Increasing Empathy: Respect Your Youth: Part 2

This post originally appeared on my LinkedIn. 

(I have written about this topic before. Please check out my previous post: Generation Gap: Respect Your Youth)

Do you remember what it was like to be young? It can be so easy to forget what it was like to be 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 years old.

Were you selfish? Spoiled? Rude? Did you speak without thinking? Did you hurt people’s feelings?

I’m sure you did. We all did.

It is important to remember this when you judge your children, or other people’s children. Really, truly remember what it was like to be that age. Would you have done the same thing?

Children are highly influenced by their parents, while also struggling to find out who they are themselves. So if they act as a parrot, or are rude, abrasive or selfish, there’s also an element of ‘where did that come from’ that should be questioned, rather than blaming the child themselves. Especially if they are very young.

There is no filter yet in children. They will ask honest questions or react truthfully to any situation. Sometimes that may involve fibbing, telling stories or embellishing on details to use as a coping mechanism. Rather than getting mad, listen to the cues and understand where this is coming from. Talk to children honestly and assure them you will not be mad. Getting angry at a child’s natural reaction to a situation may only make them more withdrawn and less likely to open up to you, or even to trust you.

What were you thinking, what were you feeling, at that age? Many children yearn for their parents approval and think that if they act like them, mimicking them can be a way to obtain this. This can sometimes be a shock to parents as they realise how much young kids take in. Recognise this behaviour and try to encourage independent thinking. Kids are their own people, they are not clones of their parents.

As an adult, especially as a childless adult, it is so important to try not to be scornful or disapproving of young kids, as it is so easy to be. Even if you do not want children yourself, you once were one (unless you’re the Trunchbull!), and can remember what it was like.

You will find your reactions become kinder, your words become softer and more understanding, and you will become a nicer person.

This instead of that.

If you can, for example, replace your words. Instead of saying “ugh she didn’t want to talk to any of the younger kids, she was so obnoxious” – you could say “it’s hard once you get to be an older kid, as you’re caught between that gap of being a kid and being a teenager. It can be so difficult because you feel like the younger kids conversations are babyish, but you’re still too young for the adult ones, so if you’re with a group of adults with no kids around your age, it can sure be boring!”

This really shows empathy for the child and the situation, rather than lamenting they weren’t entertaining the younger kids for you, because this is essentially what you probably wanted them to do, which is unfair.

When was the last time you disrespected a child? How can you expect them to respect you when you do not show them the same courtesy? Showing the child respect to their face, and also speaking about them in a positive way to their parents and peers is good practice.

The contextual basis for disrespect.

Disrespecting our youth is a widespread problem throughout society. “Kids these days” “Millenials do xxxx thing” “Why kids these days have it good” “Kids addicted to social media” “Back in my day we did it this way” etc. However, everything is conditional of the current societal position.

If your grandparents were born in your generation, they would act similarly to you. We think of our generation as the best because we know no different. Similarly, if you were born in the current generation (eg: lets say you are between 10-15 years old) would you be: addicted to social media; tied to your phone or ipad; using 100 different chat apps, yes, you probably would.

If I was born in my grandparents era, would I shun this technology? Likely I would, because I have not grown up with it, I can live without it, my social circle is not dependent on me being present in this technology.

No one is immune to societal pressures. We use things because we use them. DVDs were once the cutting edge of technology, and now you will most likely find them stacked up in the home of baby boomers. This is the way of all technology, as it trickles through the chain from early adopters to laggards.

Back and forth.

The use of technology, slang, different media, and other things that young people enjoy, as an insult, has happened for millennia. This is not new. Elitist, generational-based snobbery has occurred since Roman times. Break the chain and give that new TV show or app a go! Understand why young people enjoy what they do.

Funnily enough, personally-based insults in the opposite direction often only happen when children are young. How many of us teased our parents for their daggy music taste, only to love the exact same bands as we became adults?

Step into a child’s shoes. Step into a teens shoes. Step into a young adults shoes. Give people the benefit of the doubt as they did with you at the same age. Give guidance and respect, and above all, be truthful. Kids are influenced by you, kids believe you! Don’t lie to them, as it will give them a skewed version of their own worth as they get older.

Children are young for such a short amount of time, but their personalities and demeanors are heavily shaped during their younger years. Help them become successful adults, and they too will help the next generation do the same.

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