The other day a mother in my daughter’s school asked me in what grade she is. When I answered that she’s in grade 9, she looked at me full of empathy and said: “So you’re a 9-grader. That’s hard.” At first I didn’t understand what she meant, but then I realized that having children in different ages also means that you have to adjust your parenting to their level. Having a teenager means that a part of you is also going through that stage. Grade 9 was not one of my favorite grades …
In his book Almost Cool, Tim Smith writes that we should think about teenagers as foreigners. They have a different language, different culture and different habits. Of course! Why have I not thought about it that way before!? When moving to Turkey I understood even before I went there that I had to learn some basic Turkish and I struggled with the peculiar words and grammar. Once there I had to cope, understand and adopt to different ways of doing things the Turkish way. Gradually it went better and better and the more I was able to communicate the more I could enjoy meeting people, finding out how to solve everyday problems and make myself a good life in this new country. Then I moved to China. All over again! But it’s obvious to everyone that we have to learn the basic language and culture if we want to communicate and understand those who are foreign to us. Why aren’t there language courses in Teenagerish?
Below are some “translations” from Tim Smith’s book Almost Cool.
|The way many adults tend to communicate||The way most teenagers tend to communicate|
|By using reason, logic, one topic at a time.||Stream of conciousness, easily switching between topics.|
|To solve problems, get results, change behaviour.||By talking at length without looking for solutions.|
|By lecturing or moralising, at times getting heavy and intense.||Like to leave things open-ended; don’t need to have a ‘point’; enjoy talking for its own sake.|
|Interrogation style: Have you …? Are you …? Aren’t you …?||Open up when we least expect it and usually not to order.|
|Often drawing on much experience to support arguments; holding a firm viewpoint.||Often drawing on limited experience to make their point; exploring options.|
|Pushing to know the whole situation, to learn all the details.||Less focused; more easily distracted; shorter attention-span.|
|Generally in a hurry. Have high expectations of what can be achieved in a short amount of time.||Can’t rush them. They are on their own timetable – often it’s very slow.|
I can clearly see that it’s much tougher than learning Mandarin! But if I’m a 9-grader mom I better start learning, because in a couple of months I’ll have to transform to a 10-grader!