Well tomorrow we’ll officially have four teenagers (aka the Fab4) in the house – yes that’s four emerging adults that the world could judge to be sulky, non-conformist, grumpy, monosyllabic , uncommunicative, untidy and only able to emit sounds akin to a grunt living under one roof. But that list of the global perspective of teenage existence and what teenagers are supposed to be like has been in complete contrast to my own experience of parenting the Fab4 all aged between 13 and 18, and indeed the reality of meeting many of their wonderful, gregarious, polite and engaging friends.
So why is that teenagers have been stereotyped into the uncommunicative brand that many see whilst some are able to hold their place in society, to command the respect of their peers and elders as well as to respect others equally and to act responsibly with compassion and love for their family and friends. Is there a simple answer? Is it in the luck of the gods or is it a matter of finding that unique blend?
To have the answer to these questions would be like finding a golden elixir and as such many people daily attempt to identify and define and to give rhyme and reason to the complexities of the teenage state. Parents, teachers, politicians, psychologists, philosophers, parenting gurus among others all line up with their take on the why, the how, the what and the when in teenage intervention, parenting, education and understanding, all intent on bringing out the best in the next generation of adults that will walk the planet. Even the media gets involved as exemplified in Derren Brown’s latest TV extravaganza “Apocalypse”.
Apocalypse, manipulated a situation of a young 21 year old man who was said to be lazy and content with taking life and his family foregranted without any compassion, respect or responsibility for either himself or the people around him. Although the man in question was in his early twenties similarities could be drawn with many of the alleged failings that are ascribed to some teenagers today. During the course of the show, he experienced an end of world “apocalypse”. Writing in the Radio Times, Derren Brown refers to a carefully structured plot in which a sense of hope was kept alive for him as he established “self-perpetuating and profound changes” which are hoped will have longevity way past the shelf life of his involvement of being on a TV Show.
But how is that relevant to bringing up teenagers today? Apocalypse dramatically shows a man stripped of everything and being brought on a journey to realise his potential by valuing what he already has. It is interesting how Derren Brown witnesses the place of hope in his carefully orchestrated plot. Likewise today’s teenagers need hope too in their lives. In a world of economic austerity and a world that fixates on what we haven’t got, what we want, what we are going without, that hope is sometimes almost extinguished. When a child is told that they are good for nothing, that they are ignorant, that they have an attitude, that they are negative this, or negative that, that hope is extinguished even more! When a child hears in the media that their grades aren’t what they used to be, their future is bleak, they won’t get a university place, a job, an apprenticeship, a future, the candle of hope is all but snuffed out. For that talk is not the talk of a realist but one that doesn’t have the creativity to find a solution.
Hope fuels focus. If you tell a child that they have value and pave a pathway to a creative solution driven future you encourage a child to want to be part of that journey. If you tell a teenager they have worth and work with them to see how they can make a difference in the world, where their strengths are, what contribution they will be able to make you help them fuel the fire of focus and in doing so provide hope. Both go hand in hand. From that they take responsibility for themselves, become part of their heritage, what has gone before and what will go ahead. They respect themselves and from that respect others and because they have been shown compassion and love they too behave compassionately and can love in return.
Parenting therefore with hope is the real way to a future. It energizes and propels, it is profound and positive and doesn’t lose sight, but most importantly it interacts to encourage communication, to extinguish the grunt and to light up the candle on the pathway to a brighter tomorrow.