Why I Love Working with Teenagers
I love working with teenagers – and their parents too. I’ve always enjoyed teens back in the days when I was a practicing psychotherapist, and more recently since I’ve been coaching parents on being the best parents they can be. Why do I love working with teenagers?
First of all, teenagers are spunky and think they know it all. Indeed, they tend to be quite confident and feel like they’re ready to take on life as an adult. They can be quite stubborn and resistive to adult pressure. They think they have all the answers, and I like that attitude. The reason I like that is my second point.
Secondly, I like people who have definite ideas on how to handle their own challenges and problems. Teenagers come up with all kinds of ideas about why they are right and their parents are wrong, or why they know better than some authority in their life (say, a parent or a teacher). That gives me a chance to hear them out, and that is good for both me and them. The more a person comes up with her own ideas, the more I can help them channel those ideas into workable solutions to problems, and the more opportunity I have to make a few suggestions to enhance what they think are the best solutions. Plus, the teens benefit from this process because they like being listened to, and they don’t often experience an adult listening to them and taking them seriously. But I do, and they like that.
Third, I find teenagers very open in sharing their complaints about adults and other concerns as well. And I happen to think that adults make way too many mistakes in dealing with teenagers by trying too hard to coerce them into doing the right thing. In this way I find adults to often be quite disrespectful of adolescents, and they (teens) tend to take that personally. And they usually have good reason to be dissatisfied with the way they are being treated by adults, who too often feel threatened by the adolescent’s bravado and tendency to “go off half-cocked.”
On the other hand, I tend to let the teens exercise their own initiative, while also helping them to fine-tune some of their half-baked ideas. They generally are quite open to this kind of feedback. I think that’s because they feel good about being listened to and taken seriously, so they naturally tend to return the favor. Besides that, I can generally give them an idea or two to consider that they might not have heard before, as their experience is a lot more limited than mine is (in most areas, anyway!). They are “feeling their oats,” and trying out their wings in so many areas, that when they experience an adult being supportive and actually trying to help them succeed in trying out their wings, they appreciate it. And so I find that they always take me seriously.
Fourth, teenagers tend to be much more open to new ideas than adults, for some reason. They are also able to take ownership of mistakes they make if these are pointed out in a supportive way. This gives them lots of flexibility, and even a certain willingness and eagerness, to try out new ideas. And when it comes to relationships, and relationship skills, I have tons of ideas that these young people find useful.
In conclusion, I find teenagers to be a breath of fresh air, and remarkably honest. Even when they are obnoxiously defiant and perhaps even rude, they are fun. They give me a chance to see how well my own ideas work, and to see how well I can connect with strong-willed and often outspoken people. I understand why parents have such problems with them, because parents love them and want the best for them, but often times try to hard to “steer” them along the right path. Teenagers don’t need to be “steered.” They just need respect, support, and thoughtful challenges from someone who is willing to let them try flying on their own and take their lumps when they fail.
3 Steps to Parent-Child Harmony is my book that describes in detail the differences between the Old School Parenting model and the New School Parenting model. Please see these links if you are interested in more information or wish to purchase.