The Grand Delusion

The Grand Delusion

Thursday, 1 September 2016  | Phil - Director Ranges TEC
The world is flat, the moon is made of cheese, cats are better than dogs (sorry all cat lovers) and teenagers are fun to raise. These all seem like crazy statements. Scientific evidence and popular wisdom clearly indicate the world is not flat, the moon is not made of cheese and clearly dogs leave cats for dead as far as a family pet goes (sorry again cat lovers).

What about teenagers? Surely the idea that they are fun to raise has to be a falsehood. For years parent conversations in the school car park, around BBQs and standing beside a sporting field have all concluded that teenagers are a mystery to be feared and that the years between 12 (10) and 18 are to be navigated with the greatest of care. Avoid explosions, resist confrontation, manage moods and live with the reality that family peace is a distant memory and a well hidden future. I’m not sure this folklore wisdom is indicative of the real state of play. What if, like the world not being flat, we could identify evidence that suggests teenagers are fun to raise?

I am scared to use a personal example (just in case next week it all changes) but have found that raising teenagers is fun. That said, I have no grand or sage like advice that will ensure safe passage for parents and their teenager. What I do have, are some reflections acknowledging the wonder that teenagers are and the joy found in navigating life with them.

I often hear (have probably said it myself) that so and so will one day do fantastic things if they could only focus on school work, get a better job, listen in class, get on with their little brother, feed the dog or with the help of a front end loader, find the floor in their room. This future expectation not only has the potential to envelope teenagers in guilt, it also fails to recognise what incredible things they are doing today.

They are navigating a world of rapid change. Financial markets are international, they move in cycles responding to the slightest change. My parents put money in a bank assuming the bank would care for it, and them. Teenagers have no such understanding. They are learning and growing in a world full of choice but also highly exposed to market forces. Many are learning a financial literacy far earlier than required in earlier generations. My observation at Ranges TEC and in my own home is that many teenagers are making carefully considered choices about what they buy and in some cases how they save and what they give. They are dealing bravely and wisely with what is an incredibly complex environment. This is both exciting and challenging to watch.
Their questions and efforts call me to be a wiser steward.

Teenagers give and gain respect through relationship. They are genuine in their understanding of authority as long as it is born out of relationship. As an adult I can’t assume respect because of position or title. Rather, the greater the value I place in getting alongside teenagers and valuing their story, the greater the investment they will make in me and what I ask of them. On the surface this sounds all too hard but once again in asking me to invest, it also challenges me to find more in myself. This teenage desire to engage at a deeper level offers new strength and hope to society. 

Teenagers are growing up in a world full of tension. Old hostilities are coming home to roost, climate change is a reality and world food supply, already an issue in many countries, is likely to be a source of new tension in the near future. Teenagers are finding ways to deal with these deep and divisive issues. They are doing incredible things through crowd sourced funding. This and other uses of social media are breaking down barriers that once isolated people all round the world. They are starting and heading up social enterprises that generate social equity rather than financial profit and they are facing uncertain times with incredible hope.

It is fun raising teenagers. They challenge me, they inspire and more often than not they make me proud. Like me they will fail but they are also doing incredible things. As schools and parents we should be encouraged to celebrate our teenager’s accomplishments, laugh with them whenever possible and search for new ways to engage their way of seeing and solving problems in response to the world’s needs.

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