Flux Capacitors ready? Let’s go back in time; back to when you were a teenager. I know. I’m embarrassed with you. We were all kind of the worst. But that’s not the point of this little exercise. The point of this exercise is to get you thinking from a new perspective about something you may be doing wrong without even knowing it.
What do you call the members of your youth ministry? “Kids?” “Youths?” “Punks?” Have you thought about it? I have. I started directing a youth program when I was young. I was REALLY young. I was 19. My age meant a ton of disadvantages but there were some perks. The biggest was I could speak to my teens effortlessly. They “got” me and I “got” them. Because of this I was able to see the disconnects that would occur when older volunteers interacted with the students.
So, back to our time travel experiment. When you were a teenager, what were some of the things you hated most? I’ll bet were are like me, and like all the kids in your youth program, in that you hated being talked down to. Right? Teenagers think they are fully developed humans. (If you are a teenager reading this, YOU TOTALLY ARE.) But we know that they aren’t. They don’t know how much being an adult sucks yet. But they like to think they do and few things bother a teenager more than being made to feel like they are not an adult. If you’re significantly (Let’s say…seven years) older than them, understanding this is a huge key to interacting with teens. When you refer to them as “kids,” all you mean is, “you lovely, young people.” But what most of them will probably hear is, “I am older and wiser than you and you are a dumb, little thing.” It’s demeaning. Even innocent terms like, “young people” may have this effect.
Now that I’m too old to speak with teenagers effortlessly, I have to remember this all the time. When I am with teenagers I refer to the as either “teens,” or “students.” Both of these terms are very neutral. They only describe true things about the subjects and they’re both kind of positive words. American media has always told us how cool the “teenager” is. “Student” reminds them how smart they are. You can’t lose!
What do you call your teens? I need more words for this in my vocabulary. Leave your suggestions in the comments.
Until next time, Internet!