Family Life – Answers from YouthZone
I walked into Brad Thayer’s classroom at Glenwood Springs Middle School just as he was exclaiming, “You thought John Wayne was one of the Beatles?!” The student to whom he was speaking replied that in fact she did, and another student agreed that she had that same impression.
Brad and I chuckled and shook our heads as I moved into the lesson I had come to present. I was in the classroom as a volunteer with Junior Achievement. For the next hour, the students and I discussed exchange rates and various other issues concerning international trade. Before I left, Brad and I marveled at the knowledge the students already had with the concepts we had discussed. We agreed that we had no clue about such things when we were their age.
Teens and pre-teens can seem quite sophisticated to us adults. In many ways, they dress, talk and act like adults. We are intimidated at how they maneuver technology and amazed at the level of their exposure to things like divorce, abuse, addictions and other “adult” issues. It is easy for us to forget that they are still kids.
We fall into the trap of expecting them to have the emotional and decision-making maturity of an adult. When they prove us wrong, we are upset and frustrated with their behavior. The downward spiral of cutting remarks begins there: “Why can’t you ever … ?” “How come you never …?” “Why do you act so childish?”
I remember an extreme example of parents treating a child like an adult. This 16-year-old walked into my office one day in tears. What I discovered was that she was on her own and pregnant. She said she had been “handed everything on a silver platter,” but when she turned 16, her parents said she should be responsible for herself. They meant it literally. She was no longer allowed to live at home. She had tried to continue her schooling but ended up dropping out, working full time at a low-paying job and living with an older man. I sat looking at a child trying to live as an adult. She said to me, “I just want to go to the prom.”
Growing up is a gradual process. Teens still need boundaries and guidance. They need more responsibility this year than last, but in a graduated fashion. Teens will show you how ready they are for more responsibility based upon the choices they make and the behavior they display. Those who make poor decisions are not yet ready for more freedom.
We adults must not abdicate our role as mentors, and we certainly must not be afraid of kids. We do still know a few more things than they do. For instance, I would bet you know as certainly as Brad and I do that John Wayne was definitely not one of the Beatles.
If you are interested in being a volunteer for Junior Achievement of the Roaring Fork Valley, contact Robin Tolan at 379-1365.
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