Do teens have the ability to do hard things, fulfill high expectations, deal with difficult situations, be goal-motivated for themselves?
An issue of Reader’s Digest in 1941 used the word ‘teenagers’ for the first time to define the age group 13-19. The word has been around just over 70 years. Before that, one was considered either a child or an adult and the current ‘teen’ category most often fell under the adult category. Since then scientists have tried to prove that teens do not develop critical thinking strategies or have the ability to make life decisions for themselves because of brain developments. However, nothing is different physiologically or psychologically today with a teenager than they were 70 years ago.
As of recent years, more excuses for ‘teenage’ behavior are being made. Not only do teenagers come up with personal reasons for potentially not doing something or doing something they shouldn’t have, but they have adults making up reasons for them!
So are teenagers truly incapable of doing things of any real importance, or is that just some myth that has become much too common?
Alex and Brett Harris, twin brothers and authors of Do Hard Things, mention an article they found while searching for examples about high expectations of teenagers today. The article is titled “When you formally develop a set of expectations for your teen, you begin to set up your teen for succeeding in meeting those expectations”. Sounds pretty good, right?
“The author proceeded to list suggested expectations for teens, divided by age group. First, preteens and younger teens are expected to…
- · Make your bed everyday
- · Be able to take a message on the phone
- · Clean your room every week (with help from Mom and Dad)
“Then comes older teens, 15 and up. Besides everything on the younger teen list, you are expected to…
- · Do a daily chore [just one], like taking out the trash
- · Make sure the gas gauge stays above a quarter of a tank
- · Clean your room every week (with no help from Mom and Dad)
“The article also includes an encouragement to parents about the list: ‘Please do not feel that your teenager should be doing all of them.’ Phew! We were getting worried there!”
Let me tell you a recent story about a seventeen year old girl, Natalie Warne, who showed that she was capable of significantly more than “do[ing] a daily chore” and “clean[ing] [her] room every week”.
Natalie, like many other teens, was set on graduating and going on to college when she found a cause that she thought was worthy of fighting for. She learned about the 25 year war in Africa in which an evil madman (my words, not hers), Joseph Kony, took young boys against their will and made them soldiers fighting for his cause.
Natalie immediately started to research what she could do to stop this great tragedy. Her research revealed a group who was trying to pass a bill to provide American military support in aiding these “Invisible Children” to safely break away from Kony’s influence. She became an intern for the group working on the bill. Her work included assistance in planning and conducting presentations that advocated this bill. As the group brainstormed where to go for publicity, Natalie suggested getting Oprah’s attention. This was considered too lofty of a goal by some, but shortly thereafter they achieved just that!
A little over a year later the bill was passed in favor of helping these “Invisible Children”.
On a more personal note, I was involved in our local congregation’s “Day of Service” about a year ago. Our work included helping clean up the house and yard that would be made into an Eagle Lift Ministry home. Trenches were to be dug for pipes to be laid down, and gardens were to be planted, and shingles were to be stripped and added to the roof. It was a long and exhausting job.
About 25 dedicated young women and men came to help parents and leaders make this activity successful. They hauled bricks across the field to the trucks; they dug trenches out in the sun. They were a central energetic force for a cause they found to be worth the time. They didn’t have to have adults tell them that this was worth working for, their ‘thinking strategies’ were not impaired.
In a similar service day my youth group was to make many blankets for the hospital to give to newborns. A young woman in my group was unable to attend the activity, but she decided that this setback wouldn’t stop her from participating. On her own time she made dozens of blankets, and gave them to us to donate. What a remarkable self-motivated act of service!
Elaine Dalton, from the general Young Women’s presidency, once said “In the strength of the Lord I can do all things.” As teenagers we must realize some restrictions may apply to us: the law, for one. But we should not let things cut us off from our dreams. In a famous poem, The Road Less Traveled by Robert Frost, he says that there are two roads: an easy road, worn by travelers, and a hard road less traveled. I say there needs to be a third road- the one you create. As teenagers with access to more technology at our hands than was used to put men on the moon, why can’t we do difficult things? Who says that we can’t chase dreams?
We, the Rising Generation, do not have to wait for our 18th birthday where suddenly we know how to make reasonable, rational decisions. We can decide now! We have opportunities all around us to make a difference, and we often do change the world around us without realizing it. So pay attention. See what difference in the world you can make.
Have you had an experience of ‘doing hard things’? Please share with us some ‘hard things’ we can do!
[Suggested reading: Do Hard Things by Brett and Alex Harris]