By Patrick Koschak
Do these phrases sound a little funny to you?
I like these phrases.
I like them because I coined them.
I like them so much, I’m getting shirts made.
Look for them in stores. They’re going to be huge.
What? You don’t think these will catch on? Why not? Because teenagers aren’t men and women yet? Really?
Okay. I’ll grant you that until they are eighteen, they are not legally considered adults. Sure. However, is legal adult status to be confused with being a man or a woman? Geez, I hope not.
Why can’t we call these young people men and women?
Before you decide I am way off the deep end (I probably am) and you dismiss this article (please don’t), allow me to explain. I am not aiming for widespread cultural change (that would be cool though.) I am asking you, individually, to consider how you look at teenaged people. How are you helping them to see themselves as men and women?
These questions are most important for parents of teenaged offspring, and that is who I am aiming at with most of this. However, all of us interact with teenaged people, so I hope this would be important to those of you without teens, as well. After all, it takes a village to raise a child… or a Viking to raze a village… or something like that… I digress.
How do you see teenaged people? Are they just awkward, overgrown kids? Are they hopelessly, excusably childish? Is it okay that they contribute little to those around them? Are you supposed to just kind of put up with them until they (hopefully) move out? Be honest.
The way I see it is that the end informs that beginning. In other words, the goal we have in mind as parents will determine the way we treat teenagers. My thinking is that we are in the business of producing successful adults-not just tolerating teens. They are not boys and girls, but young men and women capable of making adult choices and learning adult responsibility. No, seriously… they really can.
My observation has been that most parents don’t expect enough from their teenaged progeny. I suspect a part of this problem is the thinking that they are not ready to make adult choices. They are still kids, and not really men and women yet. The fact is that they will act like children as long as we allow them to.
The danger here is to mistake “wishing they would act like adults” with actually expecting them to function as adults. The former is hollow frustration, the latter takes a lot of consistent effort. The former is common among parents, while the latter might seem strange. But remember: we are trying to train men and women to handle adult responsibilities.
Let me offer a few examples.
Money. An awful lot of adult life has to do with financial responsibilities. When you consider how to teach teenage adults, do you give them money, or do they earn what they receive? Kids get an allowance, while adults earn a wage.
As a general rule, give them nothing if they can earn it for themselves. This goes for stylish clothes, a cell phone, a car, a laptop, or even college. This might sound harsh or unrealistic at first. But let them own the challenge and grow from their successes or failures. You might be surprised!
Earning and spending money is only half the battle, though. Knowing how to do so responsibly is another facet of being an adult. Hold them accountable for using their car, laptop, or cell phone responsibly. Help them with a budget. Just like any other adult privilege, these can be revoked or lost if abused.
My experience is that if you talk to teenage men and women as if they are adults, and if you offer them adult challenges, they will grow into the role. If they are allowed to take responsibility for their own lives, they will. Isn’t this ultimately what parents want to see for their children? Absolutely!
On the other hand, if they are consistently given that which they have not earned, their esteem and self-confidence will be stifled. If they are allowed to hide behind flimsy excuses, they will learn to avoid personal responsibility. Adulthood will continue to fit them like an ill-tailored suit. This is the kid who never moves out of mom and dad’s basement. (Eek!)
So… back to the question… why can’t we call these young people men and women? How do we perceive them and their abilities? Who do we want our teenagers to be in ten years? In twenty?
Think about it.
I’ve got shirts to make.
Patrick Koschak has enjoyed more than 15 years of marriage with his high school sweetheart, Rachael, and they share three children, ages 9-13. Patrick studied Biblical Studies and Greek at Multnomah University in Portland, Oregon.
Mr. Koschak has been teaching Humanities since 2008 at the Garden School, where he is affectionately known as “Mr. K.” Mr. K’s teaching is occasionally unorthodox, often cerebral, but always heartfelt.
“Teaching has been one of the deep joys of my life. I am deeply humbled by the opportunity to influence and inspire these young leaders. I am very blessed.” – Mr. K