A positive teen image has been lacking for generations. Negative teenage stereotypes continue to prevail with descriptors such as defiant, obnoxious, and rude. Such portrayals impede a young person’s ability to become a responsible adult. As importantly, it diminishes a teenager’s ability to be a contributing member of a family and society.
I have always wondered why the majority of adults would collectively and consciously decide to conceptualize adolescence in such a debilitating manner. Doing so discourages teenagers from fully becoming who they are. It also makes the job of parenting more difficult than it needs to be.
A positive teen image is long overdue and much needed. What You Can Learn From Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth conceptualizes teens from a strength based perspective. The book acknowledges and explains how valuable the teenage essence is in becoming more effective as a parent and more content as a person. A positive teen image helps the relationship and aids the parent in living a more enriching life.
My revelation about the transformative teenage powers and why I advocate for a positive teen image came from an unlikely source—troubled and delinquent youth with histories plagued with trauma, abuse, and neglect. After having worked with hundreds of youth in conflict with the law and raising my own teenage sons, I began to recognize and appreciate a natural adolescent learning process that even the most at-risk youth used to help overcome challenges and transition into adulthood.
The formula is simple. I believe it is the elixir of youth—not something you drink, rather something you always should do.
√ Explore – Teens are natural explorers because they are curious. Curiosity leads to discovery and learning.
√ Play – Teens like playing, having fun, and laughing. We learn and connect through play.
√ Inspire – Teens are always seeking to be inspired and searching for role models. Becoming inspired leads to pushing limits and testing boundaries, all for the sake of growth and development. Teens are also looking to inspire others to take action. It is a continuous cycle of being inspired and inspiring others.
√ Connect – Teens are experts in connecting with their innate abilities, interests, and areas in need of development. They are also adept in expanding their social network and connecting with others.
Unfortunately, when teens engage the world using this model of learning the results are not always perfect—sometimes they are not even close—and this should be expected. This isn’t a problem for them as most of what they do is new. It is a problem for adults and parents who expect perfection and things to be done “the right way” or “their way.” With this perspective a positive teen image is hard to create and even more difficult to promote and sustain.
Imagine trying a new recipe for the first time. Maybe it is even your second or third attempt. Will it look like the dish in the picture? Maybe not. Will it taste as delicious as you thought it would? Possibly, but there is no guarantee. Things can go wrong even with cooking or baking. Just because you are given the list and amount of each ingredient and told step by step what to do doesn’t mean it will come out looking like the picture and tasting like you were the head chef at a five star restaurant.
Keep the recipe analogy in mind when having the urge to judge your teen’s behaviors when he or she doesn’t perform as you expected. A positive teen image is crucial in showing continued support throughout these developmental years. Teens are perfect at learning and imperfect at performing as you wish. What response would you like to hear regarding your not so perfect dish, “That was horrible, please don’t ever make that again!”, or “Keep on trying and eventually you will make a delicious meal that looks like the picture!”
Read a teenager’s view on negative teen stereotypes at http://www.teenink.com/opinion/discrimination/article/150008/A-Stereotypical-Teenager/Share