There are some surprising things about teenagers. Teens have a lot going on inside that they –
- Haven’t identified
- Are afraid to say
- Don’t know how to tell you
These things can remain inside, alone and unattended. And, they often are the driving motivators behind some of their decisions and actions.
What if parents knew more about what’s going on inside of their teens? It might change the way we parent them.
Here are 5 surprising things about teenagers:
- They are scared and they have no idea who they are yet.
Self-identity is something that takes a long time to develop in a youngster. In fact, I’ve known many middle-aged and even elderly adults who haven’t fully come to terms with who they are, why they are here or where they are going.
Teenagers live with a tension between being who they really are inside and being what other people expect them to be. They fear disappointing people, especially those who mean a lot to them like parents, coaches, teachers, and friends. It frightens them to think that their entire lives will be spent being misunderstood.
It can be very confusing, lonely and frightening.
As a result, you may catch them at times “acting differently,” or “trying different faces on for size.” They may seem to be very different people at home, at school, out with friends, etc.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that they are being dishonest. Until a person’s core self develops, they really do seem to be different people at different times. When you add emotions to their hormone cocktails, what ‘s really surprising is that teens are able to function socially at all!
- They are often treated with contempt.
Teens are blamed, belittled, marginalized, and treated with contempt, especially if they are in the minority racially. I’ve personally seen it and I bet you have too.
If they are overly sensitive or moody, it might be a bad attitude or hormonal overload. It could also be that they have recently treated with a lack of respect or compassion.
For example, if someone says, “There was a group of teenagers at the mall…,” you would probably expect the rest of that story to be negative.
Don’t just react when confronted with a teen’s “bad attitude.” See if you can learn what is causing it.
- They desperately want your approval.
One proof of this is the way teens often roll their eyes when you correct or instruct them. It might seem like disdain, and it might actually be if they view you as being untrustworthy.
But what usually is going on is that they are annoyed at the feeling of your disapproval. It feels like a form of rejection to them, and it hurts them more deeply than they want you to know.
That doesn’t mean that you should give up on correcting them. It does mean that you should be aware of how they receive what you are saying.
Your understanding might affect the words or tone of voice you use with them. It might also lead you to correct them less often.
- They want your guidance rather than your expectations.
Like most people, teenagers want people who care for them to walk with them in times of discomfort or pain. Their lives are too full of adults who distantly set levels for them to “live up to.” They really need adults who will “coach” them instead of “bossing” them.
When a basketball player misses an easy layup in a game, the coach has a choice. The coach can:
- Put pressure on them by saying, “Hey! I expect you to make those shots!”
- Encourage them by saying, “What do you think happened? Maybe you took your eyes off the goal too soon? Remember to follow the ball in with your eyes and your hands. I KNOW you can do it!”
When a teenager makes a poor life-choice, parents have a similar choice. They can:
- Leave no room for failure by saying, ““I expect you to do what I say, get good grades, and make wise decisions.”
- Look deeper and give guidance by saying, “What happened tonight? Why did you feel the need to drink so much? Maybe you’re lonely and trying to fit in. Maybe you need to try to impress a different kind of people?”
- They want you to say no.
People of all ages need to have boundaries. We need the security and comfort of knowing what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t. Knowing what the boundaries are, and being able to trust that they are appropriate, constant and for their own good creates a deep sense of security for kids.
Kids need and want limits. Even so, they will test and push those limits. That’s how they learn if they can trust us or not. Part of earning that trust is how we modify those limits appropriately as they mature and get older.
Follow the example of our Heavenly Father in dealing with the issue of “no.”
- He tells us “yes” about everything he possibly can.
- His “no” isn’t just a knee-jerk reply to solidify his position of authority.
- He saves “no” for those things that are truly bad for us or will hurt us (or someone else) in some way.
- When He says, “no,” He means it and doesn’t easily waver.
It’s your job to wisely say “no” when it’s needed, explain to them why that boundary exists and stick to it. Then you need to respond with consistency, nurturing, and compassion when they step out of bounds.
Teenagers can be difficult to understand. Often, they don’t even understand themselves.
Most teens work very hard at perfecting what they show the world on the outside – their hair, clothing, facial expressions, etc. This is an attempt to keep the lonely, fearful parts of themselves hidden away.
Don’t let teenagers fool you. Inside, most of them are small, frightened children still trying to find their place in this world. Do your best to help them through these tough years!