We asked teenagers how adults could serve them better. Here’s what they said.

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I don’t remember that much about being a teenager. I know it had its “ups and downs”, but I made it out alive. Yesterday, I held a workshop for a room full of high school students (9th-12th grade). Initially, I wasn’t sure how the day would go. I worried that focusing on the topic of service with teenagers would fail to hold their interest. I was definitely wrong. The last activity of the day asked the students to break into four groups and prepare a presentation on their top 10 ways the adults in their lives could serve them better. We received 40 answers, but there was plenty of overlap in what they wanted. Below you’ll find the consolidated list.

  1.  T.L.C. This is also known as Tender, Loving, Care. They acknowledged that they would not show affection back, but they still wanted it.
  2. To be a priority. This was said in many different ways from “don’t forget about us” to “remember what time you said you’d pick me up”.
  3. One day off. Defined as 24 hours to do whatever they wanted without any obligations.
  4. Teach them about finances. They wanted help understanding how to navigate the financial world. This included help figuring out strategies to buy the things they wanted.
  5.  “Real life” skills training. They thought the school curriculum should teach more skills that would apply to their home and work life.
  6. Freedom to explore their sexuality. They didn’t want to elaborate on this one, but it was on the list.
  7. One free mistake. They wanted to be able to make one reasonably small mistake without getting in trouble.
  8. Teachers being more predictable. They had a hard time guessing when some teachers would be in a bad mood.
  9. Room to fail. They wanted to be able to take some risks and learn on their own.
  10. Lowering the cost of college application fees.
  11. Considering their opinion. They acknowledged that they have limited life experience, but they still wanted their parents to place some value on their thoughts.
  12. Exposure to more diversity. They wanted to travel and meet people from other countries.
  13. Shadow an adult in the work environment.
  14. Let them choose their own college. They still wanted the parents’ guidance, but wanted to make the final decision.
  15. Feel permanently supported. They needed to know their parents support would never go away, even if they made mistakes.
  16. To be checked on when they are sad.
  17. More privacy. This one wasn’t a surprise to me.
  18. Help talking through social problems at school.
  19. Discuss their preferences for attendance and/or behavior at their extracurricular events. The group was not in agreement on whether they wanted their parents at their sporting events or other activities. Many felt parents were overly critical in their attempts to help them perform better. Some were embarrassed by excessive cheering. Some just loved having the support and the immediate ride home. The room was definitely divided.

ANY SURPRISES TO YOU? Most surprised me.

The comment floor is open below. Serve on!

9 thoughts on “We asked teenagers how adults could serve them better. Here’s what they said.

    TheNovelGirl said:
    January 26, 2014 at 9:32 am

    I love that list. It shows what’s important to them and what they value. <3 It also sounds as if they feel a lot of pressure, but need a safety net. (And I'm one of those who asked my parents to never come to my activities.)

      Kourtney responded:
      January 26, 2014 at 9:57 am

      It was so interesting how they felt about parents at activities. Was it too much pressure to have your parents there or you wanting independence? Thanks for stopping by!

      Kourtney responded:
      January 26, 2014 at 8:04 pm

      I just realized that I submitted a comment instead of replying directly to you this afternoon. What made you not want them at your activities? And, thanks for stopping by!

        TheNovelGirl said:
        January 26, 2014 at 8:27 pm

        Well, for me, personally, I didn’t like knowing that there was a set of eyes looking at just me, if that makes sense? I was really young when I started asking my mom to just drop me off at choir concerts, though, probably late elementary school and that continued through high school. I think it was my senior year when I started “letting” her come again.

        Kourtney responded:
        January 26, 2014 at 8:43 pm

        It does make sense. It makes perfect sense. My sons are 9 and 11. I’m always curious what they might want down the road. Thanks again for sharing. Talk to you soon.

    Janice D. Green said:
    January 27, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    I found your blog looking for insights into teens and teen ministry. Thank you for some fresh insights with honest interaction with teens.

      Kourtney responded:
      January 27, 2014 at 1:15 pm

      Thanks Janet. And I love your mission and passion for teens. I just visited your site. If I can ever help you in anyway please let me know. Thanks again for joining me here!

      Kourtney responded:
      January 27, 2014 at 1:17 pm

      And I meant to say Janice not Janet!

    Janice D. Green said:
    January 28, 2014 at 12:28 am

    I would welcome a guest post about teen service projects. It appears you blog is strong in that area. I keep my posts short as I don’t think teens want to read long posts.

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