When I was but a wee baby teenager I had a realization that adults have no idea what it’s like to be a teen. Even at the time I didn’t think it was their fault, they had just forgotten. It’s not like they were actively trying to make my life terrible, they were just doing what they thought was best for me and themselves. In all honesty, it probably was the best thing for me at the time. But it was still frustrating.
I said to myself at 16 that I would never let myself forget what it was like to be a teenager. No matter what happened, I would refuse to treat teens like children.
Now that I’m 23 I’ve realized something:
TEENS ARE STILL TOTALLY CHILDREN.
They make stupid decisions and they’re all wrapped up in their own little worlds. They lack perspective more than anything else.
I still refuse to treat them like children. Because someone has to help them into adulthood and I can tell that plenty of adults are not doing that. When a teenager walks up to my register at work I give them all the same information I would give an adult. I treat them with the same courtesy and have the same expectations of decorum for them as I do for an adult.
Not to say I advocate throwing teens into full on adulthood or that they should be left with no supervision all the time. I just think if you’re telling someone they should be as responsible as an adult then maybe you should also give them opportunity to exercise that responsibility. There are plenty of responsible teens and also plenty of irresponsible teens. But there are plenty of teens who just want a chance to prove themselves.
Teens lack the perspective of adults and that’s pretty much fine. But it doesn’t make their perspective necessarily wrong. A child is not wrong because they don’t understand how to file taxes or because they haven’t struggled to pay medical bills. When they pitch a fit over their favorite shirt being in the wash it’s because they’re still learning how to experience life. This may be just a blip on your radar but to them it’s a life changing event.
So it is also that teens are still learning how to experience life. They’re still gaining understanding and having to work through plenty of problems on their own. Don’t just discount them as unproductive because they’re not as knowledgeable of the world as you are. You have a few years on them.
Sometimes it blows my mind how different people are. My siblings and I grew up in the same house, raised by the same parents, yet we are each very different individuals. Every person you ever meet, regardless of age, is experiencing life differently than you are. Sure there are some similarities across the board and we share the same feelings with others at times. But we are each human and each deserve respect.
I suppose that’s what all this comes down to: respecting others, regardless of age. If you respect someone, you don’t laugh at their feelings even if you think they’re overreacting. Instead of being obnoxious about it you gently correct or offer your own thoughts on the situation. If you’re like me, you’re pretty straightforward about the whole thing but still respectful.
In general, I try to extend respect to everyone and only take it away if they don’t deserve it. Teens may be children but they’re not necessarily stupid or inherently obnoxious just for being young. And neither is any young adult either. Age does not define how much respect should be extended to a person. Even if you don’t remember what it was like to be 16, you probably remember that no one seemed to take you seriously. Even if you don’t remember what it was like to be 23, you probably remember at least one time where you were seen as less competent because you were young.
As a rule, don’t judge a teenager for being a teenager. They have a lot to contribute to the world and it would be a shame for us to lose the next Nobel Prize winner because someone refused to listen to a person just because they were young.