Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Vast Disconnect: Teens and UK Riots

I have heard many times of rioting, and my reaction was a momentary numb sadness. The LA riots were more deeply disturbing, but the riots in Africa,Germany and France...all seemed but a distant disappointment in humanity and government. C'mon, get it together people! I would think, Get some government support or job infrastructure going! The rioting was a wake up call for that government, almost a deserved slap in the face that something needs to be done in that issue. I almost envied the protestors passion. You wouldn't find me stomping around the streets shouting about anything unless my toddler escaped.

This week however, I am jostled to my core about the London riots and now spreading UK riots. I am transfixed and terrified to see crowds of 14, 15 and 16 year olds strutting the streets, sinister and seeking destruction. They randomly smash windows, steal, throw rocks at police, burn cars and landmark buildings and even steal from a pre teen's backpack as they help him up, injured and stunned from the rioting, face bleeding. They steal his ipad or camera from his backpack as he weakly waves them away, leaving his backpack gaping open, boy wondering...what the Hell is going on?
The audio recordings of the teens bragging that they "Can do what they want and the police can't stop them" or that they will "Keep doing this til they get caught" and then finally "When I get home nothing will happen." strikes me to my heart.
Nothing will happen.

As a Mom of three boys, only five years away from being teens, I see these riots as a scream of society. Screams from our youth. They want SOMETHING to happen. They want their parents to care enough to hear them, to give them structure, to pay attention, to care about them enough to support them in being useful, productive and self sufficient. Teens are shown more material things through media than ever, songs like "I want to be a Billionaire" and "Dirty Rich" are just a sign of the focus of our youth. It's on extreme wealth, sex, beauty and AQUIRING and they perceive that they have almost no means of doing that unless they are given money...or steal it.

Just a few hundred years ago we could not survive as a family and as a colony if our teens weren't being useful, productive and protective. For almost a million years as humans, they were some of the most valuable people in society. The teen boys trained to hunt, kill, fight and protect the women and children. They backed up their fathers and were some of the first to defend or attack and it was necessary that they do so. They had areas of accountability that were all and only theirs. If the 13 year old boy didn't bring the wood in, the family would have no fire until he did. The teen girls trained to deliver babies, feed and clothe the family, mix medicine that would heal and save each other and the defending men and teens. If the 13 year old girl didn't heat the water, they had no hot water for food. Teens were an integral part our survival.

What is so now, is that our instincts and abilities have not changed (rather they have expanded) but society has. Society is set up now for teens to wait. Wait until they are adults.
Teens are now, for many, are just vapid airheads or stupid punks (there is actually evidence now that shows that their brains are not fully formed) that are in a holding pattern. They are "no good" until they get out of that pimply, rebellious stage and turn 25. I literally had a teacher tell me that "Guys are basically sh*t until they are 25."

A few hundred years ago, kids began working at 7 or 8 and were already in training and making a difference for their family. Teens now can't even legally work until they are 16. They can get babysitting jobs and care for our children but they can't flip burgers. Even then they are competing for those jobs with twenty four year old parents now. If they are lucky enough to live in a suburb with lawns, they can cut grass and move heavy machinery but they can't legally fix or make a computer. Even if they do have a job, it's merely for them to buy sneakers or makeup or a car for themselves. They focus is on them, not others. They aren't deemed NECESSARY. They go to school. Fabulous. What is so about that is that, that is all a lot of doing for SOMEDAY, when they graduate, later, when they have that degree, THEN they will be useful. Our families don't need what they could offer NOW because our society is structured completely differently. And no one cares about that because they way our society is now is more conveinent...and teens well, they will get over it, get used to it, grow up and eventually do something useful. In the mean time, thank God for video games.

Our global economy has expanded our comforts and conveniences but has shrunk our local teen's role of importance in our families and communities.

This is why, in my opinion as a Mom with pending teen boys, we need to ask more, not less, of our children and teens. We need to close the vast disconnect by reeling them in to love, listen and pay attention to them, no matter what, grumpy faces or bad attitudes, so what. Love them. And then firmly point them in the direction of something we NEED done, something important to us, something we depend on, and set them free to do it. Don't hover, don't criticize and don't demean their efforts. Celebrate their contribution. Have them be useful. Challenge them and give them big jobs, accountability and consequences. Have them also choose their area of passion and support it. Yes, they need to choose to take responsibility, and we in turn need to stop thinking that the way we can support them in their life is by money. No, it is by creating them as BEING important.
Teens are not just BECOMING. They ARE, right now, important, imperative, insistent human beings. Let's close the gap from destruction on the streets and disconnect in our relationships to create connection and contribution at home and in our neighborhoods.

How are teens important in your life?

Zen Honeycutt

No comments:

Post a Comment