always found the above type of messaging to be lazy at best and, in truth, just dismissive and useless.

Do you think any young adult reads that and sees anything but smug contempt?

As with leadership in business, the church, or almost any organization, it seems a strained start to a conversation to take a condescending – here is all the stuff you are ignorant of – angle.

These, “you don’t know anything about the world, so listen up sonny boy” messages seem lazy to me… and make the rounds every few year for every generation. But again, their written for certain parents or adults. They’re certainly not an attempt to reach the “next” generation.

My youngest daughter’s friends routinely refer to me as, “Mr. Moran” – even though, as they’ve gotten older, I have given them permission to refer to me by my name. If there is an issue or misunderstanding, we sit down and discuss it and I explain my reason for the boundaries I’d like in our home. I’ve yet to get anything but plenty of respect.

Let’s explore how to “spin” a much more positive, proactive, constructive, and action-oriented message. I’ll use a couple examples.

“Life is not fair… get used to it.”

I don’t believe in complaining – and my children know this. There is either action we can take to rectify a situation or an attitude we can adopt/develop. When they’ve approached me about a situation that is “wrong” or unfair, the situation may have a reasonable rectification. But if not, I tell them:

“There world is not always as we want it to be. We have to live in the world/situation that is and work to create the world/situation as we want it to be.”

The first message seems to come from some bitterness that the person uttering it is holding onto. I want the young adults I mentor to feel as much control over situations as they can have.

Your parents weren’t always so boring

The entire paragraph about “your parents weren’t always as boring” – ending with a snide and dismissive “before saving the rain-forest from the parasites of your parent’s generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.”

Who talks to their kids like that? Really? That dismissiveness generates amazing conversation?

If my kids believe they can go save the rain-forest, my God, I’m cheering them on! Go save the world! And, yes, try not to have lice in your closet. Sort of a given.

Again, the entire thing reads like a “Let me dump on you, your dreams & hopes, and give you zero credit for any awareness or thoughtfulness because I’m a bitter and angry person” – diatribe.

I’m glad my mother talked to me like a person – someone who, even when immature (more immature than I often still am), had thoughts, feelings, aspirations, etc. The above meme represents how I communicate with my children or their friends at my worst.

It seems we could seek to inspire rather than deride. You must agree that inspiration is better than derision? Or is the above inspiration?

Well, those are my verbose thoughts on the topic. 😀 Take care.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

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