Welcome to the KingZoo and Funny Farm, where we learn to live, laugh, and love together. Here you'll find snippets of life in our zoo, parenting tips we've learned along the way, reflections on shining God's light in this world, passions in the realm of orphan care, and our journey as parents of a visually impaired child with sensory processing disorder. Have fun!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Teen expectations

Dear Laura Sybil,

I haven't seen a Laura Sybil column on your blog recently, but thought I'd give it a try in case you're still around. I have a pressing question that has been perplexing me for quite some time. You see, I'm one of those older, mature persons who can't get around like I used to. My children are raised and out of the house. So for quite some time now I have been hiring teen boys to do work around my home; mowing, gardening, landscaping, etc. On occasion, I have them help with an indoor project; remodeling, painting, etc. I have been surprised by how many adults are shocked that I would hire teens for this type of work. Why such low expectations? In a recent job, it was white paint over white paint, not the Sistine Chapel, so how much could a teen, or anyone else, mess it up? They are not 5 year olds with crayons. They were more careful with the monotonous taping than I would be. They were very conscientious and efficient. They could crawl on ladders and on the floor and and in other places that my knees would protest. I have found with supervision and encouragement, teens do a great job at most anything you ask them to do. They live UP to expectations. AND, they make it more fun! The young men who have assisted around my house, have done a great job.

Why do we expect so little from teenagers???

Thank You,
Venting to You So I Don't Vent to Others

Dear Venting to You So I Don't Vent to Others,

This is probably a question better asked of The Good Doctor who has not only personal opinions but doctoral research to back him up. But since he's too busy working on his dissertation to write a blog, you're stuck with my personal opinion. I do, however, have the advantage of listening to The Good Doctor talk in his sleep and I overhear phrases such as emerging adulthood, Industrial Revolution, and Psychosocial Theory of Development. Translated, I think it all means that if we, those who live post Industrial Revolution, apply the Psychosocial Theory of Development to those with emerging adulthood, we will see that we have a problem. (It could be argued that that is why I write a blog while The Good Doctor is writing a dissertation.)

In all seriousness, you are right. Our society does expect too little of our teens. I heard somewhere (read somewhere?), that modern, developed societies are the only ones that even have a teen-age stage of development. In the past, and in third world cultures, you are a child or you are an adult. Period. But things have changed. This may be where the Industrial Revolution fits into things but I am no expert.

I can say that in our home, we have been purposeful about ushering our children into adulthood, leaving no room for teen slacking. Call it a hazard of growing up with a young adult pastor and psychologist for a father and a blogger for a mother. Or something like that. We've watched far too many young adults try to live life post-high school, still with this "nothing is expected of me yet" mindset. We want more for our children. So yes, I think you're right, too little is expected of our teens.

So how do we combat that mindset? Oh my, do you have a week? In a nutshell, as my favorite college professor used to say, "As ye think of them, so are they." I think she may have been related to King James, but she made her point. If we expect more from our teens, they are more likely to live up to our expectations. We expect more in our home, and are thankful that there are many adults around our children who also have high expectations for them. They respond well to positive reinforcement, so as they excel, the encouragement of those they have served motivates them to do more the next time.

In conclusion, there are three books I highly recommend. The first is Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations by Alex and Brett Harris. From it's front flap: "A growing movement of young people is rebelling against the low expectations of today's culture by choosing to 'do hard things' for the glory of God...Combating the idea of adolescence as a vacation from responsibility, the authors weave together biblical insights, history, and modern examples to redefine the teen years as the launching pad of life." Every parent of a pre-teen should read this book, and then insist that their teens read it. A follow-up to this book is either Start Here: Doing Hard Things Right Where You Are by Alex and Brett Harris or Generation Change: Roll Up Your Sleeves and Change the World by Zach Hunter. Both of these books give real-life examples of teens who are rising up to higher expectations, and changing their world in the process. Knowing that all of these books were written by teens just makes them more inspirational.

Thanks for what you are doing to encourage the teens in your sphere of influence. Sounds like their parents are setting a good foundation at home, and I'm sure your high expectations are motivating them to go above and beyond in everything they do. So we, and the parents of America, thank you.

Laura Sybil

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