While adults keep saying that America's youth are the hope of the future, the roles of youth are constantly denigrated to the point where they become objects and not people, an internationally recognized family psychologist said Wednesday.
Dr. Stephen Glenn, speaking at the Western Institute's Celebrated Speaker Series at the Capitol Theatre, said teenagers turn to drugs, sex and suicide in part because of the lack of a meaningful role in society. "They (ouths) don't choose their peers because their peers are more reliable but because they are less threatening to approach than the average adult," he said.Research shows the best predictor of crime, pregnancy and drug and alcohol abuse is how teenagers perceive their relationships with adults.
Glenn said parents don't give children enough opportunity to make mistakes, take responsibility and then allow them to live with their choices.
He also noted that less discipline and achievement among teenagers correlates to the increase in suicide and crime among the same group. At the same time, drug and alcohol abuse has leveled while the number of abortions has risen, Glenn said.
He faulted the American educational system, which emphasizes rote memorization and not independent thinking and dialogue. He said many high school graduates today only have a sixth-grade level of education. More than 50 percent of teenagers drop out of school.
"The really major challenge is that many of our systems that seek to prepare children for adulthood are still based on the antiquated assumption that if they memorize what we know they will somehow get by."
He said high-risk indicators for teenagers include weak perception of personal capabilities, of their significance in relationships and of their personal power. To help correct such problems, Glenn said that families must overcome five behavior barriers.
- First, parents must not assume that a child will act in a certain way. Instead they should check and consider other responses and reactions.
- Second, parents should avoid always explaining things to children and rescuing them if they are headed for disaster. Rather, they should allow mistakes, then explore together the lessons learned through mistakes.
- Third, parents should not direct children to accomplish chores, clean their room or do their homework, which only bring resentment. Instead, parents should encourage and suggest.
- Fourth, parents shouldn't expect perfection all at once but celebrate each step toward perfection.
- Fifth, parents should avoid "adultisms" and try to see the teen's view of any situation. Such respect is a way to validate and affirm a relationship, Glenn said.