When did it become acceptable for grown, supposedly mature adults to feel it is within their right to be disrespectful to an entire age group? When did we decide that "dissing" teens was appropriate? Why is this one particular group attacked and ridiculed on a daily basis, and when do we figure out that we are doing nothing more than unfairly stereotyping?
If we turn this around to reflect upon it for a moment, if we were making similar comments of those of a different race, different sexual orientation, or hey...let's hammer this home... SENIORS, etc. we would be lambasted immediately. However, we have been given societal permission to be disrespectful of our teenagers, for reasons I can't quite fathom.
I can't begin to count the number of times that friends and acquaintances have rolled their eyes in mock sympathy with me when they learn we have five teens, four of whom are a year and four months apart. There are the comments about how can I possibly stand it, how great it will be because soon they will all leave the nest, and comments about raging hormones and attitude problems.
You know what? I don't EVER let that go unchallenged. My kids would back me up on that (and it is important that they have heard me repeatedly counter those statements with positive affirmations). When someone makes a derogatory comment, even in jest, I always state how wonderful this age is, how we honestly don't deal with attitude, smart assery, or sibling rivalry. I say with great enthusiasm and honesty that I am the luckiest mom in the whole world to parent the particular teens I parent, and my days spent with them, though sometimes hard due to other things like disabilities, etc, are still lovely, warm, pleasant, and some of the best of my life.
I believe it is important for our kids to catch us saying wonderful things about them! I believe that how our teens act is, in large part, how I choose to perceive them. I believe that by speaking negatively to others of them on a regular basis can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, and frankly, a deserved one that will have been earned by my disrespect. If I want my teens to treat me with appreciation and consideration, I darned well better be treating them the same way.
Teens are not awful, terrible, selfish, aliens from another planet who magically turn into normal human beings around age 22 or 23! They are inexperienced people, taking tentative steps to explore their world, practice independence (sometimes successfully, sometimes less so, but it is called "practice" for a reason!), and discover new things about themselves. They will make mistakes, much as we did at their age, and much as we still do.
But by pigeonholing them as a stereotype, we fail to see the uniquely wonderful qualities of each individual. We fail them, we harm them, and like drops of water that eventually fill a bucket, our constant negative language about their stage of life has the capacity to bring out those characteristics we dislike, and we never realize how we ourselves pointed so much to the negative that we created a sense of self-defeat in these remarkable young men and women, leading them to begin to act exactly as we predicted.
So why don't we turn this around? If your kids are on social media, let them catch you saying kind things about them, stop talking about how they drive you to drink too much wine, share their little daily acts of maturing and applaud them publicly for it. Stop thinking the worst, and get ready to spot the best in them.
We must stop treating our teens and young adults as second class citizens. At a mere 18 years old they vote for our future, they can fight for our future, and they are our future.
Let's treat them with the same dignity we would treat any adult.