There are a lot of harmful myths out there about teenagers that influence the way we feel about them.
Whether you’re a parent of current teenagers, future teenagers, or you just were a teenager, consider which of these myths you’ve believed—and then let them go.
Every teenager you know will be better off if you do.
Myth # 1. Just wait until the teenage years…
I’ve heard people compliment parents on their cute little kids and then teasingly warn, “Just wait until they’re teenagers.” Even though it’s a joke, the message is that teenagers are difficult. Young children grow up hearing this message. Many parents raise children expecting it to be true.
Let’s stop talking about teenagers with dread. Instead of expecting the worst of them, let’s approach this time in our children’s lives with an attitude of support.
Myth # 2. It’s just a phase.
Parents sometimes explain the frustrating things their teenagers do by calling it a “phase.” In a way, this idea says that the emotions and frustrations a teen expresses are less valid because of their current age. Your teen might be acting out an emotion in an unpleasant way, but that doesn’t mean the emotion isn’t real.
The solution is to see your teen’s challenging behavior as a message. It’s a message that you can decode together.
Myth #3. Teenagers are self-absorbed.
They act like the world revolves around them—so many selfies!
A child’s primary emotional need from the years of 12-18 is learning to create independence from their family. In this stage of life, they are discovering their identity and how they fit in the larger world.
Instead of seeing this natural self-focus as rude or bad, use it as an opportunity to support your teen in finding out who they are. (I personally recommend helping them discover their Energy Type.)
Myth #4. Teenagers are mean.
Teenage bullying, gossip, and name-calling might make you believe that teenage years just bring out the mean in kids. But meanness in a child is not a natural or permanent trait. It is a response—often to feeling wounded or vulnerable.
Let’s stop labeling our children as “mean.” Instead, let’s assess the situations where we see meanness happening. Do certain environment or scenarios make our teenagers feel unsafe? Let’s teach them better ways to cope in our own families.
Myth #5. Teenagers are spoiled and demanding.
Because teenagers are self-focused, they sometimes don’t recognize the effect their actions have on others. Point it out. After a while, they’ll get it.
Also, consider how your teen’s requests trigger you emotionally. Have you ever said, “When I was their age, I didn’t have ____.” If so, you may be stuck in a cycle of lack that makes you resentful when your teenager wants something. They may be voicing desires and not demanding as much as you think.
Myth #6. Technology is ruining them (or movies, texting, music, etc.)
It’s easy to blame smartphones or media for our teenagers’ behavior. But the worry that technology ruins our teens comes from a place of fear.
Let’s focus on empowering our teenagers to make appropriate choices and create supportive experiences with media. Technology’s here. Let’s not blame or be afraid of it.
Myth #7. Teenagers don’t appreciate anything.
It can feel disheartening when you do a lot for your teenager—and you feel like you don’t get a single thanks. But think back to your own teenage years. Did you have enough perspective to really appreciate what your parents or others did for you? Probably not.
Instead, teach your child gratitude by expressing gratitude yourself. Expect politeness and thank-you’s. But don’t roll your eyes when they don’t understand all you’ve done for them right now. They can’t. But give them a few years and they will.
Myth #8. Teenagers are irresponsible.
Parents of teens sometimes ask themselves, “What was he thinking?” or “How could she not think that through?” Their teen does something stupid when they should have known better.
Some teenagers are more impulsive by nature. They literally do not think things through as much. Knowing the way your teen naturally moves through life can help you both thrive during this time, rather than just survive.
Myth #9. If we can just get through this…
Our culture’s language about teenagers often reflects a belief that the teenage years are something to survive, rather than enjoy.
If you’re parenting a teenager, I invite you to consciously create a different experience, full of learning and partnership and joy. If you’re parenting young children and you’re dreading their teenage years, you have time to shift your mindset.
Remember that whatever you focus on expands, so ask yourself: what do I want to create?
So if these are the myths, what are the truths about teenagers?
Teenagers want their lives to run as smoothly and happily as you do. They want to be loved, accepted, and understood, just as much as you do.
This is great news! Your genuine love and concern is the biggest key to helping a teenager overcome these damaging messages.
Look for the best in your teenager and they will come to see the best in themselves.
Are you ready to love the teenage years?
I wrote The Child Whisperer to help parents understand what their children want most, so they can experience more cooperation and joy. If you haven’t read it, get your copy here.