Treating Teens with Respect

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Teens today often get a bad wrap. We need to focus on treating teens with respect. Encouraging them and loving them.

One month ago, on Valentine’s Day, there was another school shooting. At first, I didn’t want to hear the details about it.  I figured if I ignored it completely it wouldn’t be as real and I wouldn’t be as fearful. Then I heard from a close friend who was a first responder on the scene and I learned all the details I originally wanted to avoid. These stories changed me. Love, empathy, and resolve replaced fear.

I’ve worked hard over the years to be led by faith instead of fear. Fear is not a place where I want to live my life. Bad things happen. Living in fear only doubles the negative impact of any event. Twice injured.

But this time, I wondered how much I should talk to my children about it. I have two kids in high school and I wondered if they felt fearful. I was apprehensive to ask, not wanting to dwell on it with them, wondering how much they knew. As it turns out, they knew plenty. They had talked about it with their friends. They knew more details than I did at first, not because they went searching, but because their friends were spouting off information. I don’t know that they knew everything about the incident, but they knew enough.

mother of teens

It’s the first time I realized that my kids, my straight A, hard working, kind hearted, respectful teenagers, felt  mistreated by some of their teachers.

In talking to my teenage boys,  I asked them if they felt fearful walking the halls of school.  Did they wonder if their campus would be next?  One son didn’t seem to be affected at all.  But my other son was quiet, looking for the best way to express himself.  I was stunned by what he said and it led me to create the below video.

“If the teachers didn’t treat us like we were idiots and were actually nice to us, then maybe the students wouldn’t be wound up so tightly and want to harm others. They probably retaliate at the schools because that’s where they feel the worst.”

Food for thought.

It’s the first time I realized that my kids, my straight A, hard working, kind hearted, respectful teenagers, felt mistreated by some of their teachers.  Of course, I took all of that with a grain of salt.  He was speaking out of frustration and maybe some fear.  He was focusing on the negative, and overlooking a lot of positive things teachers are doing everyday.  For him and for other students.  He puts a lot of pressure on himself. Understanding that about him, and maybe other teens, could change the storyline and produce a different set of headlines.

With everything that goes on day to day, it is easy for adults to focus on the negative too.  Easy to see the tardy, tired, unprepared teenager that never listens instead of looking past that to see the teen who is struggling to do better, be better, deal with hormones and peer pressure and find their way from childhood to adulthood.

Teachers have a tough job. Many teachers feel overstressed and under appreciated themselves.  And they are for sure underpaid for all they have to do.  But if my kids, who get a lot of love and support at home, are feeling stressed out then how much worse is it for teens that don’t have as much stability at home.

So I asked around to other teens I know and they were in agreement. They also felt too many teachers don’t know them very well, don’t empathize with their struggles, and treat them in a condescending way.  And it wasn’t just their teachers, but parents and other adults as well. At times, I think even I slip into that trap. Try as hard as I might, I’m part of the problem as well. I get in a hurry, I minimize worry, I pressure my teenagers to set an example. I’m a contributor, not an innocent bystander.  This message is for me as well.

If we KNOW it’s such a hard time in life for them (because we’ve been there) why do we make it so much harder by how we treat them? Aren’t we “adult” enough to show more compassion?

Treating Teens with Respect

Be patient with teenagers. Patience goes a long way.

I’ve been frustrated for YEARS with the bad rap teens get. For the last three years I have taught a bible study class for high school kids, every morning at 5:45 am. This allows me to hear and see some of what teenagers are experiencing. I catch myself occasionally falling into the same trap that my son described happens to him at school.

But after this conversation with my boys, a lightbulb went off.

Here we are, parents and teachers and we get tired too and show our exasperation with them. We forget what a challenging time it is in life. We seem to forget how a little patience goes a long way.  How often could we bite our tongue a little more and ask for forgiveness occasionally.

These kids KNOW we aren’t perfect, but would it really be so bad to admit that once in a while?

I WANT my kids to know that I’m not perfect. I want them to realize there are disappointments in life.  Even though I mess up on a regular basis, I also pick myself back up again and keep pressing forward.  I always strive to be better.  I apologize when I yell at them, because I want them to know I am not ok with it.  And I make amends.

These teens have grown up with social media and the idea of perfectionism is everywhere. They NEED to be reassured time and time again that they don’t have to be PERFECT. That they can make mistakes and it’s all part of the growing experience. Not reassured through our words alone, but by our direct and personal actions.  Taking time to sit and listen with them.  Not always being in such a hurry.  And adjusting our expectations so they know what we expect is for them to do their best, not just get the results they want.

Way too many teenagers are becoming depressed, anxious, suicidal, and dangerous because of the expectations they are putting on themselves. And because they can’t see there is an adult in their life who values them for who they are; not merely the awards they accumulate.  They need someone to puts their arms around them, especially when things don’t go well.


So, I made this short video hoping it touches a chord. It is a call to action:  How can I do things differently with the teenagers in my sphere of influence?

Put your phones away and look your kids in the eyes.  Have a meal together.  Ask them about their day.  Listen to their frustrations without trying to solve their problems for them.  Tell them you love them, don’t just assume they know.

Treating Teens with Respect // See the video about Loving a Teen Today

Now, don’t think I’m completely naive and letting these teens sweet talk me into thinking they are completely innocent.  Although I feel my kids can do no wrong, I hear there is a lot of cheating, swearing, lying, and back-talking from students to teachers in school.  I don’t exempt teens from responsibility for their behavior.

I just feel like if we could start to flip the narrative a little bit, show kindness (not free from consequence) instead of hostility, it might just change some hearts.

Now, I realize this is quite the undertaking, but it’s a message I hope will reach many.  But if it only influences a small few, I will have made the effort.

Please help me spread the word by sharing this video, and share what you love about teenagers. Let us do our part to help them in this journey into adult-hood.

And go and Love a Teen Today.


YouTube video

*** Please share in the comments here or on the Facebook video some POSITIVE teen stories! I want to compile them in a book, to then share with other teens to inspire them with stories of their peers.

For a little added BONUS, listen to the Beyond Good Intentions parenting podcast episode devoted to this topic. Search for it on iTunes or PUSH PLAY below:

Love a Teen TodayTreating Teens with Respect

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