I’ll be the first to admit that my teen is no angel. A live wire from birth, she has always possessed a “wiseguy” thread of larceny that she has employed from time to time to stack the proverbial odds in her favor.

But in general, she is a good kid, a chip off the old block (more like her dad than like me) and always seems to land on her feet, a trait some of us parents hope our children can somehow acquire in this mixed-up, live-by-your-wits society.

And, although this is a time I may have it the toughest when trying to make adult sense out of the methods teens use to exert their independence, I cannot, for the life of me, fathom how rude many adults are to teenagers in general.

Have you ever observed the treatment teenagers get when service personnel at stores and in restaurants don’t think their parents are around to observe it?

The negative body language is noticeable and the tone in their voice is oftentimes condescending, for starters. This mistrusting demeanor can persist even when the teens are not present to experience it!

Take, for example, a recent encounter I had with our health club’s staff member, when I found myself having to convince her that my daughter had not forged her signature onto a parental consent form; it was indeed my John Henry that appeared there.

My question is this. How are teens supposed to learn to treat others with respect when they are consistently regarded and treated like second class citizens?

True, many deserve to be ignored when they seek attention in all the wrong ways. But most I know are not worthy of such open disdain, even when they respond in single-syllable answers. These kids are not only future consumers, they are also a huge factor in today’s economy, with many of them possessing considerable spending power.

My beef is somewhat hypocritical, I’ll admit; I have been guilty of thinking the worst when seeing a purple-haired, nose-pierced humanoid with a squeaky voice try to act as if he or she were a normal part of the commercial landscape.

But most teens are baggily dressed, drab-colored sacks of adolescent confusion, trying to act as if they know it all so that they don’t give themselves away. 15-year old boys generally utter three-word sentences, and their female counterparts do nothing but “ooh and ahh” their friends to distraction, giving out false compliments to one another while giggling behind some else’s back.

The truth, in my humble opinion, is that there is no hidden agenda here. Just this batch of years where high schools, parents, cops, and motor vehicle departments are pre-disposed to become control freaks (albeit for some teens’ own good) as a last stab effort before these “Generation Z” members become a force with which to be reckoned.

Why not just try to give a teenager the benefit of the doubt? With as many teens being brought up in families where Mom and Dad have split and moved on to bigger and better things, many of them lack the social skills and domestic stability some of us Baby Boomers grew up with.

And if core family life is so disposable, what examples do these kids have to emulate? Let’s just try to treat them the way we would like to be treated, in Golden Rule fashion, until they give us a real reason to treat them otherwise.

Giving Teens the Benefit of the Doubt
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