Teens have earned my respect; adults, no


Here in the Midwest it is fair season. County fairs are gearing up, winding down, and whirling along.

Amid the animals, blue ribbons, canned goods, dust, fried foods, midway lights and quilts, you will find something else that is as strong a commodity as any our country can produce: young people.

Newspaper headlines, newscasts, and social media bring us drive by shootings, fuzzy security camera footage of a crime in progress, and stories of yet more boys and girls gone wild. Meanwhile the inside pages and farm papers show pages of “grand champions,” “lamb ambassador” and “best in show.”

Hard workers

My social media feed streamed with ribbons, honorable mentions and kids pulling barn duty at the crack of dawn. Fair is a time of teens who worked hard all season, showed up, got up and cleaned up.

In my own world, I have been blessed this summer to meet a variety of young people. One found himself answering inane questions simply because his sincere “yes ma’am” and “no ma’am” answers thrilled me to the bone. I have met others who worked hard, helped others, worked tirelessly in the sun and rain, and gave their free time and energy for charitable causes.

Bump in the road

I’ve been heartened, following a week at the fair, to see how well behaved young people can be. I would venture to say they are often better role models than their elder counterparts.

Boywonder was “allegedly” involved in a minor auto bump at the fairgrounds parking lot (muddy field). As someone who has recently written a column titled Things I Hit On My Summer Vacation, I am well aware of how easily this can happen.

We weren’t angry and Boywonder had nothing to fear when he called home to say, “they say I hit their car last night,” and he cooperated with police (they said he was very respectful and concerned).

No harm no foul.

Turned sour

This should have been the end of it. But it took him forever to get home because when he was leaving, the other party blocked his car, detained and threatened him. I hope this was an unusual transgression because the idea that a grown adult would actually detain and threaten a child is alarming to me.

Insurance information had been exchanged. There is no policy on earth, however, that will provide the protection you need when you stop my child’s vehicle after the police have handled everything, hold and threaten him.

Boywonder said he was intimidated because the guy was “in his forties.” (Keeping in mind he could have been 25. At 17, everyone over 21 is “old”). Regardless, if you don’t know by the age of adulthood not to threaten children, maybe I can help you understand it better.

This is the downside of having raised a polite and respectful child. He is, if possible, too nice. His mama not so much. Perhaps I just have a thicker skin (or better insurance?) but I just can’t see getting that worked up over a bumper. I am trying not to blow this out of proportion, but to protect a child — my child — from someone who allegedly fails to make rational decisions. The real issue isn’t this minor transgression with my child. My issue is that I’m tired of teenagers who are being respectful not given the same courtesy by adults in general.

Newsflash: If you want respect at any age, you need to give it.

Frankly I have seen too many instances lately of adults who seem to have missed that lesson. I have found, as a rule, that too many adults think teens should be both mini adults when it suits, but malleable children (silent at best) when it suits them better. I have personally witnessed adults being curt, dismissive, eye rolling and rude to young adults — all behavior that if the parties were reversed would be seen as requiring “correction.”

Try a little respect

This is a message to my fellow oldsters (aka adults, see also “grown ups”). You must be the change you wish to see in the world. Give respect and you have the right to demand it back. If you don’t, you will reap what you sow.

There are plenty of kids — and human beings as a whole — doing the wrong thing these days. However, I truly believe there are even more doing the right thing.
It is our job, as adults, to give them the respect they deserve.

I have raised polite and respectful “yes ma’am” and “no ma’am” teenagers. I am now finding it necessary to transition them into polite, respectful young adults who stand up for themselves. This is more necessary than you might think.

Kids these days — they’re fantastic. If you give them a chance, they’ll prove it.

Get our Top Stories in Your Inbox

Next step: Check your inbox to confirm your subscription.



We are glad you have chosen to leave a comment. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated according to our comment policy.

Receive emails as this discussion progresses.