Thursday, June 9, 2011

Emphasize the Positive

 Teens get a bad rap, don'tcha think?

I remember when I was a teenager, I felt like adults blamed us for everything and painted us all with the same brush... and it was a bummer.

Molly Ringwald - poster child for teen angst

There was one incident at a certain donut shop that won't be named...

Two of my friends and I went in to the shop because they wanted something, I didn't want anything because I had just bought a slushy at the store across the street. After they ordered, the woman behind the desk asked me what I wanted and I said I was fine, thank you.
She told me that I would have to leave if I wasn't ordering anything and that I couldn't just "hang around there". I was shocked.
We weren't causing any trouble, in fact, *some* may have said we were "goody goodies".
Then she said, "you can't be in here because you didn't buy that here" I told her that I would have bought it there... if they sold it, but they didn't, so my hands were tied.

 Long story short, we were offended, outraged even, so we left, telling her she just lost three customers then went home and told my mom about it.

Mom taught me an important lesson that day, she was angry on our behalf, she said "you girls are paying customers, they wouldn't kick out an adult who wasn't buying something in a party of three, you deserve the same respect" (she was never a parent who thought I was always right just because I was her child... she would call me on my BS and let all the parties involved know that she had done so).
She was so angry that she called the store, and since she is always polite but firm, she kept getting put through to other people until she ended up talking to some "head honcho" guy, on his personal cell phone while he was flying somewhere (it may have been a company jet... I don't remember the details, but I do remember thinking - they are taking this seriously!)
He offered mom all kinds of free stuff to make it better, and she said "no thank you, all I would like is an apology for these girls, they are good kids and deserve to be treated with respect".
But this time my friends and I were completely embarrassed and a little in awe of what was happening.

So the next day, we went down to the store, the manager met us there, asked us to go in the back to look at video of what happened, apologized for what happened and acknowledged that an adult wouldn't have been asked to leave if one out of three people wasn't purchasing something.
Then she insisted on giving us a free drink and donut (that was nice of her)

It was great, I felt validated, adults were taking my concerns seriously and treating me with respect. That day I learned how to stick up for myself and that I deserve to be treated fairly.

That leads me back to my point, teens are treated unfairly. The media usually only reports widely on the negative things that teens do, swarming, fights, drinking, vandalism etc. fill our TV screens and the pages of our newspapers, but what about the wonderful things that teens do?
What about the teens who volunteer in the community, babysit their siblings and cousins every weekend, excel at academics or sports or work after school to help support their family?  Where are all of these stories?

The last few weeks there have been a lot of reports about a 14 year old boy who called in a bomb threat to a NS hospital (thankfully it was a hoax), it's been all over the news.
What about the 14 year old boy who entered a science competition and then wrote a letter to General Motors about his project and received a very positive response? I happened upon this story on the MSN homepage, it certainly wasn't splashed all over the news.

If we emphasized the positive more often, maybe youth wouldn't feel like the world was "out to get them" and that all adults are "the man" maybe if we praised the good stuff, it would show kids that we do care, we are listening and we are proud of what they're trying to do.

Two 14 year old NS boys, on very different paths, neither of them is "bad", one has just made some bad decisions. I wonder if anyone ever told him "you deserve to be treated with respect..."
I realize that many people believe that respect is earned, not given, but personally I choose to believe that each person I meed deserves my respect and unless they prove different, they will receive it.

Next time you "catch a kid doing good" let them know, tell them you appreciate them and that they deserve respect, help shape their life - you have that power!

Here are the articles I was referring to:

Night all, try to be positive and look for the good in others, it's there, let's foster it.

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