Savior: The Adult Desire to Save Teenagers From Themselves

Photo by fengschwing via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Am I the only one who notices that adults seem to obsessed about teenage lives? More to the point, we seem obsessed with pointing out how we need to intervene before they destroy themselves and the human race.

Our culture takes a very negative view of people between the ages of 13-18. If you work with them, you are used to folks turning up their noses when you tell them you love working with that age group.

Here are some recent headlines to illustrate the point:

School: Little as they try, students can’t get a D here [New York Times] more articles…

Sleep: Lack of sleep linked to obesity for teen boys [Time Magazine] more articles…

Sex: Teenage girls rely on the rhythm method [What is the trend] more articles…

Crime: States rethink “adult time for adult crime” [CNN] more articles…

Forgive me if the links provided aren’t damning evidence. You are welcome to browse my entire body of hundreds of news articles on adolescence to get a better flavor. What I am talking about is not a hot pile of evidence. It is a slow burn of negative views on adolescents as well as adult desires to fix teenagers.

Another angle that demonstrates this is our wonderment over a teenager who does something good. Sail around the world? Shocking! Raise money for a worthy cause? News at 11! Start a successful business? Give her an award!

It seems that those news stories are of interest, in part, because we expect teenagers to only do negative/self-destructive things and when they do something amazing it must be newsworthy.

Three observations I want to point out on this topic

  1. Jesus is their savior, you aren’t.
  2. Have you ever wondered why sports are so popular with adolescents? Maybe it’s the easiest place for them to achieve and/or exceed expectations.
  3. Teenagers have about the same grades, sleep about the same, have the same amount of sex, and commit the same amount of crimes that they always have. Our obsessing over it only reveals something twisted in our lives and not theirs.


5 responses to “Savior: The Adult Desire to Save Teenagers From Themselves”

  1. Kara Szyarto Avatar

    A fellow youth worker and I were just talking about this at lunch yesterday- you either end up with people who assume all teenagers are bad, or you end up with people who want to wrap them in bubble wrap and shelter them into being good, which limits them later on in life when it comes to making decisions, dealing with failure, etc.

    It’d be great if we as adults could give teens the room to succeed AND fail, and the support to learn how to navigate through it all. We live in a world of “save the teens from themselves” when maybe we just need to save them from all the negativity and pressure we put on them.

    [random thought: I’m surprised there isn’t a book called “God Save the Teen” yet re: the negative stance on this topic… maybe that’s a good thing though!]

    1. adam mclane Avatar

      Thanks for your comment. Now I know I’m not crazy. Well, at least I’m not alone in my insanity.

  2. […] If you answer yes to any of the above you may be experiencing transference or countertransference and they can get in the way of your usefulness to God and others.  Explore with your staff the expectations ond boundaries that either exist or need to exist to protect you from what Adam at writes about here.  […]

  3. Josh Avatar

    Hey, I know I’m kind of late to the party, but I don’t think it’s correct to say that teens get the same amount of sleep that they always have. From what I’ve read, kids get an hour less a night than they did 30 years ago. That seems pretty significant to me.

    I don’t think these articles reflect a negative view on teenagers…I think they reflect an interest in understanding the impact of cultural shifts on adolescents. If anything, it show that people care about teenagers and their development.

    1. adam mclane Avatar

      @josh- I think there is selective editing going on which creates a negative view on teenagers. This is hypothesis is made pretty well in Teens 2.0.

Leave a Reply