They are bone LAZY, disrespectful and SPOILT

Nov 14, 2000

Don't we here it all the time - those damn teenagers, it wasn't like that in my day. They have no self respect. They are bone lazy, disrespectful and spoilt.

Well folks, I have a bit of news for you. Number one it isn't your day - you had it a long time ago. Number two its not so easy to be confident about your future when you don't have the option of fifteen jobs going begging. Number three if you think they are so lazy have a go yourself at completing senior secondary school.

And yes, sure they are taught to challenge old beliefs - can we honestly say we have done so well? And if they are truly spoilt whose fault is that?

No folks, I just won't wear it. Make no mistake, todays teenager faces challenges that would have sent us running for cover. And as if parental attitude isn't all too often bad enough, what does our media give them? Every day its poverty, unemployment and greenhouse, the biggest issues, even fears, I have found to face our youth today.

Tough enough for them. You bet, but it gets worse. Our youth are expected to behave like adults. As if the foregoing isn't bad enough, what about the hormonal changes they now go through at a younger age than us, as is the case with every generation. Isn't it easy to forget they are not adults - isn't that why we call them youths? So how can we expect them to act like adults all the time - absolutely preposterous.

So, what to do. How, as parents, do we help them get through this very tough time without either of us going mad. And by the way, if you still think they get it easy, explain the horrific suicide rate, Australia's the worst in the world.

Good parenting starts with communication, continues with communication and ends with communication. Remember when they were toddlers, it was communication, communication, communication. So nothings changed, just the content of the communication.

I will never forget the look of surprise on my sons face, age fourteen, when I asked "What are they teaching you about Greenhouse, Mate" and the disgrace I felt. He was obviously surprised because somehow I had stopped communicating and/or he never imagined I would be interested, and my disgrace because whose fault was it that he felt that way? Mine and mine alone - why all mine, you say, because I am the old bloke, the father, the role model and the adult.

We talked about greenhouse for most of the afternoon, clearly an issue that concerned my son and rightly so. I never belittled any idea or called his teachers idiots - I just listened in amazement at the depth of his knowledge on the subject. And I freely admit it was much greater than mine. It was not sensationalist in any way, yet it was clearly an issue that concerned him deeply. I learnt so much that afternoon. I feebly put up the case that one large volcano put more pollutants in the atmosphere than we do in many years only to be rightly corrected concerning my methodology. I also put up the argument that even though the 1990's were the hottest decade on record, we didn't have nearly enough data to give an indication of just what average temperatures were. He actually agreed with this, giving my ego a slight respite before being served a lesson on statistical analysis. As I said earlier, I learnt so much that afternoon - and the best thing was a restrengthening of our bond.

The following day I repeated the exercise with his twin sister, same outcome, same result. Where in hell had I been?

But twin sister also raised another issue, that of employment and poverty. I asked her if this worried her brother, and of course it did, so at her suggestion we had a joint discussion. They had quite a depth of knowledge on general economics but two questions had confused them - and I suppose sooner or later I had to get lucky since I used to teach this very subject.

It was the mid 1990's and about eight years before the then Prime Minister of Australia had said "no child will live in poverty in Australia by 1990". This had not eventuated but of course what he had meant to say was no child need be in poverty. This had eventuated - those that were in poverty were sons and daughters of parents who had succumbed to Poker/Slot machines, alcoholism or other such maladies.

We even moved ahead to the dilemma, to them, of exchange rates where they couldn't understand that if the Australian Dollar was valued at half the U.S. dollar, therefore we must be only half as well off as the U.S. That makes some sense on the face of it but if that was true the average Japanese would be eighty times worse off than us. Clearly not the case, the fact being that international exchange rates having nothing whatsoever to do with individual wealth or otherwise. What they do relate to is simply supply and demand. The U.S. is a relatively small trading partner and Japan the biggest one.

Now this is not a lesson in economics so I will stop there because what was important was that we went on discussing just how it all works for a couple of hours, at the one time allaying unfounded fears and at the other strengthening our bond.

We had all learnt so much, and our bonds had been restrengthened. From then on I regularly made a point of showing an interest in what they were doing and all it really took was a concerted effort in communication. This has to be ongoing, and here we are now in the year 2000, the twins are twenty one and yet our communication is as strong as ever.

So thats it - don't blame your youth for your own failings - talk with, not to, them everyday and listen to what they have to say. I know several youth who are perpetually in trouble - in every case they firmly believe rightly or wrongly their parents are not interested in them, their problems or beliefs.

All too often they are right.

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