Can you trust teenagers?

Posted by Samantha on October 16, 2011 in Expectations, Teenagers, Trust |

The people when rightly and fully trusted will return the trust.

Abraham Lincoln

I’ve noticed that children are often exempted from the category of ‘people’.

I don’t want to live in a world where we assume the worst of children.

Babies are born trusting.  And trustworthy.

Children remain trusting and trustworthy unless they encounter experiences that teach them not to trust and model untrustworthy behaviour.

A child may become untrustworthy because he is pigeonholed by adults – parents or teachers or neighbours or simply people in the street – as someone-who-cannot-be-trusted.  Or someone-who-can-be-trusted-to-be-naughty.

Last week I ended up in a conversation in a playground where two other Mums were expressing their disapproval about a bunch of “teenagers” (approximately 11 – 13 year olds) being in the playground.  (And yes, the older kids were playing, not drinking or terrorising toddlers).

I stayed quiet because I didn’t want to express my upset that simply being a particular age means you can’t be trusted.  Or rather, that at a particular age you can be trusted to be a problem.

No wonder ever greater proportions of teenagers are displaying more and more problematical behaviour year on year.

I read a parenting book last week that sought to reassure parents that the withdrawing, sulky, rude behaviour that so many parents are witnessing in their older children is “normal” teenage behaviour.

I think this kind of advice, though well-meaning, is selling parents and teenagers short.

I don’t believe it’s normal teenage behaviour.

We can expect more of our teenagers than this.  And as parents I believe we deserve to be treated with greater respect than this.

I trust that young adults can behave better than this.

But we need to trust them from early on.  We need to show them, by our own behaviour, what trust and respect look like.  And then, “the people (and that includes teenagers!) when rightly and fully trusted will return the trust”.


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