Teaching teenagers has taught me A LOT.
So at this point I have been teaching for like a million years…give or take 999,995 years. However, I’ve coached at the high school level and worked in classrooms for a little over 10 years. People always ask me if it’s hard teaching high school. I always say no. It’s not hard, it’s excruciating and frustrating and exhausting…and wonderful. Yes! Wonderful! I love love love my job.
So what are the things that I have learned?
2. Teenagers NEED your attention. No seriously “friend” them on every social network (also be up-to-date on new trends in social media), have all their passwords, ask them how school went and actually listen. Giving your kids freedom and trust is good, but your kids, are still kids and I have seen and heard too many kids getting into trouble and say “my parents don’t care if I party,” “my parents have no clue what I say on Twitter,” “my parents don’t care enough and trust me.” See your kids are equating trust and caring in a way that I truly think is negative. If you “don’t care” you must “trust”. If you really care then you will not “trust” in the terms that kids are now defining. Yes this is more work, but parenting is the hardest job ever and you are failing if you are allowing your kids to define you as “not caring”. Now to add to this little section, I also believe that allowing your kids your real trust and only using those passwords and stalking sessions when you absolutely suspect your child of lying is crucial. Yes teenagers need their space, but they need safe space. Let them know that you trust them and you care and that is why you are all up in their business. Stop being their friend!
3. Teenagers are angry toddlers. Yes, yes they are. They will get angry and overly dramatic over anything. However, there is always a reason for the tantrum. Like for instance the WRONG red colored pencil. That actually set a boy off in my classroom. Sometimes I have to remind myself that their brains are still developing and the hormones in them are all crazy. What I have found is that if I play into their dramatics, they get more dramatic and just need a time out…and then I need to listen. I found out from “colored pencil kid” that his mom had just found out she had cancer and “nothing was going right for him.” Give them a bit to calm down but PLEASE make sure to check back in with your kids. The tantrums are their way of letting everyone know something is not right, and they NEED you to check in.
4. Teenagers need to learn the value of work and earning things. Out of the 175 kids I see daily about 15 of them understand the value of working for something…the others are proud when they break their 5th iPhone 5s, are settling for C’s and D’s when A’s and B’s are easily attainable and are choosing social media over studying. Oh and parents are inadvertently supporting this. You are the ones supplying the fancy new phones, clothes, cars and whatever else your kid needs to “keep up with the Jones'” and become popular. I rarely have a kid whose parents have actually punished them by taking away cherished items…mainly when kids are “grounded” they are still allowed computer and phone privileges (at least I am told). Take their phones away people! Allow them to have phone time for a designated time at home and then MAKE homework time, communicate with their teachers (kids are good at lying and saying they do not have homework…they always have homework). No joke, my biggest issue in class are phones and lack of work because of social media. I take their phones…they get to work.
5. Teenagers need more love. Our current socialized society is brutal. Social media is terrible for teenagers and I truly think that when Facebook was for college kids only it was a much better thing. Bullying is happening even to the most popular kids and suicide is becoming even more rampant. Combine the stresses of teenager-hood, social media and the fact that parents always seem to show love through frustration and our kids are feeling less loved…and making drastic decisions. This is by far the hardest balance. How do you monitor their social media, allow them to build themselves up and gain freedom and real trust, learn the value of work and love them with consequences? To this I have no answer, it truly is based on the individual child. All I know is that my parents always talked to us about how much they loved us and how angry and sad they would be if we took our own lives. At my lowest low as a teenager my thoughts of suicide were easily swayed into the choice of life because I knew how much my parents loved me and I just could not leave them. Truly hug your kids every day (10x a day if necessary), tuck them in at night (even in high school) and talk to them every night (meaningful discussions), punish them but reward them…do both equally with love.
Our future really is these kids. Give them EVERYTHING you have.