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Parenting, Teens

The Lie That is the American Teenager

One of the greatest lies being spread in our culture today is that of the American teenager. This is a mysterious creature who is supposed to suddenly and drastically transform from a sweet child to a horrific monster, usually overnight, on her thirteenth birthday or thereabout. She is expected to have the “best years of her life” during which she will run rampant, violate multiple state and federal laws, drink, do drugs, engage in various bullying behaviors, disrespect her parents, follow her peers like a blind sheep and generally act like a stupid, brainless moron.

The New Covenant by Shavar RossI have theories about how and when we came up with bizarre ideology. It probably has something to do with the industrial revolution and the lengthening of childhood. Back when we were hunter-gatherers, we became adults at or about age thirteen. But with industrialization and modernization, childhood lengthened as our need for many more years of education came along as well.

This created a strange limbo period for our young adults. A time during which they were not accepted into the adult world and yet, they were no longer children. And so, we fabricated this odd period of development that we now call adolescence.

But how and when we decided these years also meant we were to become law-breaking hooligans, I have no idea. These are preparatory years. What in the world does blatant disregard for anyone and anything have to do with that?

I’m raising my teens in utter rebellion against the American model. I believe the teenager is essentially a baby adult. He is in the prime of his life. He has more energy to accomplish more and do more than he ever will for the rest of his life. This is the time to get things done.

Teenagers should be focused first and foremost on education.

He has a responsibility to focus all his efforts on his education and extract the most from those opportunities that he can. This time in his life is laying the foundation for his future, both for the next stage in his education and his career. He needs to make the most of his educational opportunities as possible.

Teenagers are fully capable of working.

Family by KelsiThey are full of energy, fit and educated enough to be working. Why waste all that free time? Along with paid work, she should be engaged in volunteer work. Both will give her valuable experience for her future career, both give her an opportunity to explore career options and both are elements of being a good citizen.

Teenagers should be paying their way in life.

Cell phones, cars, insurance, clothes, entertainment—these should all be the responsibility of the teen. While room and board may still be covered by mom and dad, everything else should be up to the teen. She is perfectly capable of working to cover her basics and should be expected to do so. This is the time to get prepared for real life. This is the way to do it.

Teenagers should be contributing to the care of their home.

Everyone who lives in the home should be taking care of the home. He should be cleaning bathrooms, cooking, mowing the lawn, changing linens, running errands, and mopping floors. This is not just about being accountable for the home in which he lives, this is also about learning vital life skills. He will live in his own home someday. He needs to know how to take care of one.

Teenagers are not disrespectful because they are hormonal. They are disrespectful because it is tolerated.

We have a responsibility to our children to not only teach them what is expected and hold them to reasonable standards, but also to maintain a close and loving relationship. This idea we have that teens are just “supposed” to be rude and disrespectful for six or seven years is unfair to both them and us. They are capable of so much more. They are smart, capable, loving young people who have a whole lot to offer our communities and families. We just need to treat them like that and expect the same in return.

Volunteers at work by Park Ranger

Teenagers still want and need their parents.

Stay connected to your teen and involved in her life. Don’t believe the myth that she isn’t interested in you or your input anymore. It’s just flat-out not true. Teens who don’t have close relationships with their parents often lament this fact loudly and painfully. If you notice that your relationship is suffering or you feel that you are out of the loop, then fix it immediately. Know what your teen is doing, where she is going, who her friends are, what her dreams are, what her values are, what she does online, what she does at school, every single thing about her. She may protest at times, but trust me, she needs you and she wants you. Stay involved.

So far, I’ve raised one young adult with these philosophies and she has flourished. We never went through any rebellious period and we never experienced any “typical” teen problems. She stumbled a few times and made a few mistakes. That’s what I’m here for and that’s okay. But I thoroughly enjoyed her teen years. And she’s now a happy and independent adult. So, I’m one for one. We’ll see how the next two turn out, but I’m definitely feeling hopeful. The boys are already into their teen years and we haven’t had any problems yet. They have their moments, as do we all, but I refuse to look at my teens as “just teens.” I look at them as capable and vibrant young men with a tremendous amount of potential. I’m looking forward to seeing them blossom during the next few years. And trying not to think about the day they leave. I’ll just keep that particular thought out of my mind for now.

Do you think teenagers are hard-wired to misbehave? Have you already raised a teen? What were your experiences? Are you worried about the teen years for your child?

©UnnecessaryWisdom.wordpress.com 2013



4 thoughts on “The Lie That is the American Teenager

  1. I an 44 years old and am not privilaged with having a child. I have seen the difference from my childhood to now. Movies, commercials and video games are now controlling are children. It use to be ok to be average or a little overweight. Our society now makes kids believe that its not acceptable to be anything but skinny and pretty. No wonder ther are so many kids who hate themselfs. I tell my boyfriend of 18 years that I am glad God decided to bear me the pain! It sound horrible but I would die if I ever had to go thru what parents have to go thru now a days. Peir pressure is a bitch no matter how u raise ur child! I feel for our children. I always say that I wish I could have a child so I could show people how to raise a child right. But does it really matter?


    Posted by michelle | June 7, 2013, 10:08 pm
    • I think it matters, Michelle. I believe that many people influence our children as they grow up. Every child who is in your life can be positively affected by your love and guidance. I think that’s huge. You’ll never know if it will be that one word or that one moment but you truly could have the power to change the course of a child’s life. Positive role models, neighbors, friends, relatives – these are all very important people in our kids’ lives, for better or worse. I say, be that person who inspires a child, comforts a child, loves a child and makes the difference. You just never know how big of a difference one person can make.


      Posted by unnecessarywisdom | June 8, 2013, 9:28 am
  2. I like your style – I am just the kind of parent you describe, and save for a few trying moments, my three kids all grew to be responsible, polite, and just great people. I am glad to know them and I trust that they will be good parents in their turn, if they ever decide to have kids. But thank you for this post. I think it points people the right direction. Well done!


    Posted by dianadomino | June 7, 2013, 10:12 pm

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