Teenagers need boundaries

PUBLISHED: 14:02 21 September 2010

I HAVE worked with children and teenagers for some time, both here and in schools in Thailand and I think young people are great,

I HAVE worked with children and teenagers for some time, both here and in schools in Thailand and I think young people are great, but adults in this country seem increasingly reluctant to actually be adults and lay down any guidelines, boundaries or rules - a hangover of the hippy generation which has done so much damage to our generation and society, especially our young.

Teenagers do want respect and not to be patronized, but we have gone far to far in the direction of letting them find everything for themselves, in large part because a lot of adults are trying too hard to be young and like teenagers themselves, actually abdicating their responsibility as adults, which far from liking, I think teenagers actually find confusing and scary.

In my view, despite the appearances that teenagers are masters at putting on and maintaining, specifically ‘I don’t care what anybody thinks, I don’t need any rules, I am me’ what they actually mean is ‘I am desperate for rules and boundaries, and I am really worried I won’t fit in and people won’t like me, I do want to be respected, but I am not sure I respect or even like myself.’

I think it is important that teenagers are treated like teenagers. Allow me a few generalizations here : they are intelligent, they are very quick to sense hypocrisy and inconsistency and they are talented and maintaining an image, but they do not have all the answers they like to think they have - and they do need the advice and wisdom of the older generation that comes with experience of life. But that doesn’t mean the young should not be listened to, they should.

In terms of what schoolchildren here can wear, I would like to take them to Africa or Asia where I have worked, as schooling here is too often not a ‘right’ but a privilege - and even though they have very little money, when the child gets a uniform (shirt and shorts or skirt, not always shoes), they wear it with pride.

If I were running a school, I would treat our teenagers with respect and hear their voice, but I would treat them with respect also by laying down boundaries and rules - which actually shows you care about them. I would not allow all the fashion haircuts (don’t like it, tough) and jewellery, and all the excesses of fashion, but they would learn that they are each important and each have important gifts and talents, and pride and respect for themselves and the society around them.

My apologies for long email (rant !) but this is something I care hugely about and believe we are failing in as a society.

JAMES BURROW

Via e-mail

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