The following is an excerpt from the book What Teens Want You to Know But Won’t Tell You by Roy Petitfils.
Teens want and need adults to be grounded in being adults. When your goal is to be liked by young people you risk losing sight of the bigger goal, which is to journey with them into Christian maturity. Secondly, you’ll lose the respect of teens, which is worth a lot more than being liked.
The key to effectively reaching them and deepening our relationships with them is not by trying to be their friend, but by being friendly, authentic, and respectful to them while maintaining healthy boundaries as an adult.
Deep down, we all want to be liked; there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it is perfectly normal. I’ve never met a person who will not eventually admit they want other people to like them.
When people like us we tend to feel more secure and safe, both with ourselves and in the relationship. We must be mindful, however, that our natural desire to be liked by others may not be beneficial to our relationships with teenagers—whether we are a parent, minister, or teacher. The energy you invest in being a parent, mentor, and leader will pay off when your teens are adults, and you can begin to establish a mature, adult friendship.
Points to Remember
- Despite the generational distance between teens and adults—as well as what their behavior might indicate—teenagers do want meaningful relationships with adults.
- Be appropriately transparent, authentic, and respectful when working with teenagers.
- Whether you’re parenting, teaching, or ministering to teens, it is normal to want to be liked by them, but it is more important to remain grounded in your role as an adult.
Questions for Reflection
- What is one positive attribute you see in teens today? Is there an attribute that you don’t understand or don’t like? Why?
- What makes it difficult for you to relate to young people today?
- If you could share one thing with teens today that you know would reach them, what would it be? Why?
- Knowing that teens want a meaningful relationship with adults, what’s one thing you can do, change, or stop doing to make your relationship with a teen in your life more meaningful?
- What is the best way to earn someone’s respect? Reflect on a time in your life when you sought someone’s respect and did or did not get it.
Lord Jesus, you humbled yourself and took on our human nature. With you as our model, may we humble ourselves and reach out to our young people. Give us courage as we face the sharp edges of their personalities and multiple defenses so that we might bridge the gap between us, and in so doing share the Good News with them. Amen.