"In my experience, any attempt to tell a teenager what to do, or why they should be doing it, is bound to fail." | MDB files

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I see that the team who run the late Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme for young people have published a checklist of positive things that teenagers might engage in, so as to make them appear much nicer than they actually are. Indeed, the list of 25 essential activities practically glows with goodness and unselfish intent; from the mundane to the exotic, from spending time getting to know an older person - to learning how to cook.

All in all, I thought - what a good idea - and then I remembered some of the less wholesome realities of teenage life and the struggles parents of these ‘kidults’ have to be subjected to, before they reach the sunny uplands of adulthood.

For instance on the duke’s award scheme list of ‘to-do’s’ there is - “Spend time getting to know an older person,” which is admirable I think you’ll agree - but, most of us with experience of teenagers might be happy with - “Try not to stare at your feet whilst grunting when speaking to some silly old fool.” The advice given by the award scheme is both sound and specific - for instance, who could argue with the following? “Set yourself a personal challenge,” which could translate into the following for most teenagers of my experience - “Why not try and get out of bed before midday over the weekend?”

Although I applaud the general thrust of what this award scheme is trying to encourage in teenagers - it is in my own experience that ‘nice and polite’ teenagers already do the sort of things that are encouraged in the list, others of a different ilk… don’t, nor ever will. So in some strange way they may have been preaching to the converted as it were. I have to say that I have always been rather keen on one element of behaviour that is listed - “Get work experience or a part time job,” but my own memory suggests that these jobs usually last only a week or so - or when ‘feller m’lad’ gets a paper-round but doesn’t ‘Do’ rain, or she is instructed to fill a supermarket shelf with a product that Greta Thunberg would never approve of…so maybe not. However, there is always a slight confusion to be found by parents when they hear from others that their offspring are - “…really nice and polite.” You see, your own junior members of the human race are mostly fine-and-dandy when with other adults; so it’s you, it’s definitely you.

It was a long time ago, but I do remember some of the really annoying things that my kids did, or more accurately, didn’t do. Remember, a teenager has the ability to sleep 22 hours a day if they feel like it - and they also have the capability to wander downstairs a 10 o’clock at night and demand to be fed by whosoever’s turn it is to serve their needs. I must say that I became a tad nervous when I saw on the list a general encouragement to - “Engage in politics.”

In my own humble estimation, this is not a good idea at all. It seems that most of the ‘progressive’ political parties actually believe that sixteen year olds should have the vote - What! Are you kidding? Personally, I would limit the democratic franchise to those aged 30 years and older and let that be an end to it. Can you imagine the outcome of an election - Stormzy as Prime Minister, the ‘fit’ one on Love Island as Education Secretary and Katie Price as Minister of Transport.

Naturally enough, my teenage self would be appalled by my latter-day conversion to the politics of reaction and revisionism and would take part in a ‘Demo’ in protest; that’s if it started at a reasonable time in the afternoon or early evening and dad could drive me there and pick me up afterwards.

In my experience, any attempt to tell a teenager what to do, or why they should be doing it, is bound to fail. Alas, It’s not how it works. Yes, a nudge in the right direction in someone’s formative years is worthwhile - but, that’s just the half of it. Usually, to instruct a teenager what to do, will have the opposite effect. I don’t know why - it just does! Much better to have a basic set of ‘rules of engagement’ whereupon a young person can probe and experiment with the world in which they live. In saying all this, I believe that we in western society have come full circle in our relationships with young adults over the past 40 years or so.

From blinkered parents, who had no idea of the angst and confusion inherent in young adulthood, even though they must have been through it themselves; to the cringing, just say “Yes” parents of today. A bit unfair? Yes, of course, but I defy anyone to argue that we as parents have not become almost too understanding of the ever changing passions and fads of young-adulthood. Nevertheless, for all my scornful musings, the truth is that teenagers today drink, smoke and take drugs to a much lesser degree than previous generations, mine included.

Moreover, teenage pregnancy rates have dropped considerably year on year - and our young workforce is much better educated across the board than ever in the past. Furthermore, young women, aren’t satisfied anymore to be in the cul-de-sac of early marriage and motherhood; indeed, how old fashioned does that sound now? However, with all this said - why is it that they continue to annoy us so-called grown-ups most of the time, just for being er, er, young and wanting to save the world when they eventually get out of bed.