Friday, November 9, 2007

An Unnatural Fear of Teenagers?

No stranger to long-winded, pseudoscientific rants, Renee's second-latest, greatest article discusses Today's Immoral Teenager and Its Reluctance to Form Lifelong Relationships While Still a Teen.

Her article is based largely on an article entitled "Nation of Wimps", by Hara Estroff Marano. The Nation of Wimps' website explains this alleged phenomenon: "Armed with hyperconcern and microscrutiny, parents are going to ludicrous lengths to take the lumps and bumps out of life for their children today. However well-intentioned, their efforts have the net effect of making kids more fragile. That may be why the young are breaking down in record numbers or staying stuck in endless adolescence.

What's more, parents are seeking status and meaning in the achievements of their children. The trouble with turning tots into trophies is that the developmental needs of the young are sacrificed to the psychological needs of adults. But the biggest problem with pushing perfection may be that it masks the real secret of success in life. As any innovator will tell you, success hinges less on getting everything right than on how you handle getting things wrong. The ultimate irony is, in a flat world you don't make kids competitive by pushing them to be perfect but by allowing them to become passionate about something that compels their interest."

I don't have much of an opinion on that article. It sounds to me like it's more someone's opinion than actual research or fact. There are parts of it I agree with it to some extent, but I don't think at all that our kids are "wimpy." There are some parents who are completely overbearing. The yuppie soccer moms and dads who micromanage their kids sports, diets, academics, music lessons, etc. And a lot of times, when those kids have their first taste of freedom (usually at college), all hell breaks loose. I've seen it happen before.

But I think those parents are relatively rare. Who has the time and money for all of the above? Most parents end up doing the best they can with what they have, and the kids turn out okay.

Frankly, I don't understand Renee's weird fear of/for the next generation. I suppose each generation has their curmudgeonly older people who live in fear of "today's youngsters with their newfangled ideas." I'm not sure what their fears are exactly, but it is probably rooted in a basic human resistance to change. (even when that change is good).

Observe Renee's paragraph, which follows an excerpt from the article she quotes:

"A popular concept is group dating for teenagers, parents think teens are safe, but it is nothing more then just hanging out with friends. Hanging out isn't learning about a person or talking to them on a personal level face to face. Something teenagers need to understand before becoming an adult. The hooking up style of non-relationships or friends with benefits has not left women feeling liberated. In fact men have all the power, because there is little to no possibility of any personal relationship developing when men and women engage in 'hanging out'. If you do get time alone, then the only expectation is casual sex. Many teenage girls could only imagine the power of choice to say, 'no, thank you', to a male peer who asks her out for coffee or lunch rather then trying push off a drunk with his pants around his knees at a co-ed sleepover. Now everything is a regrettable intoxicated hook-up, that borders in many instances date-rape, except without the actual date." [emphasis mine]

So now it appears that Renee has become the expert on teenage dating. I wonder if she has any stats to back her claims, or if this entire rant is just her opinion. If so, then she would do best to not state her opinions as common knowledge.

Especially the part about how "hanging out" in groups has given men all the power.

Well, I'm no "culturologist" or anything, but I do know that hanging out in groups is a normal part of teen psychosocial development. They are understandably less focused on forming serious monogamous relationships while still in high school, than they are with fitting in with their same-sex peers and the start of dating. I acknowledge that high school is the time people start forming lifelong friendships and relationships, but it is largely a time of social experimentation, as well. While most teens start to develop a legitimate interest in the opposite sex during high school, I would be worried if that was the main focus of my teenager's life.

I would be more worried if my teen were, in fact, in one very serious committed relationship and only spent time with that person, than if he/she were hanging out more with a group of his or her friends.

That would seem weird to me. Anyone else?

She says, "Young men and women are wimps in relationships. If teenagers understood relationships, all the causal sex would diminished dramatically because they would have a better grasp how their emotions and hormones are suppose to work together. They would stop wasting their time screwing around and find someone to love."

Renee seems to think that the teen years are the time for children (because they are still children by all mental and emotional developmental standards) to find their life partners. I don't agree with that at all. Teens are largely learning how to form relationships during this developmental stage.

When looked at from the Erickson model of stages of psychological and emotional development in children, which is largely accepted in the medical world, it would appear that all of the problems Renee mentions are part of the eight stages. One can peruse that link for a more in-depth description of each stage.

My point is, it isn't fair to hold teenagers--who are still overcoming different stages of their own emotional development--to adult relationship standards. In no way would I expect, or want, my teenaged child searching for his or her spouse in high school. Why limit oneself to your pool of high school classmates when the world is so much larger?

For example, as one website describes "Each stage is regarded by Erikson as a 'psychosocial crisis,' which arises and demands resolution before the next stage can be satisfactorily negotiated."

To be fair, Renee has valid points that I do agree with to some extent: "The larger problem is that millions of teens don't see any functional relationship behavior in their own families. Children, whose father hasn't been in the picture since they were a baby and a rotation of boyfriends by their mother. Some children seen [sic] dad walk away from the family through divorce or seen [sic] mom just think of herself when dad simply didn't make her happy anymore..."

However, her focus on her ideal family form, which I'm sure means male and female dual parent households completely leaves out gay and lesbian parents (which most of the current research has shown to be just as effective as dual heterosexual parent-headed households). I won't delve into the merits of child-rearing by gay and lesbian parents here, but her omission is predictable.

I find it disturbing that Renee, a self-ascribed feminist, focuses more on the passive "absence" of a father, yet when a female leaves a family, it is because she is actively "thinking of herself when dad didn't make her happy anymore." She implicitly places more blame and guilt on a female who leaves than the more expected/accepted scenario of a dad leaving.

What I also find disturbing is that Renee (and others) automatically assumes the worst for the millions of children that are headed by single-parent families. Give them some credit. I refuse to believe that the single reason a child turns out "bad" is because he or she was raised by his or her single mother (or father). Get real. Sometimes relationships and marriages fail against all odds. Sometimes adults make mistakes and marry the wrong person. There are always extenuating circumstances, and people are rarely just selfish assholes who choose to leave their children and spouses.

But let's not automatically discount their children's abilities to forge ahead to lead successful lives just because a "fatherhead" or "motherhead" is missing from the picture. I refuse to believe that kids are not resilient by their very nature. They are the most adaptable of all human age groups, and often make it despite their parents' mistakes, even in the worst of all scenarios.

While the two-parent household is the ideal, of course, it isn't fair to assume that it is ALWAYS in the best interest of the child for the parents to stick together. Sometimes that causes more harm than good (abuse, addiction, fighting, etc).

Let's give our single parents and our children a little more credit, instead of self-righteously declaring that they need to be "saved" from anything.

16 comments:

Fannie said...

"Sometimes adults make mistakes and marry the wrong person."

Yeah, like when they "fall in love" in high school and get married as soon as they graduate.

John said...

Truly outstanding post, Jane.

I think it's important to note that marriage for love is a very recent development. Stephanie Coontz, scholar extraordinaire, has written several very well researched books on the mythology of "family values", and the "Way We Never Were". I highly recommend her work.

Since marriage has always been in flux, it is natural that our dating, courtship and marriage patterns will change over time, each generation adapting to changing times and changing conditions.

And Jane, you really hit the nail on the head (and Fannie accurately points out that falling in love in high school and marrying immediately can be a huge mistake) when you note that the teen years are the time to get know potential mates without the sense that some kind of permanency is required.

Kids don't grow up as fast as they used to, but that is not a bad thing. People are marrying later, because this is what works in the reality of what is modern America.

There are a lot of things worth worrying about today, but the quality of our teenagers is not one of them.

I firmly believe the next few decades will be the best ever, largely because of the beautiful, decent, fair-minded young people who are taking charge.

John Hosty said...

Jane, I think you said it best when you said:

"As any innovator will tell you, success hinges less on getting everything right than on how you handle getting things wrong."

This is so very true about life. So often we take a blessing and turn it into a curse because of how we look at things. In my opinion Renee is someone who might do just that, hence her negativity.

I have locked horns with her over on another website where she told me in effect that I had no respect for women because I am gay. The way in which she chose her words made it sound to me like she has little joy in her own life, therefore she sees this emotion as a foolish waste of time in her business only life.

I'm with John. The kids are going to be fine because they recognize the mistakes we have made and can avoid them. They don't see life as a burden, but maybe that's because they live their lives with joy as part of the journey instead of an imaginary destination somewhere after retirement. Good for them!

The commentary of a Self-neutered lawyer turned housewife like Renee should be considered only as seriously as the source validates.

Thanks for the great post Jane!

Fannie said...

"They don't see life as a burden, but maybe that's because they live their lives with joy as part of the journey instead of an imaginary destination somewhere after retirement. "


That's a great point. Sometimes I wonder if so-called marriage defenders have joy in their lives or if they are primarily concerned with the Very Important Task of Marriage and Procreation.

Jane Know said...

I don't think it's a bad thing that kids are growing up later, either, John.

In my parents' generation, it was normal for kids to leave their parents' home following graduation from high school, and the job market allowed for people (especially men) to obtain decent-paying jobs with only a high school diploma.

That has greatly changed in the past 20 years, and it would be ridiculous to expect an 18 year-old to move out of the house and be able to support himself right away. Not now that everyone is expected to have at least a bachelor's degree.

Kids these days are seen by people like Renee as "lazy" or "wimpy" when they are just trying to do their best with what society tells them they are "supposed" to do. But I don't think further education is a bad thing, even if it means kids are self-sufficient at a later age.

Jane Know said...

Notice how none of the Opiners have come over here to defend Renee. I think even they are embarrassed by her weird articles and irrelevant comments.

John said...

Renee's weirdness leads to a dilemma for them.

Ultimately, the first point of Opine is the slander LGBTI people.

A secondary motive is to blame gay people for a "decline in morality" that in turn ruins families.

The connection is impossible to make.

If one takes Renee's paranoia seriously, then one has to admit that it is straight people who have screwed up their precious traditions. And we can't have that, can we?

Fannie said...

It's amazing to me that they let Renee (and Jose) even post on their site. It makes their site more of a mockery than it otherwise would be.

But, they probably think it helps their cause to have at least one woman on "their side."

M said...

Just wanted to say thanks for your comment! I'm surprised anyone reads anything on there with how little I update lately. Oh life, how you get in the way.

Jane Know said...

m, you're welcome! I hope you get time to post more articles, but I realize that life can definitely get in the way of blogging. thanks for visiting. :-)

Dan L said...

Jane,

Where do you get the patience to even dissect opine's horseshit?

I try. I really try to come up with the energy to go through it line by line - but in the end, I just come back to "these people are fucking insane"

John said...

I hear you Dan. Jane is a truly remarkable person with far more patience than me.

As a parent who has found raising children to be rather easy, I sit in utter disbelief at how difficult these people make it all sound.

Jane Know said...

Haha! I don' know if it's patience or stubbornness, actually. ;-) Sometimes the two are one in the same.

John Hosty said...

Whatever motivates you Jane, keep up the good work. Lies need to be called out with logic for all to see, and eventually they will not be able to fool enough people to remain effective.

John Hosty said...

Great job by the way.

Jane Know said...

Thank you, John Hosty. :-)