They said, “All teenagers scare the livin’ shit out of me”
They could care less as long as someone’ll bleed
So darken your clothes, or strike a violent pose
Maybe they’ll leave you alone, but not me.
- Teenagers, by My Chemical Romance
A common thing I hear often from adults of a certain age is that teenagers are annoying and don’t know a whole lot. The common thing middle-aged to elderly adults seem to agree on is that teenagers don’t know their asses from their elbows. It’s something I’ve been hearing my entire life. And I feel it’s truly an ignorant attitude.
Growing up and experiencing my teen years, I’d didn’t feel like a dumb shit. I was tested in the 3rd grade, and it was revealed that I had a 144 IQ. I got straight A’s most school years. I read the entire newspaper every day from grade school through high school. Even the classified ads. I checked out 20 library books at a time as a young child, the most they’d allow being checked out at once. The day I turned 13 years old, I didn’t suddenly feel like an idiot.
But society programs us to believe that teenagers are mostly all the same. Ignorant. Inexperienced. Naive. Lazy. Unaware of how the real world works. To me, that is horseshit. I think that train of thought is just some ignorant crap that older adults seem to grab onto and use against the young people who are developing their views of the world and wanting to change it for the better.
Think back to when YOU were young. If you’re like the majority of people who were teenagers any time from at least the ’90s or prior, chances are you had parents who dismissed your ideas, thoughts, and things you liked with impatience and contempt. Which is truly sad.
Parents should be supportive of their children. They should encourage free thinking. They shouldn’t expect their children to think the same way they do about everything, or have the same views of the world they do. The world evolves for the better, over time. We should do the same. Our kids certainly should, as well.
How did it make you feel when your parents were short with you? Dismissive? Maybe you tried to play some of the newer, exciting music of the time for them. Elvis. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones. 80’s music. 90’s. And all they did was rip it apart. Tease you for liking something that was important to you. Compare it to the music of their generation and tell you that it’s not nearly as good. Why do parents do that?
I feel that television and movies are contributing factors. The media makes light of this disturbing phenomenon and makes it appear funny, to ridicule and belittle teenagers.
Red Forman, Kurtwood Smith’s character on That 70’s Show is constantly making fun of his son Eric, referring to him as “Dumb-Ass”. Making fun of him and his friends, telling them they don’t understand the real world, and shooting down any ideas he might have. It’s supposed to be comical in nature but saddens me because I know there are parents who really act this way.
I had one of them, I get how it works. I remember enjoying baking with my mom as a grade school kid. I can recall baking pies with her on two different occasions. I was really proud of how they turned out. My mother was fun to bake with and such a patient person.
Then I recall my father making fun of me for baking. I’m sure in his mind, it was a sissified thing for a boy to be in the kitchen. It didn’t stop him from eating the pies I had made. But it did make me quit baking with my mother. No grade-school-aged child wants to be ridiculed and made fun of by their parent.
I observed the trend continue with my brother and his son. Watching them interact over the years, it was very apparent that my nephew didn’t have the support he needed from his father. Anything my brother felt was unimportant or dumb was brought with salty criticism and disdain. I saw my nephew’s spirit crushed more than a few times.
With my own three children, it never occurred to me to ever make them feel stupid about anything they showed interest in or felt excited about. Who are we as parents to try to crush our children’s excitement about ANYTHING? That’s not love. Just because we may not understand something they’re into or don’t understand why they are so jazzed about any given thing doesn’t mean we need to criticize them for it. I care about my children far too much to ever treat them like anything other than equals.
If you wouldn’t treat a close friend or a co-worker in such a way, then think about why you feel comfortable treating your children that way. It logically makes no sense to treat your children worse than a friend, co-worker, or even a stranger. Think back to how you felt when your parent or grandparent treated you like crap over something trivial, just because you were young.
To be 100% honest, I feel like my children are more tuned in to many more things than I am. To hear them intelligently discuss world events, social justice, or things they’ve learned in school is amazing. Even if it’s just current pop culture, music, or television topics, it’s enjoyable to hear about. I would never presume to think I knew more than any of the three of them, or even that I was smarter than they are in most educational situations.
Do teenagers make mistakes? Certainly. Do they sometimes get emotional or make bad choices. Absolutely. Do YOU do the same things, at your age? They have an excuse. My therapist Bride has told me that the adult brain isn’t fully formed until around age 25 to 26. So of course teenagers are prone to having lapses in judgment. But that certainly doesn’t make them sub-par citizens.
I truly believe that my children’s generation will be the generation that changes the world for the better. As liberal and accepting as I consider myself, they’re that and even more so. Their level of acceptance, kindness, and being non-judgmental is awe-inspiring. I bet many of your children are just like that. That should very much be encouraged, not belittled or made fun of.
I’d much rather spend time around our three teenagers and their friends than older, bitter adults. Teenagers have such a cool energy about them. They’re so damn funny. And wicked smart, at least the ones our kids have brought over to our home. I just don’t get how older, Boomer-age adults become so cranky and dismissive toward such wonderful young humans. They’re missing out.
The next time you find yourself automatically dismissing something your children say, making fun of something they like, or shooting down some idea of theirs because you don’t understand it, I want you to stop in your tracks. Think about why you’re saying these things. Think back to when you were THEIR age, and how it felt when it was done to you. And be different. Listen. Learn. We owe it to our children to be better than our parents were toward us.
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