You’ve put your foot down and decided, you are done for the day! Everyone agrees to go out for dinner. While you and your spouse try to decide on what sort of cuisine you should try, your teenager is full of opinions on where you should head to, while the younger ones just want a place to play or are concerned whether they will get a toy or not. After much negotiation you decide where to go. Your teenager won. And now you are sitting across the table at the restaurant but your teenager couldn’t care less about her surroundings. She is busy checking in on FB and posting pictures on IG while having her thumbs on many other social networking sites her parents are not even aware of. You are left baffled and wondering why your teenager was so eager to come to this particular restaurant in the first place. Ladies and gentlemen welcome to the era of the Generation Z!
It is a common frustration among mothers of teenagers that their child changes his/her mood like the weather and is hard to understand. Adults feel teenagers these days live on a planet of their own. Most often parents are left shaking their heads while telling the rest of the family to let him/her be. “It’s a phase he is going through”, “it’s the age which is making her behave so”, we explain. But why walk on egg shells and forego such wonderful years? Years which can build a solid foundation to a lasting relationship of mutual understanding. After a suggestion from a friend, I did some research in my quest to understanding my own teenager and teenagers I work with. And I am sharing some points here hoping it will make your journey with your teenager into adulthood meaningful too.
1. What is Generation Z?
Generation Z or GenZ, iGen or Centennials make up of children born from 1996 to date. But research suggests that they started making a mark in the fabric of history roughly from 2005 onwards as a generation of change. They are the babies of babies born in the latter years of Gen Y and millennials. With more than 25% of the world population, they are the largest generation ever. The thoughts and ideologies of Gen Z are vastly influenced by technology, mainly smartphones and social media. A majority of them have not known life in a country not at war or strife. Most early Centennials are at present new recruits to the work force. Understand that the role models of your teenager’s generation is a young adult who himself might be struggling with his views and identity. Be patient.
2. Understand that the generation gap is real.
Google defines the term as “a difference of attitudes between people of different generations, leading to a lack of understanding”. The definition sums up the problem perfectly. Each generation thinks that the next generation is not as great as they were. We come to conclusions and assumptions based on our thought process rather than doing actual research. We think that the present generation is incapable of hard work or handling a crisis. We think that we will do it better. But let me enlighten you that the majority of people in previous generations held the same view about our generation, but the world is still spinning and we are making progress. We cannot bring up your kids the way your parents brought us up. We were made for another time and place and our kids are in the now. In conclusion try to stay away from the “when we were your age” tales. You might think it will set an example, but it does more harm than good.
3. They prefer to work smart, not work hard
And there is nothing wrong with that. Although you might prefer old fashioned hard work, their philosophy is that as long as you arrive from A-B, it doesn’t matter how you get there. Be open to the fact that there are more ways to get things done than the way you are used to. Let them experiment and learn from their experiences. Maybe you will learn a thing or two in the process as well. They are the generation who were born with the smart phones in their hands. With so much information in their fingertips it is only natural that they get frustrated when their opinions are not given an ear and their thoughts are not taken in to consideration when making decisions. Your teenager is not a kid anymore and nor is he an adult. Teen age has a bad reputation. We approach it like we are stepping in to mine riddled fields. Most parents watch helplessly as their loveable cherubs turn in to angry teenage monsters and wonder where they went wrong. And ultimately they end up blaming technology, specifically video games and smart phones. It doesn’t need to be so. Navigate technology together. Set mutually agreeable realistic limitations and boundaries on usage of technology. But don’t expect them to follow it to a T. they are kids after all. You will be revisiting those boundaries over and over. And in the process you might learn to work a little smarter, while your teenager might learn to work harder. The key is to keep the doors of communication open.
4. They prefer cool products over cool experiences.
In a recent New York Times article, director of Experiential Learning at EF Academy, Alexandra Levitt suggests that millennials are looking for great experiences, not great products. Proving centennials to be very different from the previous generation. She says “Gen Z is all about cool products and the latest technology”. Millennials preferred travelling and experiencing the world, whereas centennials even if they travel focus more on documenting their travels than actually experiencing the place. Their emotional wellbeing is highly related to their standing on social media. Cool products can be flaunted on social media as opposed to cool experiences which cannot be felt in a virtual platform. So if your teenager prefers the latest mobile phone over spending time with the family on a great vacation, don’t take it personally. Again, what you can do is negotiate a situation where you both will be satisfied.
5. They are hard to impress, they are risk takers and they don’t like taking No for an answer.
You might have noticed centennials going to the extremes just to get that perfect selfie or the Instagram worthy shot. GenZ and their peers are hard to impress and they will stop at almost nothing to keep up their social standing. Millennials tend to term Gen Z as generation Snowflakes. The Collins Dictionary defines the term as “the generation of young adults of the 2010s, viewed as being less resilient and more prone to taking offence than previous generations". You might misunderstand them as being short tempered. But they are more of an impatient generation. They want their internet connection to be super fast and their food to cook instantly. GenZs prefer having an element of control in things involving them. They are very self-aware and they have an awareness about things that should be restructured. They are not afraid to rock the boat. This is where they wrestle with authority. You cannot treat them like the previous generations when a stern stare, advice from elders or a good old thrashing from a parent will get an unruly teenager to fall in line. Centennials respond to one on one chats, humour and sarcasm better than any other method of discipline. With so much information on their fingertips they are frustrated that they are not taken seriously. If you want your teenager to sit up and take notice, you as a parent will have to stop sweating the small stuff. As long as they are not putting themselves or others in danger, let your teenager make decisions too. You might not like them, but if you have a teenager at home you have to compromise as well.
Raising a teenager to be a responsible, productive, successful adult is hard. No arguments there. It is a true test of our parenting and negotiation skills. But keep in mind, no test is really hard if you prepare for it. So observe, study, read up and prepare to receive your tween as he/she steps in to teenhood. It is a tough time for them with their body and mind going through rigorous changes. It is only fair that we don’t add to their troubles but step up as the support system they so desperately need.