Do your parents treat you as a baby, deny you responsibility, act as though you can’t take care of yourself? That’s probably been a major complaint of teenagers since Cain and Abel..
Do they put on too much pressure – expect more of you than is reasonably possible? Dozens of youngsters you know probably could make similar complaint. Do you fear that you’re not attractive to the opposite sex, worry that you won’t achieve your full growth as a man or woman?
Countless other teen-agers have similar worries. Millions of yesterday’s teenagers had them. Millions of tomorrow’s teenagers will have them, too.
There’s another gripe of teenagers I’ve heard dozens of times. It is: “My parents don’t understand that times have changed.”
Teenagers of my own time said that, and tomorrow’s teenager undoubtedly will say it too about you if you become a parent.
There’s some truth in the statement. Times do change – but basic problems don’t.
For example, a generation ago a girl who rode alone at night with a boy in a horse-drawn buggy was thought to be taking a terrible risk. Times have changed; people now use cars. But the problem’s still there. The girl who allows her boyfriend to park his car in a secluded spot takes no less of a risk then the lass of 1910.
Thirty-five years ago, parents had a job getting teenagers to bed on time; the youngsters wanted to stay up to hear dance bands on the radio.
Yes, times have changed. Now the “Late Show” on television is the attraction. But the basic question – What’s the right time to go to bed? – is still with us.
Run down the list of your other problems. You’ll find that they really haven’t changed much, if at all, from those your mother and dad faced at your age.
You can probably prove this yourself. If you get a chance, warm your parents up and then ask them in a confidential way about their problems when they were your age. What you’ll learn will surprise you.
You’ll find that they too had difficulties in adjusting to their own parents, in getting along with friends, in their school work. They probably were as uncertain about their futures as you are of yours.
The point of all this? Just that they’ve been through the mill. Now they’re older and can look back, seeing how they could have done this or that better, and how they might have avoided this mistake or that.
And if they knew then what they know now, they’d have made fewer errors and would have achieved a much greater success with their lives.
If you want to become an adult the easy way, therefore, take advantage of their experience. By following their advice, you’ll often be able to avoid pitfalls they perhaps fell into.
If you use their experience to help you, you’ll reach adulthood much sooner, much more confidently and much more successfully than if you insist upon making the same mistakes that they did.
I don’t want to give the impression that parents are always right. They aren’t. But then, who is? They probably have their faults. Even now, they may not be able to see some problems clearly. They may have personality shortcoming or prejudices which prevent them from giving the best possible advice under all circumstances.
But I think you’ll agree that their batting average is pretty high.
You needn’t follow them blindly. If their advice proves wrong for some reason, you can adopt a mode of action which conforms more closely to your own experience.
But if you reject their advice without really seeing whether it’s good or not, you’ll find more often than not, that you’ve been doing things the wrong way.
Learning from others is the smart way to learn. Millions have walked this earth before us. There have been centuries of time to consider the common problems of living. It follows that answers to just about all our questions are ready and waiting for us to use.
Of course, we learn almost all we know from the teachings and experiences of those before us. If this weren’t so, we’d still be in caves trying to grow our food by scratching a twig along the ground.
Most times we’re willing to learn in this way. When you were told you’d be killed if you jumped from the Empire State Building, you took somebody else’s word for it. You don’t have to sit in a blazing fire to learn that you can be burned. And while you’ve probably never seen Moscow, you’re willing to believe it’s the capital of Russia because you were told so.
Most of us develop blind spots, however. For one reason or other, we refuse to face facts. We insist upon going ahead with our own ideas, and defy what experience would teach. We all have this characteristic to a small degree, but if we have it to a greater extent than average, we’re really heading for trouble.
I’m thinking of Maryjane. She was a good student in high school. She was willing to learn everything about English, History, Math and any other subject her teacher taught her.
But she had a blind spot: she refuse to heed what experience taught about becoming involved with a married man. She met him at a dance. After a few dates, he told her he was married but living away from his wife. Now, it’s hard to find an expert any place who wouldn’t have told Maryjane to ditch that man quickly, because he could only cause her grief. But she refused to learn from others.
After about five years, he tossed her aside and, still married, picked up a younger girl. Today Maryjane knows that others gave her the best advice she could have been given.
But by insisting upon doing things her own way, she made a serious mistake.