Monday, July 18, 2011

Little Adults- the teen edition

Last week, we looked at how children are just little adults. Today we'll take it up a notch and talk about teens.

Cast of The Sisterhood Of The Travelling Pants

Somewhere between then and adulthood, children begin to understand that life is not black and white. Teens won't say any of the things I've mentioned last week. So, what's the difference between a teen and an adult?

Keiko Kitagawa with co-star

Teenager-hood is a time that's notorious for bad decisions. Some adults act like that's because the teenager's brain is less developed. I'm not a neuro-anything specialist, but I don't think I "know" more since my teen years. I think I've experienced more. I have more examples of good and bad, and it can help me make better decisions.

Beverly Hills, 90210- the original

Another major factor involved in how adults perceive teens is emotion. In the teenage years, hormones increase to make all the changes for adult life. A side effect is increased emotions. The emotional teen is a sterotype to many adults. And they're often written off with a "This too shall pass." I appreciate that message, and sometimes it's neccessary, but it can come off as patronising. Sometimes. the message a teen really needs isn't "Deal with this, until it gets better," but just a simple acknowledgement. "I know it hurts."

Emotions can influence bad choices. Teens do things to stay in favour of the people they think matter. And to align themselves with the things that they think matter.

Jaden Smith

Firstly, peer pressure is not a teen thing. Peer pressure exists among adults, too. The pressure to have the best job, a good spouse, 2.5 kids, etc. Even on a micro level, to do/have certain things that other people in your field do/have.

The difference with teen peer pressure is that we tend to care about peer pressure only from our group. As an adult that means a few very homogenous communities: work, neighbourhood, maybe church. As a teen, that's a school full of different groups, and diverse people.

Not all teens even have this issue. I was never an "everybody else is..." kind of teen. This may be because a series of events that lead me to withdraw from the world and do what the heck I felt like, but the fact remains that peer pressure didn't cause me to smoke or drink or what have you.

Cast of Saved By the Bell


Children and teens understand more than we give them credit for. You still have to make decisions for little children, but left to their own devices, they do a pretty good job of right vs. wrong.

As for teens, I tend to think that a well-educated (in the world and in school) 16 year-old has all the tools he/she needs to make decisions. And I tend to think that adults should stay (mostly) out of the way as much as possible and let the teen figure out what bad decisions are and their consequences.

That's not to say you should watch a teen get involved in a gang war, but there comes a point in everyone's life where they have to make their own mistakes. It's easier when that point comes at 16, when mistakes are forgivable. As opposed to at 24, when there may be larger implications and setbacks, including financial and legal.

I have faith in children. After all, they are little adults. And if they can't do it, then we're all damned to Hell anyway.

It's Monday. That's what's on my mind.


Marsha Sigman said...

Amen. The only thing I would like to add is while I agree with letting them make many decisions at 16, I don't enjoy still being responsible if they turn out bad.

That part sucks.

Claire Dawn said...

Marsha, that's something I hadn't thought about. (I've got 10 years til I have to deal with it.) I guess the only thing we can do is pray that we raised them right.

Postman said...

You've made some excellent points. The best advice I ever heard was not to talk down to your kids and teens. They're not dumb. They're just inexperienced.

Thanks for posting.

Carolin said...

Adults should know when to stop treating teens as they would a child. Maybe part of the problem is we're not giving them chances to prove themselves, too.

- Carolin Newmeyer