Why Teens Are Different Not Wrong

I wrote a post on DePowerizing Children, and the issue of teens being different not wrong came up.  I discussed how parents often depowerize teens who misbehave because parents view ‘bad’ children as dysfunctional versions of themselves.  So, parents depowerize to punish children for being less like themselves, yet depowerizing highlights differences…causing a very hypocritical downaward spiral.

Teens and children do not need to be ideal versions of their parents.  In fact many parents view children through their own lens.  I want to encourage adults to create a new lens, where they are seeing their children for who they really are.

  • Know when you are using your lens.  Are you judging or speaking to your teenager from where you want them to be, or from where they really are? Are you giving them advice or punishment based on your ideals and goals or theirs?

How Teens Are Different Not Wrong

1) Parents Have Diffuse Attention

Parents walk into their home and see the piles.  The dishes in the sink scream at mom, the unmowed lawn beckons to dad.  Parents have what I call, Diffuse Awareness which is that they can take in many situations in their home, with their kids at the same time. Teens do not see the piles, they do not notice your eye roll…or they choose not to. Your environment calls out to you: “Pick me up, pick me up now!”

2) Teens Are Selectively Single Focused

When a teen is playing video games, they are playing video games.  When they are on the computer they are watching TV, talking to friends, chatting online and doing homework on the computer.  Just kidding, well not really.  Teens can multitask especially with technology.  But, they selectively single focus, and when they decide which focus they are sticking with they stick to it.  Parents should not take this personally, it is not wrong or bad, it is just different.  To deal with this, parents can say, “May I interrupt you for a moment when you are on break” this is respectful to them, teaches them to do the same to you and help regain their attention.

3) Teens Wear Emotions on Their Faces

One thing about teens is that they show their true emotions for about .03 seconds when you tell them something.  This is extremely helpful to know.  It is important for parents to be perceptive to this because often times teens do not open up…not wrong, just different.

4) Master Illusionists of Efficiency

Teens are very good at believing they are being efficient and pretending they are being efficient.  This ties in with their stupendous ability to selectively single focus or multitask in a little bit of everything poorly.  Again, just different, not wrong.  Parents need to a) recognize this and not fight against it b) help their teens to recognize it and use it for its positives and avoid the negatives.

5) Teens Are Not Inherent Planners

The bad: they cannot tell you what the plan is for tomorrow night out with their friends. The good: they live in the moment.  Not wrong, just different.

6) Teen Transition Time

Teens transition from friends to family time, family time to homework time, school to home and much much more.  They are not as fast at switching over as adults. This usually takes between 15-40 minutes for a teen.  Often times teens transition by:

  • Changing Clothes
  • Unloading backpack, pockets, iphone syncing.
  • Tuning out to their music or TV
  • Eating

Adults need to stop fighting these ideas, and incorporate these traits into their child lens and use it when communicating, punishing, interacting and rewarding with their teens.

Suggestions for Communicating with Different Teens:

  • Respectfully ask to interrupt selective single focus
  • If you need something say:  “How can I get what I need from you? You’re fine and so am I, I love you and I want to know how to get x?”
  • Figure out their transition time and let them know yours.

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