This is a contributed post by Kirsten Cobabe. Find her on Instagram @kirstencobabe.
Teenagers are lazy, entitled, don’t care about their futures… these are some of the great myths of adolescence we’ve all heard. But we know they aren’t true, and dispelling myths about teens is crucial for understanding and supporting them.
Often, these myths arise from outdated stereotypes or a lack of understanding of the unique challenges this age group face today. By re-examining these misconceptions, we can shift our perspective to see teenagers in a more accurate and empathetic light, recognizing their struggles and strengths in a rapidly changing world. This shift in understanding not only gives us better insight into their experiences, but also guides us in providing the support and guidance they truly need. Teens can sense the way they are viewed, so be aware of your lens.
6 Myths About Teenagers That Are Untrue and Harmful
This myth often stems from a misunderstanding of adolescent sleep patterns and their developing brains. Teens are in a crucial stage of physical and mental development, requiring more hours of sleep. Their internal clocks are shifted, making them more alert at night and groggy in the morning. This isn’t laziness; it’s biology. While brain chemistry and hormonal changes can affect moods, external pressures like academic stress and social dynamics also play a significant role and can be exhausting, especially without proper sleep. Instead of lecturing your teen, try listening to them. And bear in mind the negative effect the stigma of laziness has on a teen’s psyche.
2. Teens are rebelling without cause
Teen rebellion is a natural part of growing up, and teens tend to test boundaries and restrictions to assert independence. It’s not just rebellion for rebellion’s sake, but a critical step in their journey toward young adulthood. While teens may challenge boundaries and engage in risky behavior, it’s a natural part of seeking autonomy. Offer teens positive reinforcement while offering safe, age appropriate risk opportunities like cooking classes, camping trips or internships as essential stepping stones. Also remember that many teens are cautious and risk-taking behavior is not universal, but becoming more independent is a pivotal part of their upbringing—regardless of whether they defy their parents.
3. Teens don’t care about their futures
Teens can be forward-thinking. However, the pressure they feel about their futures can be stressful, especially given the emotional part of their brain is more developed than the prefrontal cortex, which is the area responsible for planning, prioritizing and consequences. This means that their perceived apathy might actually be a coping mechanism for overwhelming expectations. Instead of the battle to the bottom, let us model and engage teens in authentic empowerment and curiosity (without the toxic positivity). By offering this support, we can help guide our teens as they make healthy decisions and work towards a productive future.
4. Teens value phones over real relationships
The digital world can be an integral part of a teen’s school and social life. While it’s easy to view this as a disconnection from reality, for them, it’s a way to stay connected to their peers. We can harness teens with the tools to make safe, sound decisions—from how to handle drama to even being tech-savvy enough to run their own business. With this perspective, technology can be utilized as a bridge for your relationship to grow strong through these years. It can be a means of communication, a way to get to know your teen and enjoy a deepening, more mature relationship. You might even learn a thing or two! While technology may play a significant part of their lives, many teens actively seek out real-world connections, experiences, and face-to-face conversations. Model what you wish to see and encourage time outside, as well as discernment and critical thinking. Let’s raise producers, not consumers.
5. Teens are disrespectful
Teens are learning to navigate complex social dynamics and assert their viewpoints. What might seem like disrespect can often be a teen trying to find their voice in a world where they often feel unheard. Teens do value their parents’ views, even if they don’t always show it and seem to be in a bad mood on frequent occasions. This seemingly self-centered phase is part of their developmental process, not an indication of selfishness. Teens are inspired to engage and consider others when they feel considered. Feeling respected and valued is key.
6. Teens are unmotivated
Teens often have diverse interests. If they are lucky, they are learning about what they love in school or work, but many teens have interests that they unfortunately have little time. What might be perceived as a lack of motivation is sometimes just a lack of interest in traditional academic or extracurricular activities. They may be deeply motivated about things that adults might not recognize, value, or have access to. Teens are often balancing school, extracurricular activities, social lives and part-time work, which can be exhausting. Instead of nagging them to come out of their room, take interest. Teens often appreciate family time; the key is how that time is spent and respected. Cultivate an environment that is welcoming and warm, with authenticity as the foundation. Remember: teens have a keen sense of inauthenticity.
The adolescent years don’t have to adhere to the narrative. Create your own story, especially if you hope to raise a child who does the same. This is a unique stage of development, requiring unique care, as all stages do. Awareness of self, and of your child, truly matters and makes a difference. It is crucial to recognize the ongoing need for guidance in a teen’s life. While empathy is foundational, it should not be mistaken for permissive parenting. Adolescents are not yet adults and need clear boundaries, consistent guidance and positive role models. This balanced approach supports them to navigate their path forward with confidence. Good parents play a pivotal role in helping teens develop the skills and resilience needed for the inevitable life challenges. It is not about controlling their journey, but about illuminating the path, offering wisdom when needed and allowing them the space to grow and learn from their own teenage experiences (within reason, of course!).
Debunking common myths reveals a clearer, more compassionate understanding of adolescence. Teens are not inherently lazy, rebellious without cause, or disinterested in their futures. Their deep engagement with the digital world doesn’t signify a lack of desire for real relationships, nor does their assertiveness equate to disrespect. Understanding that what might appear as lack of motivation could be a search for truly resonant interests, reminds us to view these years not as a battle to be won, but as a pivotal stage of brain development and exploration. In shedding these misconceptions, we can foster stronger, more compassionate connections, guiding teens with support and understanding through one of the most transformative phases of their lives.
This is a contributed post by Kirsten Cobabe, based on an Instagram post.
Are you looking for more encouragement for raising your teens and tweens?
Check out this book, Loving Hard When They’re Hard to Love, by the co-owner of Parenting Teens & Tweens, Whitney Fleming. The book contains 55 relatable essays about raising tweens and teens in today’s modern and chaotic world.
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