Teenagers are People Too


At Mass on Sunday, during the Prayers of the Faithful, we were asked to pray for sullen teenagers.

When we returned home, Imogen was most indignant. “Why doeseveryone automatically think teenagers are sullen? Charlotte and I are teenagers and we’re not that way.”

“It’s the typical teenage stereotype,” said Charlotte. “It’s not necessarily true.”

I think my teenage girls are quite right. Society tends to think of teenagers in a certain negative way. Parents expect trouble when their children hit these years.

“She’ll be a teenager in a few months,” says a mother, rolling her eyes. Yes, she’s not looking forward to it at all. She’s sure the next few years are going to be very difficult.

But is it inevitable that our eager-to-please and easy-to-love children will suddenly turn into difficult-to-live-with teenagers?

My teenagers are delightful people: well-balanced, lots of fun, interesting, loving… Are they unusual? I don’t think so. I think there are many wonderful teenagers around. But maybe you are thinking, “I know many sullen teenagers.”

Could it be these teenagers…

  • have to live with lots of rules and regulations?
  • are not given enough privacy?
  • are criticised for their choices in clothing, music….?
  • are ridiculed or put down when they share their ideas and dreams?
  • are not treated with respect?
  • were expected to be difficult just because they are teenagers?
Perhaps teenagers become sullen and hard to live with because they are not trusted.

I want to keep my teenagers safe. Of course I don’t want them to fall into bad company or adopt sinful ways. My heart will ache if they give up our family’s values and beliefs, and I’d like to prevent them making mistakes they will regret. So should I hang on tightly to my teenagers so they don’t get into trouble? Or should I just trust them to do the right
thing?

“Should I trust you?” I ask Imogen.

“Mum! Of course you should.” It’s my daughter’s turn to roll her eyes.

She’s right. And I do.

But what if my teenagers make mistakes? Will I wish I’d kept control over every aspect of their lives? Is that the responsible thing to do? No. I think there’s less chance of my teenagers getting into trouble if I trust them than if I controlled their lives with a long list of rules and regulations. Rules can be broken. They encourage rebellion.

Trusted or not, all teenagers are capable of making mistakes. But so are adults. I make them all the time. That’s how we learn. But I’m confident that if my teenagers ever get into trouble, they will come and talk to me and we can sort things out. They trust me, maybe because I trust them.


“I wrote a blog post about teenagers,” I say to my daughters. “I’m putting the record straight. Not all teenagers are sullen. In fact I think they are wonderful people.” Then I add, “What should I call my story?”

Teenagers are People Too,” says Charlotte, without hesitating.

Some people do say such things as…

“You’d think teenagers were a different species.”

“Sometimes teenagers act like they come from another planet.”

“I can’t wait for my teenager to become human again.”
 

Teenagers are people too
. They’re not aliens. Yes, Charlotte’s suggestion is perfect. Teenagers are people, delightful people who can be trusted. That’s a better description of teenagers than sullen. What do you think?

I’d love to hear about your teenagers. I’m sure they are wonderful people.


Two teenagers: Weird? Yes! Sullen? No!


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Comments

  1. Reply

    I also should say I don't think I mothered you very well through those years. Inexperience maybe. Remember you were the guinea pig child! I have learnt a lot since those days. Immy and Charlotte have it a lot easier than you did. You are all wonderful people.

    • Fliq
    • December 19, 2013
    Reply

    I'm glad Imogen and Charlotte are doing their part of disproving the belief that teenagers HAVE to be sullen and distant. However, I don't remember my own teenage years being quite so plain sailing! In fact, I think back and cringe for you, as I remember myself being an awful child and worse teenager – sulky, messy, uncommunicative and combative. What an awful person for you to have to live with!

    Maybe it was because I was developing mental health issues, maybe it was so many other things, but am I glad I have grown up! I bet you are too! So, maybe the myth is not as silly as it sounds – if I, a privileged first born daughter, who got the most attention, can turn into a monster of a teen, I'm sure it's just as possible for many other teens to do the same!

    Love you, Mum! Thanks for putting up with me through all those difficult years!

    1. Reply

      Felicity,

      I have to disagree. You weren't an awful child. You were delightful: funny, clever, talented, beautiful, loving… (you still are) Despite my inadequate and inexperienced mothering you were a lovely person. Yes your teenage years were bumpy but I remember a daughter who always tried to do her best under trying conditions. I am sure your stormy times were due to your struggles with undiagnosed mental illness. Not many people in your situation would have tried the religious life. When I look back I see a girl who tried to ignore her problems, determined to give her life to God despite them. You weren't a sullen teenager but a needy one. You can't disprove my theory that easily!

      Anyway, don't you remember the wonderful times? It wasn't all drama and emotion. I used to love chatting with you. We'd talk for hours about anything and everything. I really missed you when you left home.

      Love you too!

      • Fliq
      • December 19, 2013
      Reply

      Awww Mum, thank you! 😀 I've had a rough day and that was really lovely to read! I guess it's easy to remember things selectively when one wants to – it's true, we did have some great conversations (as we still do), and I guess we learnt a great deal from each other. I'd hardly call your mothering "inadequate" – if I can't get away with calling myself a sullen teenager, you certainly can't persuade me you were an inadequate mum!

      I wonder how raising me, with all my unique mental health issues, differed from raising my lovely (and, I assume, very stable) siblings? It would be an interesting topic to write on. "The Reality Of Having a Mentally Ill Child" or something like that. Anyway, I will ring soon and we can discuss this far better. Love you so much xx.

    2. Reply

      Felicity,

      "The Reality of Raising a Mentally Ill Child"? If you really don't mind me writing about you, I might think about doing this. Yes, I made mistakes. It might be good to talk about what could have helped.

      Love you! xx

    3. Reply

      Bernice,

      We all make mistakes especially when we are inexperienced. But when we love and forgive everything can be put right. It is difficult though. I am sorry you and your daughter are going through a hard time.

      Felicity and I had a chat this afternoon. She hopes to start blogging again. She has several ideas for posts, things she wants to share. I'm going to write about parenting Felicity (with her permission). I'll probably write more than one post as there's lots I'd like to mull over and talk about. I hope it will help someone else in a similar situation.

      But first we have Christmas to celebrate! I hope you have a very happy Christmas wit your family. May God bless you all!

    4. Reply

      Thanks Sue and Fliq!
      I can understand you both. Our oldest daughter was our first teenager and we have been going through ups and downs. Some days were very, very hard and there was sullenness too. I think partly (or mostly?) due to parenting "guinea pig" (as you would call it, Sue) mistakes. Hopefully one day, we can reflect on it the way you both did now!
      Have a blessed 4th Advent Sunday.

    5. Reply

      Many thanks, Sue! Days are somewhat better nowadays. I hope the worst is behind us! I will be looking forward to posts on the teenage section… I've been reading Felicitys posts too ealier. They helped me to understand a little better.
      Sent you a Christmas card, but nevertheless greetings to you and your family on Christmas Eve! Ours is tomorrow, over here 🙂

    6. Reply

      Bernice,

      I'm sorry I am slow replying to your comment. I haven't had any time for blogging recently but I guess it's been the same with you. Too busy enjoying Christmas! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas day with your family. We did. Thank you so much for sending us a Christmas card! It hasn't arrived yet but maybe it will come today. You are so thoughtful.

      Merry Christmas!

  2. Reply

    Oh my goodness, I cannot believe this amazing discourse among family members that I have been privileged to witness. No, you are the witnesses. You are the ones who are living life for real and for Christ. I am so encouraged and inspired. You see, my oldest daughter is suffering from mental health issues and my second oldest son is a teenager who is practically begging for more trust and respect. Thank you Sue, Felicity, Imogen and Charlotte.

    1. Reply

      Michelle,

      Thank you. Sometimes I think readers might think I have everything worked out perfectly but I have floundered at times (and still do), especially with Felicity. It's hard to talk about such things as parenting children with mental illnesses when it will invade another person's privacy. This conversation with my eldest daughter was unexpected. I do feel I failed Felicity because I didn't recognise her needs. And obviously Felicity remembers being a difficult teenager! We have been through some rough times but we are okay. Being able to talk is wonderful. And love smooths over the difficulties.

      I am sorry to hear your daughter is having to deal with mental health issues too. It can't be easy for both of you. Thank you for telling me about your children and the difficulties you are all trying to deal with. I appreciate you sharing your story with me.

      God bless you!

    2. Reply

      Well, I think that explains the "for real" comment, you know? Sue, I realize that the wonderful wisdom that you share often times comes from the struggles that you have come through. And that these issues are very delicate.

      I waited and didn't take this as seriously as I should have. No regrets now because that would not be very productive. First, God lead me to an excellent catholic resource and then he lead me to two mothers and their daughters to encourage me and to let me know that I am on the right track.

      I read Felicity's blog post on the left here and she was open about some of her struggles. She is an amazing and articulate young woman and I commented on that.

      So, I'm going to let you in on a secret. Last night, as I pondered some parenting challenges, I found myself saying, "What would Sue do?". I know you don't have all the answers, but you do have some really good ones that happen to fit a lifestyle that I am trying to answer the call to.

      If you ever do decide to compile your work into a book or group of letters maybe, you could call it, "Discipline From the Heart".

      God bless you and your family today. I am forever grateful for a new friend giving me Homeschooling with Gentleness. It has saved my life and this wonderful blog was an extra blessing that I would not have found otherwise.

    3. Reply

      Michelle,

      We learn so much through our struggles. The lessons we learn probably couldn't be learnt in any other way. God teaches us so much through the difficult times of our lives. I know I have learnt that I haven't got everything perfectly worked out, like I used to think!

      I think you are so right about it being unproductive to have regrets. We can't go back and change anything. But God brings good out of every situation. He puts things right for us.

      After reading your comment, I also visited Felicity's blog. I've read all her posts before but I felt like rereading them. They help me understand her better. Writing is good for that reason. We can share with other people going through a similar experience, or we can help others understand if they have have never been where we are. I find this is true when I write about grief. Yes, Felicity is good at putting her thoughts and feelings into words. She always used to love writing like most of our family. I am hoping she will return to her blog. I think she has a lot to offer readers.

      Thank you for your kind words about parenting. Maybe you can take what suits your own family and reject what doesn't quite fit. I think just talking about mothering helps. We can mull over situations together and give each other ideas and encouragement. I find that by writing my posts and then discussing, my thoughts become clearer. I'm learning all the time.

      I really will give some thought to writing a book: an non-expert's book of course! Maybe I could gather together some of my usual type stories and arrange them in topics, and then write something that will introduce and connect them all together. I will think further about this! Thank you so much for your encouragement.

      "Homeschooling with Gentleness". I think the title says it all. Yes, Suzie's book has helped many people, I'm sure.

      May God bless you and your family too! I hope we can chat again another day.

    • Beate
    • December 20, 2013
    Reply

    Teens and 2yos tend to get a bum wrap! I love both those stages, even though at times I can certainly identify with the subtitle "The art of hugging a cactus ;-)" Part of growing up is learning how to separate and perhaps that's what both phases are about – the toddler is no longer an infant and is learning to explore and discover without constant contact and the teen is getting ready to fly the nest and make her own way in the world. Both phases involve a lot of "I can do it myself!" and both involve us helping them to do it by themselves 🙂 or in the case of teens, allowing them the room and freedom to do so.

    1. Reply

      Beate,

      The art of hugging a cactus? Oh my! I like those words. In one paragraph you have summed up teenagers (and toddlers) perfectly!

      Allowing teenagers room and freedom… that's the hard bit, but just what they need, I'm sure. I guess if a toddler makes a mistake, it's no big deal. But we worry about teenagers making bigger mistakes they may come to regret. However if we're in the habit of trusting, it's easier… I do think our trust is well placed.

      While we're chatting, I will mention I posted my girls' letters to your girls. Unfortunately I took longer to get to the post office than I intended so they probably won't arrive in time for Christmas. New Year's letters perhaps!

    • Wendy
    • December 21, 2013
    Reply

    I had a tough time as a teenager, but I am really enjoying my (3) teens! I think, with the first one, I kept waiting for it to get awful, but he's 16 and still delightful, so I've stopped worrying.

    I remember the hormones and the introspection, so I really sympathize when my own kids are going through that. It helps me help them through it, instead of seeing their feelings as unreasonable. I remember feeling that way, and those feelings were real, even if the perspective was incorrect. I really hate it when people say that youth is wasted on the young. I want to say to them, "Don't you remember how hard it was? Young people need all that health and energy to establish themselves and grow into the people they need to be!"

    I think you are right about trust being key. It seems to me that trust in practical terms means responsibility. I trust me teens to do what they need to do, and if they didn't, they know it would harm our family. It's not that they never mess up (like I do!), but they never let me down!

    1. Reply

      Wendy,

      I like how you remember what it was like to be a teenager and so empathise with your own children. So many people seem to forget or don't want to know. I remember reading about a father who admitted he found school really tough. Instead of trying to help his children through these years he just said, "I survived, so will they." I think that's sad.

      Some teenagers do have more difficulties during the teenage years than others. I was speaking to my daughter Felicity this afternoon. We were chatting about how her teenage years were so different from my other children's. If she hadn't been my first child I might have recognised that something was wrong. Instead I fell into the trap of thinking she was a 'normal' teenager and her sullen ways were just inevitable.

      Oh yes! When we trust people they don't want to let us down, so they try hard. At least that's my experience!

      Two days until Christmas. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas with your family!

    • Eva
    • December 21, 2013
    Reply

    I think that prayer in church was quite rude to be honest. Who writes those prayers? You could pray that unfriendliness in the world will turn to friendliness or something like that, but to name a specific age group and then a stereotype? Next time you might pray for inattentive toddlers, or cranky bus drivers, or stubborn husbands, or . . . The choices would be endless and wouldn't do anybody any good. I would bring this to the attention of my pastor, even if he was the one who wrote the prayers :).

    1. Reply

      Eva,

      I don't know who writes the prayers but I did suggest to Imogen she go and tell Father how she feels about us being asked to pray for 'sullen teenagers'. She told me she couldn't do that because she has to show respect to a priest. It seems to me that when we respect our young people they learn to respect others.

      I think you are quite right about the prayer being rude. We could have prayed for 'any teenagers facing difficulties'. The way the prayer was worded it sounded as if the teenagers are at fault, when they are probably just needy.

      If I get the chance I might speak to our priest myself… very politely of course!

      Thank you for your comment. I hope you have a very happy Christmas!

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