Thursday, September 2, 2010

Does advice given to youth fall on deaf ears?

I was reading an article yesterday in the Wall Street Journal Blogs about the "advice gap."  In this short blog post writer Jeffery Zaslow points out some example from his own life about the trend in intergenerational communication.  This was run in parallel to his full article on the issue of wisdom of elders falling on deaf ears. Finding the article interesting I posted the link on my twitter and facebook account with the question, "Should teens listen to their elders?"  I had some interesting discussion being reflected back to me and one of my friends ask me what my opinion on the matter was.  As I was laying in bed last night in a failed attempt to sleep I was thinking over this topic and realized there was no way a comment field on my facebook would do for my response.  

As a youthworker a lot of my life is spent in the realm of noticing differences.  After all the kids I work with never heard of my favorite TV shows or music from when I was a kid.  Their expectation of instant communication means that they get mad if you don't respond to their text message within 14.2 seconds of receiving it.  I remember in my day that you if you wanted to talk to someone that you had to call their house and wait for them to get home.  Answering machines were just coming out and not everyone had one.  In many ways I have tailored my life to approach young people on their level, but that doesn't mean that it's the right way of doing things.

For instance, Zaslow, lists an example of trying to help his daughter make better use of punctuation and grammar in her letter to a businessman.  In this he told his daughter to think she only had one explanation point she could use in her life and to use it well.  When the 30 something business man responded using explanation points   in 3/4 of his sentences that his daughter knew she had taken the wrong advice.  However, just because a bad habit is common, doesn't it make it the right way of doing things.  For instance, I have counseled a few young people this summer to refrain from having heated arguments over text message and to meet in person. And yet the idea is a foreign concept to them.  Their friendships would have ended if I hadn't played the part of the mediator.

That being said there are things that an older generation doesn't have a whole lot of input on, technology, social media, texting are all things that young people really are more knowledgeable.  Young people get used to advising their elders on how to keep up with the technological edge, or just get annoyed at them as many people do of slow drivers on the freeway.It is a youth oriented society after all.   At the same time another article I read yesterday, and I can't find the link of right now, mentioned that the older generation enjoy reading stories of youth failures precisely because they feel undervalued and feel that young people are over valued.

Seeing the undervalued of the older many middle age people try their best to maintain their "edge". To be cool and to refuse to be adults, but rather just older peers. (Many people could describe me as a youth worker that way, I know).  As such they don't like the titles of Mr. Smith or Mrs. Brown and want to be know as Brent or Amy.  Many times youth do not take such people seriously on advice and they don't know why.
My conclusion is that the culture is disconnected and shattered.  For too long youth and elders have been separated that they don;t know how to communicate to each other or what to talk about if they do talk.  Should teens listen to their elders?  Well it seems to me that the first step it to get teens and older people alike to respect each other.  We need to be reconnected at a human level.  The older can help the world run more smoothly as many of their lives hard knocks can make a young person's life run more smooth and the young can respectfully guide the older in the way the world has been rewired. 
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