The Three I’s of Working with Teenagers


Sometimes you come across statements about teenagers that are just so over-the-top that you have to laugh.

Today the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that the teen birth rate is at an all-time low. (More on that in a minute.) But in the press release there’s this hilarious statement from Dr. Jill Rabin, a OB/GYN from Hyde Park, NY:

“It’s important to remember the three I’s when you’re working with teens. They think they’re immortal, invincible and infertile. We have to convince them otherwise and dispel the myths, and the message needs repetition.”


Ah, generalizations. Aren’t they fun?

Let’s imagine for a minute what Dr. Jill might want on every wall of every high school gymnasium:

  • You are mortal.
  • You can be defeated.
  • You are fertile.

Better get t-shirts printed, too. Teenagers love t-shirts.

But the bigger issue is the tone that we, as adults who care about teenagers, allow to permeate culture about the capabilities of teenagers.

There is a not-so-subtle narrative in the media about teenagers that looks like this….

The Media Narrative about Teenagers

Teenagers are dangerous when they congregate at malls, on streets, or outside of organized activities overseen by adults. Left alone, teenagers will host raging parties in their parents homes and have sex with anything that moves indescrimintately. All teenagers want to sleep in late and avoid any semblance of hard work work. When not sexting, teenagers are trying to borrow money or their parents car.

Meanwhile, nothing fascinates the adult population more than adolescent sexuality, risk-taking, and their seeming lack-of-responsibility. How many millions are made each year in television on those three topics alone?

Conversely, teenagers can amaze adults when they sail around the world by themselves, climb Mount Everest with their parents, or do four perfect flips to win a gold medal in gymnastics. When they do things normal adults can’t we stand in awe and give back-sided compliments because this lone teenager has stood against the media created cultural narrative and accomplished more than we could ever give them credit for.

The media stirs fears about teenagers while profiting off of a sick perversion with teenage sexuality.

Then they shake their head at the negative impact of their self-fulfilling prophesy.

About the Teen Birth Rate

We can all agree that fewer babies born to unwed teenagers is a good thing. As the CDC report also points out, those babies born to teenagers are now healthier than ever, as well.

The flip side is a lack of concern about the ever-extending phase of life known as adolescence. This includes the delay of marriage until the late 20s, a decrease in expectations on adolescents, and the increase in age of women having a first child.

We can’t infinitely deny that these aren’t risks to public health, as well.

Photo by Neal Gillis via Flickr (Creative Commons)


5 responses to “The Three I’s of Working with Teenagers”

  1. Brandon Pachey Avatar
    Brandon Pachey

    So true Adam, it needs to start with the church!

  2. Collin Avatar

    Great read. Could it be that the birth rates are low due to abortion?

    1. Adam McLane Avatar

      The CDC story linked lists a few reasons for the decrease.

      “We talk more about teen pregnancy, the responsibility of having a child and how difficult it is to be a teen mom. We also talk about contraception and abstinence more,”

  3. […] one thing we should be worried about when it comes to teenagers. (As I wrote about last month, the teen birth rate is the lowest its been since we’ve tracked […]

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