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The Difference Between Contemplating One’s Belly Button And Being A Responsible Adult

Wise words of advice from a Youth Judge, retold by Northland College (NZ) principal John Tapene.

Always we hear the cry from teenagers, “What can we do, where can we go?”  … My answer is, Go home, mow the lawn, wash the windows, learn to cook, build a raft, get a job, visit the sick, study your lessons, and after you’ve finished, read a book.

Your town does not owe you recreational facilities and your parents do not owe you fun. The world does not owe you a living, you owe the world something. You owe it your time, energy and talent so that no one will be at war, in poverty or sick and lonely again.

In other words, grow up, stop being a cry baby, get out of your dream world and develop a backbone, not a wishbone. Start behaving like a responsible person. You are important and you are needed. It’s too late to sit around and wait for somebody to do something someday. Someday is now and that somebody is you.

Too often people metaphorically concern themselves with the status of the lint collection in their navels and fail to see beyond themselves.  Life revolves around what people can do for them,  what others owe them merely for existing, an unhealthy preoccupation with their own concerns.   When there are too many people wanting to be coddled and looking out for their own selfish interests, society suffers and so sometimes we need a swift kick in the pants reminder that the good life comes from diligence, responsibility and altruism.



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Airelenaren November 27, 2012, 6:26 am

    Hmm, this is a bit of a risky subject, and a risky message to give someone.
    On one hand, I absolutely agree that nobody should only think of themselves, we do need to consider others and what we can do to make the world a better place.
    On the other hand, I strongly disagree with the notion that “the world owes you nothing, you owe the world this and that and those other things”, because if you put it like this, you get the exact opposite problem: Instead of someone who thinks only of their own fun and benefit, you now get someone who thinks solely of others and their benefit and feels like he or she himself is not deserving anything, and is in fact worthless. That’s how doormats and victims are created.

    The message we should teach instead is that everyone, including the teenager, is worth the same, deserves the same respect and rights, and should take care of both their own needs and those of others.

  • Aje November 27, 2012, 7:35 am

    It´s not just for teens or youth. Every now again as a young adult I read this over to remind myself my problems and my own selfishness is not what this world needs. It´s a lovely and powerful thing, what this man has said.

    • admin November 27, 2012, 8:52 am

      I agree. Being self absorbed can become habit and sometimes we all need a wake up call. when I am confronted with the reality that my happiness is best achieved by looking outside of myself, I am motivated to exert more effort.

  • Cat November 27, 2012, 9:13 am

    There’s no cookbook answer for the self-absorption we see in American society. Perhaps part of it is that we are so insulated from the rest of the world. We don’t worry about our children not having enough to eat, or a doctor when they need one, or the right to go to school. Our poorest people don’t have to worry about those things.
    I was told about an American priest who went to Haiti. He decided to have a barbeque for the children and, when he handed a little boy a hamburger, the child began to cry. The priest asked if there was something wrong with the hamburger and the boy replied, “No, Father, but it’s not my day to eat. This is my brother’s day.”

  • Just Laura November 27, 2012, 9:23 am

    What kind of teens is this person always around? I grew up on a ranch in a very rural area. There was always work to do. While we weren’t perfect teenagers (I really dislike hauling hay), we never dared hint to our parents that there was “nothing to do.” They would find us something to do, immediately.
    My father is very much of the mindset that people are worthless if they aren’t productive. Gainful employment is best, but any time any of us have been out of work over the years, we are expected to spend our time on home improvements, volunteer work – anything to be useful.

  • Audra November 27, 2012, 10:28 am

    I love this. Sounds like something my grandparents or dad would say.

    I also agree this applies to all ages, not just teens. Thanks for posting this admin!

  • Library Diva November 27, 2012, 10:35 am

    While I agree with the sentiments, I also feel that society does a poor job of dealing with teenagers. Mostly, they’re treated as a nuisance. They’re banned from many semi-public places like malls, and whenever there’s some kind of problem like vandalism or noise, they’re the first to be blamed. They’re pushed hard to involve themselves in all sorts of extracurricular activities, but most of those activities aren’t valued by the community as a whole (when was the last time you went to hear the high school orchestra or see one of their plays?) They spend six hours a day in a prison-like atmosphere, complete with lockdown drills, and if they want to use the bathroom, they have to ask permission in front of all their peers and hope the authority figure says yes.

    Communities love to provide recreational opportunities for children. They pour thousands of dollars into creating and maintaining parks and playgrounds, and many offer several annual activities geared towards children. Adults with children can avail themselves of these opportunities for family time; childless adults have nightlife, theater, music, hiking, etc. But between the ages of 12 and 18, no one wants anything to do with you. An Indian couple in my hometown wanted to open a gaming cafe, which I guess is popular in India, where they’d have soft drinks, snacks, and a variety of games and gaming consoles available on a pay-by-hour basis, and it faced massive community opposition, just due to fear of “teens hanging out.”

    Everyone in the world could stand to be a little more selfless, but it’s not realistic to expect that large groups of people will want to devote all of their free time into helping others, with no outlet whatsoever for themselves. Individuals like that are very rare. Most of the rest of us like to have whatever our definition of fun is on occasion, and American society does a really poor job of offering teens those kinds of outlets, nor do they much like it when teens try to create their own.

  • Elizabeth November 27, 2012, 11:28 am

    Oh, my – society in the US needs to listen up closely. ALL ages need to absorb and digest this message.

  • Annie November 27, 2012, 11:34 am

    As a child, I would never have complained about boredom, because that would immediately result in my mom giving me chores. So, I grew up always being able to find something to do with no problem. If your teenager can’t figure out what to do with himself, that’s most likely your fault for the way you raised him.

    That said, teenagers do start to want to socialize away from their families. It’s a natural part of growing up. I distinctly recall as a teenager (a very goody-goody teenager, who didn’t drink, smoke, swear, have sex, etc etc) being treated like a criminal when I was in public with my friends. I still do not understand why people are so fearful of teenagers. I can only assume they don’t remember being teenagers themselves.

  • Lisa November 27, 2012, 11:38 am

    This might not be a popular view, but the OP’s post might be due to technological fall out. I see so many people of all ages gazing and tapping on their phones and not paying attention to the real life that is around them. I have friends who are so caught up in social networking that it’s affecting their income. With all of the instant technology, our patience has grown thin. Think about how frustrated we get when we are trying to download something and it takes more then 5 seconds, or how bored we get sitting in a plane not realizing the amazing concept of flight, or that we cannot make a phone call at any given moment. Fortunately I grew up during a time when we had to come up with things to entertain ourselves, but not before we finished the chores assigned to us. I know I sound like a grumpy old lady, but I’m only 50.

  • Lynne November 27, 2012, 11:41 am

    Thank you, Library Diva. I was thinking thoughts along the same line, but could not have articulated them so well.

    There is always “something to do” but taking selfish time *within* the context of one’s social community is important, too.

  • Adelaide November 27, 2012, 11:41 am

    I agree with this article only as applied to a very specific set of teenagers, and it can also be fitted to some adults as well. It sounds unnecessarily harsh when applied to all teens but there are scores of upper-middle and upper-class teens who are surrounded by material goods and yet are having “existential crises” and lamenting that they’re perpetually bored, or that they need to travel abroad and “find themselves”.

    That being said, being a teenager was a miserable experience for me. I was treated like a child, yet expected to behave like an adult but only within certain parameters. I agree with everything Library Diva said, and I would also like to say that not every bored teenager is a whiny, spoiled brat. In my town the only place we had to congregate was a bookstore. Once when a group of five of us were sitting at a table, we were asked to leave by a manager because a woman had complained that we made her feel “uneasy”. What were we doing at said bookstore? Calculus homework.

  • --Lia November 27, 2012, 12:03 pm

    Spot on, Library Diva. The community may not owe teens recreational facilities, but it would be nice if they paid attention to providing teens with a safe, interesting environment that they can pour their energy and talent into. There are communities all over the U.S. where a teenager is suspected of drug use or criminal activity just for walking down the sidewalk or giggling outside with friends. If you stay inside, you’re lazy for watching t.v. all day. If you want kids to volunteer, make sure there’s transportation and adult supervision and guidance. I’m not suggesting that everything has to be handed to teens on a silver platter, but do think about what we’re asking them to do. At MY age, I would find it hard to amuse myself with no transportation or money. I mean, I know how to get to a library and read, but what would I do if I couldn’t get to a library? At MY age and being a mostly solitary sort, I know how to join affinity groups and meet a few people. At MY age, I’m not going to start a service organization from scratch. I know how to do a good deed when one presents itself, but I’d need help with structure and organization if I were going to do anything more. Instead of complaining that teenagers don’t volunteer, how about being specific as to what needs to be done, and where, and how, and fit it into a school schedule, and give them instruction, and maybe make it a little bit social because friends are important at every stage in our lives and especially when we’re young Just how is a good and sincere kid at the age of 16 supposed to go out and fight against war and poverty on his own? She can read newspapers, write a letter to an elected official, maybe sign a petition. That took part of an afternoon; now what? I’m not in favor of whining teenagers, but the writer of those paragraphs above sounds whiny himself.

  • Goldie November 27, 2012, 12:06 pm

    So let me get this straight – we owe our cities local taxes and property taxes, but our cities do not owe our children recreational facilities? Well played, Your Honor, well played.

    I do not like this judge’s statement. Maybe in proper context, it would sound better. Taken out of context, it’s just all sorts of wrong. His first sentence, for example, wouldn’t gain nearly as much support as it did, if, instead of telling teenagers to go work 24×7, he told the women of his city to go home, cook, clean, wash the windows, mow the lawn, and put hot dinner on the table when they’re finished. Most teenagers already are doing all those things that he listed in some capacity. Then when they try to do something relaxing on their free time, they run into situations like the ones Library Diva described. In the suburbs, if they don’t drive or cannot afford cars, they’re stuck in their neighborhoods, which, in turn, aren’t too happy about the fact, either.

  • Cherry November 27, 2012, 12:15 pm

    Ok, I will endeavour to say this as politely as possible, but… I just don’t agree with this.

    No, I do NOT believe that teenagers are “owed” fun. But this quote seems to argue that teens don’t deserve it either.
    “Go home, mow the lawn, wash the windows, learn to cook, build a raft, get a job, visit the sick, study your lessons, and after you’ve finished, read a book.” Am I not allowed to want to take a break for a few hours, maybe play a game or something?

    “Your town does not owe you recreational facilities” – no, but they’d sure be nice to have. Teens have as much right as anyone else to want to go out and have a good time. Maybe it’s just because it was only a few years ago that I was a teen, but there is nothing so depressing as getting kicked out or barred from everywhere for being underage, even places that don’t serve alcohol. My friends and I would end up hanging around by the riverside in a non residential area. We would just be talking, maybe quietly playing some music, and we were usually lucky if we only got moved on twice in a night by the police.

    I get it, some teenagers are awful, rude and lazy. But please don’t tar them all with the same brush. I remember from experience it can be very depressing.

  • Ergala November 27, 2012, 12:20 pm

    I have to agree with Library Diva. I remember being a teenager and we’d all go down to the public library after school and we’d hang out upstairs and chat and play games. The librarians were amazing and they even started some neat clubs for us. When people would complain about the teenagers hanging around (our mere presence frightened them I guess) the librarians would ask if they would rather us all be hanging out on the street corner or wandering around downtown. There weren’t a lot of us, maybe 10 or 12. Bu the truth is, there aren’t many things for teenagers to do. A lot of parents work and their jobs keep them away from home until after 5 pm. Elementary grades get after school programs that are free, but once you hit high school you have to hope there is something for you. Schools are cutting more and more programs (like music, theater, art….) because of budget cuts. Not everyone can or wants to play sports (which seems to be the only programs safe from cuts).

    If the community became more involved with the teenagers in their area and offered opportunities they’d see a huge change. Today’s world is different from 20 or 30 years ago.

  • Angel November 27, 2012, 12:21 pm

    Library Diva, I agree with you. It is a shame that there are not more places for teens to go just to hang out in a safe environment. I know that “rec centers” were quite popular in the 70s and 80s in my part of the country, unfortunately, a few bad apples spoiled it for everyone. Instead of using it as a legitimate meeting place for playing games, hanging out, chatting and enjoying some soft drinks, teens started using it as a place to plan ways to go party and hang out somewhere else–drinking and all that stuff. Is it any wonder that these types of centers are not as popular anymore?

    I think that the majority of teens do have altruistic tendencies, they just need to be given opportunities to do this. This is where the adults in their lives take the lead and create these opportunities. Teens need their parents’ guidance more than ever between the ages of 12 and 18, and I’m not talking about being a helicopter parent, they need positive role models, to be shown as well as told, what is the right thing to do? Too many parents just tell their kids what to do but don’t model the behavior themselves 🙁

  • kyndrian November 27, 2012, 12:23 pm

    Speaking as a person not far out of the teen years, Library Diva has a point that should play devil’s advocate to the editorial up there.
    Teenagers aren’t allowed to be people.
    For the vast majority of the time, they are no longer considered children, but they aren’t allowed to be adults. Of course they’re not practiced at this adulthood thing (I’m not very practiced at it still), but any opinion they hold and every effort they make is generally scoffed at or condescended upon. I’m not advocating participation trophies, but surely there’s some middle stance to take. Very few people bother even engaging teens in conversation as if they’re actual people; most just talk down to them or preach at them.
    Like Library Diva said, children can have playgrounds, and adults have any number of places they can choose to spend time, but teenagers are generally regarded as sub-humans that lost their earlier charm and should be kept apart as much as possible and worked as much as possible because there’s no other point to their existence.
    Life is not obligated to coddle your existence, but people need some downtime and relaxation. People think that teenagers demand too much of that, but we can’t go from the care-free-ness of childhood to all-the-responsibility-and-knowledge of adulthood with the flip of a switch.
    There has to be some middle ground in here somewhere. I’ll be the first to say that teenagers are prone to stupid, annoying things, but I find that people are far too likely to dismiss them just because they’re teenagers and no other reason. Since I look a few years younger than I actually am (i.e., I look like a teenager), I still get the “oh, that’s cute” sort of treatment rather than “the words coming from your mouth engage the sort of attention warranted by a fellow, competent human.”

  • Meegs November 27, 2012, 12:26 pm

    Thank you Library Diva, I could not agree more. Great post.

  • Roo November 27, 2012, 1:02 pm

    Your town does not owe you recreational facilities and your parents do not owe you fun.

    Actually, they really do. Study after study after study has shown that involved communities and parents turn out healthy, conscientious adults. I’m sorry, I know these people mean well, but I hate screeds like this. There seems to be a trend of adults looking down their noses and telling teenagers how lazy and worthless they are, then wondering why they live down to their crappy expectations. Teenagers are psychologically still growing children. Maybe the ADULTS should act like the adults and do a better job raising them instead of telling them to raise themselves.

  • Lilac November 27, 2012, 1:07 pm

    I know some really great teens. I volunteer regularly in my kids’ high school and I think the kids there are awesome. I just helped out with a big group a couple weeks ago and I was absolutely floored at how polite and positive they were. Kids today are busy–it just might not be with what we were busy with in high school. The expectations have changed. I find that teens generally care about their communities–even if it only goes as far as helping in their own school or helping out their friends. They also need direction and mentoring which can be severely lacking. You can’t expect to find youth volunteers without adult volunteers willing to guide them. I also don’t think teens are more self-absorbed now then when I was a kid. They do have to have the self-absorption that comes with looking to the future–what do they need to do to get into a good college. Past generations had to think of that too. But nowadays kids in high school HAVE to participate in extracurriculars and volunteer in their communities in order to compete for college. My son is in Knowledge Bowl, robotics, 4-H, and pep band. He also works part time, has all honors and AP classes and maintains a 4.0 GPA. My daughter is the drama club, a community leadership program, key club (a volunteer organization), pep band, art club, and dance. She also takes honors classes and maintains a 4.0. This isn’t unusual. This is what is EXPECTED. Back in the 80’s most kids had a sport and maybe one other activity and a part-time job. Nobody I knew volunteered regularly. They might have helped with a food drive or another one shot activity but not on a continuing organized basis. This was never pushed in the two high schools (one private, one public) I attended and I live in a city with a very active volunteer base. Nowadays you hear about youth volunteers all the time. Kids who raise money for diseases, organize rallies, and much more. Many are REALLY involved and get other students involved too. And these teens volunteer not just for the credit but because they want to help. Both my kids are more aware of the problems in the world and have political opinions and insights I didn’t develop until college. They are much more aware of the community at large and so are their friends. Can they be self-absorbed and lazy sometimes? Absolutely. Do I think they and their peers are lazier and more selfish then me and my friends were at their age? Absolutely not. Every generation complains about the up and coming one. I see only good things in the future–kids who care, are more tolerant, and who want to contribute.

  • Anonymous November 27, 2012, 1:27 pm

    Bravo, Library Diva. You just took the words right out of my mind.

  • Cat Whisperer November 27, 2012, 1:29 pm

    Ya know, I’ll bet a cookie that some of the same people who are nodding their heads reading this and saying, “Yep, that’s right, we’ve got a lot of self-absorbed young people in the world right now,” are the very same people who were outraged at the notion that it’s wrong to tell older kids and teen-agers who come trick-or-treating that they’re too old to be begging for candy, if they want candy, they should earn money and buy it themselves, if you remember that column.

    As I mentioned in my response to that column, my parents grew up in the Great Depression. Whatever the faults that people of that time had, they did NOT grow up believing that the world owed them anything. They understood that if there were things in life they wanted, they had to find a way to earn them. They also learned to make peace with the idea that they WEREN’T going to get everything they ever wanted, and that that could be all right: that having to prioritize your needs gives you an appreciation for what’s important, and what doesn’t really matter when push comes to shove.

    This past week, in watching TV, I’ve been struck by how much media attention is devoted to the shopping for Christmas phenomenon: the people camping out for a week to get a spot at the head of the line at a store offering “Black Friday” deals, the crowds at the malls and police called to keep order, where the “deals” are, how to score great on-line deals on “Cyber Monday.” Well, take a look at those people: most of them aren’t teen-agers, they’re mostly adults of every age! Self-absorption and concern with accumulation of material things isn’t something that any age-group has a lock on.

    For all of that, I have to say that as the parent of a child who will be leaving her teen years with her next birthday in about two weeks, I’ve had a chance to get to know a lot of kids and young adults through my daughter and her friends. And maybe I’m just lucky, but I actually see a lot to like about this generation: most of them have been involved in some form of public service on a regular basis since they entered their teens. My daughter and friends have done literally hundreds of hours of volunteer work at places like museums, homeless shelters, legal aid advocacy non-profits, voter registration groups, and other non-profits. None of this for pay, or for any direct benefit to themselves: but because it’s a thing that they believe that it’s important for them to do.

    These same kids regularly take part in things like trash pick-up at beaches and parks; hazardous waste round-ups conducted to keep toxic household waste out of landfills; they routinely sort their trash into recyclable materials and they’re far more conscious about not wasting resources than most of the adults that I know of.

    They use the internet for social purposes, but they also use it to stay informed on important issues. And they use it to advocate for causes they find important. They innovate, they explore, they delight in discovery and in sharing. They are tech-savvy in ways I can’t begin to understand and they see how to do old things in new ways that auger for great things in the future.

    I don’t think that you can condemn any particular generation or age-group for self-absorption or lack of altruism. And for those who do believe that teens nowadays are too concerned about getting things and not concerned about giving, maybe you ought to think about how your own attitudes are reinforcing or rewarding young people for not thinking about others. After all, the young people learn from us older people. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” If our youth haven’t learned to choose responsibility for self and altruism over excuse-making and self-centeredness, could it be the fault of those whose job it is to teach them: those older than them, their parents, our generation?

    (And maybe next Halloween, when a group of teen-agers old enough to earn money for their own candy rings your doorbell and holds out their bags for you to fill, you’ll consider asking them: “Aren’t you old enough to earn money to buy your own treats if you want candy?”)

  • Twik November 27, 2012, 1:57 pm

    Just Laura – the person quoted was a judge, so I assume s/he was around the children who were not already striving to make something of themselves. Those are the young people s/he’s addressing.

  • CarolynA November 27, 2012, 2:01 pm

    Well said, Library Diva. I do agree that there is PLENTY to do to help your family, community and the human race, but teens deserve some fun, too.

    I also feel that if we expect teenagers to contribute, we need to treat them with a bit of respect – we cannot treat them like nuisances one second and expect them to behave like responsible citizens the next. A little consistency please.

    Not too long ago I stopped into a convenience store and watched as a teen boy was harassed by the staff – the cashier started screaming at him because he opened the soda he was going to purchase while standing in line and started drinking. In that line I saw more than one adult eating/drinking the purchase they were waiting to make and I saw a bunch of little kids careening around the store with open snacks and drinks that had not been paid for yet. And only the teen was getting screamed at.

    I admired him – he kept his cool for a very long time, did an admirable job of remaining calm and respectful until the cashier started accusing him of trying to steal even though he had his cash in his hand and was waiting patiently on line. It was just what she wanted – the second he raised his voice (to a fraction of her own shrill volume) she banned him from the store and threatened to call the cops if he didn’t leave. I stuck around even though my business was through because I have seen this happen more often than I care to admit and I wanted to advocate for the boy in case the police were called – he had been the sanest one in the situation, but I knew from experience he would be seen as a troublemaker and the cops would only believe the cashier. He finally left the store and I followed him out and made a point of telling him he was right, he was treated terribly and that the best thing he can do is keep his calm no matter what. “If they are trying to rile you up, get calm – don’t let them win. When you freaked out it was exactly what they wanted you to do.” I wanted there to be ONE adult there who treated him like a human.

    If we continue to treat teenagers like nuisances and troublemakers we are going to create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • Lisa November 27, 2012, 2:51 pm

    While I do not agree with everything, I just wanted to say that library diva’s comment is a very good one and thought-provoking, so thanks for taking the time to write that.

    I don’t live in the USA/am not an American, but this does to be an universal problem in more developed countries. Children are precious, but young adults? Not so much. Combine that with all the hormonal changes & the general selfishness of teens (trying to discover your new role in life does take some self-reflection, though, can’t fault them for that), plus the ‘spoiling’ with material goods that often comes with wealth, and it DOES make it hard to be a wonderful, helpful person all around. The balance is hard to find for some.
    Of course others are egocentrical maniacs to begin with. They usually end up on this site. 🙂

  • RedDevil November 27, 2012, 3:02 pm

    Library Diva, that’s a really good point, and well said. Teens are in the middle-ground between child and adult, where they’re expected to act like an adult, despite not actually being or having the mental capacity and life lessons of one.

    However, here in NZ where the story originates, there ARE teen facilities, they’re NOT banned from malls, and in some areas they still cause trouble. The problem isn’t exactly the teens though, it’s the adults from which the teens have learnt their behaviour. A parent is supposed to guide their teen through adolescence, lighting the way. If they don’t, it’s no surprise when a teen, with new found freedom and no lessons on how to use it, gets up to no good.

    Unfortunately, our country has too many entitled snowflakes who think the country owes them something – and that’s exactly where the Youth Judge is coming from. If you ask me, they hit the nail square on the head.

  • Harley November 27, 2012, 3:13 pm

    You know what, I think I’m going to have to disagree a little since believe that children and teenagers are owed a chance to have some fun and to have it safely. Thinks bout it, these kids are going to spend their entire lives bogged down by responsibilities and worries. They are going to spend 40+ years working a nine to five wondering how they are going to pay off their student loans or their mortgages and how to provide for their families. I think they are owed the opportunity to have a little fun while they are still young and to be allowed to just be kids for a while. I remember when I was a teenager that I would be out playing in the park until the sun went down and now I hardly see any kids out playing anymore because there are so few places where they may safely play. So many towns are doing these kids a great disservice by neglecting their parks and parents are trying to make these kids grow up too fast.

    I also believe that they are owed an exposure to the arts. Too often this is brushed aside as frivolous and childish but there are so many talented people out there whose natural talents haven’t been grown which has lost the world so many wonderful artists. These art/music programs are being cut from so many schools and if these teens owe the world their talents than the world owes them a chance to actually explore and develop their talents. Art played a major role in my life and gave me an outlet to my frustrations that chores and my studies never could. Yes, they should study and do their chores and learn to think outside of their own needs but they are also owed a childhood, safety and a chance to truly explore their talents.

    I guess my closing thought is that these teens will act like grown ups when they are like grown ups. Let them act childish for just a few years more because there is an entire world out there waiting to rob them of their youth and naivete.

  • AlliCat November 27, 2012, 3:24 pm

    I could not agree with LibrayDiva’s comments more. It is as if she took the words right out of my mouth (or my typing fingers, I guess).

    The sentiment is lovely and it has made me reflect upon myself, especially at this time of year, and that is wonderful. But I can’t help reading this as just another way of lumping teens into an ‘undesirable’ box.

  • Enna November 27, 2012, 3:51 pm

    I think it is important for teenagers and adults to have things to do round the house such as chores. But I also think it is important to have things that keep good teenagers entertained as a reward for being good. E.g. a cinema provides jobs as well as entertainment. A youth group provides a safe enviroment for young people especially where there are gangs or crime hot spots. But I also think the the same goes for adults. When I read the bit about reading a book an idea came to my mind of book clubs/groups. A group of teenagers take it in turns to go round each others’ houses to discuss a book or a movie or something.

  • Basketcase November 27, 2012, 6:14 pm

    Another New Zealander here – and RedDevil is right. There are a number of young people here who have facilities and choose not to use them. They complain that “if they only provided x y or z for us, then we would stop doing a b and c”, then when X or Z is provided, they dont want to use it because its not quite in the right place for them.
    An example would be “boy racers” – they create large convoys of noisy cars, blocking up major residential streets. They rev their engines, do burn-outs, drag race on public roads, scream and holler at all hours of the night. In several cities, burn-out pads have been made available most Friday nights for a small cost, and many race tracks and drag strips have regular open days. When this is pointed out to them as what they had been asking for to “get them off the streets”, they complain that the (very small) cost is prohibitive, or its too far out of town. Basically, it looks like they just WANT to be annoying to the neighbourhood they have decided to bless with their presence.

    Of course, we have screeds of really good young people here too, involved, volunteering etc. In general, teenagers do NOT have a really bad reputation – except in specific groups and situations – and they are welcome to wander the streets and the malls, rather than feared or persecuted. Well, at least, that was my experience, and that of all the teenagers I have worked with over the last 10 years.

  • Jessica November 27, 2012, 7:01 pm

    I agree with Library Diva, there needs to be for places for teens to just be teens. I grew up in the Australian bush in a small town. When I was 14 we moved away to the coast and I joined the Navy Cadets then When I was 16 I moved back to the bush with my grandparents for work. I got bored after work (I was an apprentice car mechanic), I joined the local volunteer fire brigade. Though one Aboriginal elder in our town was awesome and organised fun raisers to do up the public basketball courts and every thursday he had teens from all ages put into teams to play just for fun and I loved that too. I used to drive half hour home from work, have dinner, pack my firefighting gear and walk to the courts, play a game then walk to fire training exercises then walk all the way back home. I was too tired to get up to mischeif.

    I had to quit work/basketball and firefighting when I got sick and then got severe depression and got into trouble with the law a bit. Now I am 26, a married mother of two boys, in law school and again a volunteer firefighter. I look around me and apart from Navy Cadets (I moved back to the coast) there is really nothing ‘fun’ for teens to do and they cant spend ALL the time doing jobs. A lady here wanted to open a games cafe for kids too but received negative feedback from the community. Maybe if the community took teens a little more seriously they would not be so hell bent on destroying it. We do not owe them something but still it would be good to involve them in the community a bit more.

  • Barbarian November 27, 2012, 7:14 pm

    Teens today have too many things handed to them on a silver platter. This starts in early childhood. I have seen too many parents who buy cars for their kids as soon as they turn 16. At my son’s high school the cars in the student parking area were nicer than those in the teachers’ parking area. This high school was located in the most affluent zip code in town, yet a medical professional told me there was a rampant drug problem. With so much time on their hands, drugs and sex often seemed to be the next logical step for some of these children of entitlement. Their parents gave them anything and everything except the gift of their time and guidance.

  • --Lia November 27, 2012, 7:37 pm

    A friend described what it was like being a teenager in the 1940s in a medium sized city. There were tons of fun activities that teens could do on weekend nights. A boy would ask a girl out, take a reasonably priced bus to her house to pick her up, and they’d take the bus together to wherever they were going. Bowling, skating (ice or roller), dancing (cover to get in, live music, no food or drink), watching baseball games or movies. There were parks for picnics, public music events in the summer, fairs. All of these were attended by folks of all ages so the teens were socializing with adults all the time. The only “adult” activity where teens weren’t welcome was drinking in a bar. Everything was reasonably priced, and there was transportation in the form of buses, or places were close enough to walk. (Movies were on the expensive side as was eating in a restaurant, and some dance halls were fancier and cost more, so those were special events.)

    I wonder if that judge spouting off about how spoiled teenagers are ever thought about the fact that he sees only the worst of them. I also wonder if he ever noticed how the world has changed in terms of how Main Street is now a shopping mall and how you need a car to get there.

    • admin November 30, 2012, 4:56 pm

      I believe the judge was specifically targeting his comments to troubled teens who repeatedly got into trouble because they were not taking advantage of local parks,bowling, skating, local sports games, the library, after school clubs and activities, hobbies, etc.

  • Rebecca November 27, 2012, 8:45 pm

    All of this sounds fine and good (the OP I mean) but teenagers still need to socialize together without adults listening in on every word. It’s the age of *learning* to socialize. I well remember (decades ago) the problem of wanting to be with my friends and having nowhere to go for peer time. You couldn’t go to the same places adults socialize (pubs and so on) and there was really nothing teen-friendly so we just wandered the streets to have a few laughs together and ended up in all sorts of no good.

    No, the world doesn’t owe them a rec centre but it would sure make for a healthier society if teens did have somewhere to go to hang out with their peers safely and not be labelled as thugs. We expect dog owners to properly socialize their dogs, or they end up with problem dogs with behavioural issues. Yet somehow the idea of making a teen stay home all the time doing chores and homework (or a part-time job or organized volunteer work) is touted as morally superior.

  • Lara November 27, 2012, 11:24 pm

    Another Kiwi here, and I live in this part of NZ, Northland. I’ve been a teacher in high schools up here so I’ve had a lot to do with teenagers. I volunteer helping out a local group build an activity zone in the small town where I live. This involvement has given me an interesting insight into adults attitudes to teens here.

    The local activity zone we’re building has a skate park (among other facilities, but the skate park is central and was built first). The teens love it, it’s become a popular hang out. The park has graffiti only very rarely and is mostly respected by local teens.

    Many of the older folk (baby boomers) here have been strongly opposed to the skate park. Their feedback is often very negative and accusatory, and those giving negative feedback have not volunteered any time or money to building the park. Many people of my generation who are parents of teens (generation X) seem to be over protective and worry about injuries.

    With the negative attitudes and overprotectiveness towards teens it’s a wonder most of them are as wonderful as they are. I have great hope when I look at this next generation.

    If teens behave badly you only have to look as far as their parents to see where they learned disrespectful behaviour from.

    If we don’t allow them opportunities to grow and learn they’ll forever behave like children.

    Finally, Northland in New Zealand is a very poor part of the country. The unemployment rate for teens is over 25% in NZ, in Northland it may even be higher. It’s a world away from the USA.

  • Anderlie November 28, 2012, 12:15 am

    Library Diva I agree with you to a point but I think you’ve forgotten that the ‘lockdown’ they’re in for 6 hours a day is actually education that is designed to set them up for the rest of their lives, and in most cases it’s provided by the taxes of the very community you’re denigrating.

  • Kate November 28, 2012, 1:37 am

    Just Laura, my parents were the same. You never complained of being bored in my household because you would be quickly reminded that the dishwasher needed unloading, the cars could use a wash, the garden needed watering etc.

    I do agree with others that the city should be providing recreational activities for teens and children. This becomes a particular problem in rural areas – people complain about kids hanging around at shopping centres doing nothing, but sometimes that’s the only option for something to do.
    I also think that teenagers should be encouraged and supported in finding part time work and I applaud employers who give teenagers a chance. I worked from age 14 onwards and it taught me a lot about time management, work ethic and the importance of saving money. The experience also helped me when I started looking for full time work.

  • Elle November 28, 2012, 1:51 am

    Teens are horrid, kids are spoiled, technology will ruin our society, and the world is going to hell in a hand-basket. People have been spewing this same stuff since the literal beginning of civilization.

  • Mer November 28, 2012, 4:43 am

    I think there are some good points here, I agree with library diva.

    I might be even more radical to say that actually children and teens are owed something by society. None of the kids are voluntarily here, they exist because selfish needs of their parents. Yes, it’s a need that is biologically deeply built in all of us but selfish need anyway. What I think they are owed, or what they are entitled for is rights as human being and upbringing that allows one to survive in society in hand. And this brings up the fact that they need possibilities to be able to practice what is to be an adult.

    And why I say society owes, not the parents? It’s because I think the notion that parents are only one responsible to raise their children is wrong and most importantly, not working. I think the idea “it takes whole village to bring up a kid” is closer to the truth. I’m not saying that parents should have less responsibilities, not at all, but it’s not just their job. It’s job for every single adult out in the world. Because basically, all we are needed for is to make a new generation to hand over the responsibilities when we die. It’s all that matters, alongside that we should leave the world as a better place to them. (Which I think we have failed already but that is a different matter altogether :))

    So when you complain about unruly teens, I challenge you to think “what did I do to prevent this?”.

  • EireCat November 28, 2012, 4:53 am

    “Always we hear the cry from teenagers, “What can we do, where can we go?” … My answer is, Go home, mow the lawn, wash the windows, learn to cook…”

    I’ve read dutifully through all the comments, and I haven’t seen one yet that addresses the biggest problem with this statement. “Go home.” Maybe for a grand majority of ‘teens’…those just ignorant and disenfranchised…this is a good bit of advice. Go home, because however terrible you think your problems are; they’re probably not all that terrible in the grand scheme of things.

    Go home.

    My problem is that some of them can’t go home. I have a seventeen year old friend of mine…a smart funny, hard-working young man who puts in seven hours at school and then pulls a five hour dishwashing shift…sleeping in my spare room right now, because his alcoholic mother didn’t care when his abusive stepfather kicked him out. He walked four hours in freezing weather to get to my house because he had nowhere else to go. Go home?? I’ll be dead before I let him go ‘home’ to that.

  • Angeldrac November 28, 2012, 6:33 am

    I really hate this article.
    My kids do not owe me anything. *I* chose to create them and give them life, therefore *I* owe them a quality childhood and upbringing and *I* owe them to bring them up to be considerate, loving and useful adults. If that is what they become, then that is my job performed to satisfaction, not because they “owe” me anything.
    I detest the bad rap teenagers get. Of course there are a few fools out there, but there are far more foolish adults. And most foolish teenagers are only being what they have been taught to be by foolish adults.
    It is out job as adults to take care of our kids. That’s what being and adult is about.

  • Cherry November 28, 2012, 11:24 am


    Can I hug you? I want to hug you. Also your friend. Unless you don’t like hugs.

    Thank you for being an amazing human being and taking in someone who needed your help

  • Hawkwatcher November 28, 2012, 11:48 am

    I agree with Roo. Although I am a child-free adult, I have no problem with my tax dollars being spent on providing recreational opportunities for teenagers. I do not understand this judge’s hostility toward teenagers wanting recreational facilities. In my community, we have recreational facilities for children, senior citizens and teenagers. I fail to see why teenagers are less deserving of community resources than any other group. I also feel that such facilities help prevent problems such as loitering and that they foster a sense of community.

  • Rap November 28, 2012, 11:54 am

    “Always we hear the cry from teenagers, “What can we do, where can we go?” … My answer is, Go home, mow the lawn, wash the windows, learn to cook, build a raft, get a job, visit the sick, study your lessons, and after you’ve finished, read a book.”

    And yet we as adults don’t take our own advice all that often now do we? I think it’s unrealistic to expect the 13-18 set to do chores and study and read books when they have free time when as an adult, if I have a littl bit of free time, I can do what I like.

  • Jane November 28, 2012, 12:23 pm

    Library Diva and others have summed this up well. I also disagree with the original post. When I was a teen, I had a boyfriend who always seemed to get the worst of the “teen disrespect,” no matter where he went. He was threatened with an arrest after asking a police officer a simple question, threatened by mall security when asking for a drink refill in the food court, and kicked out of public playground for being too old. These were the rare occasions he did venture out of his house – 90 percent of the time he was at home raising four younger siblings while his parents worked.

    I think society stereotypes teens way too much. No society doesn’t “owe,” them anything, but what are they supposed to do? Literally sit in their house 24/7? They’re no longer allowed at malls, are too old for skating rinks and can’t afford theaters. They often don’t have steady transportation for volunteer opportunities, jobs, etc. It would be nice if there were more things that were teenage-specific, especially in small towns.

  • AthenaC November 28, 2012, 1:44 pm

    One other issue that many have touched but no one has yet addressed –

    What is the incentive teens have to be “good”? As an adult, I am responsible for myself and in control of my own destiny (for the most part), so when I am well-behaved, the rewards are concrete and as immediate as I want them to be. If teens are well-behaved, are they similarly rewarded? Do they have the option to be responsible for themselves, pay their own bills, and enjoy the autonomy that adults take for granted? No. No matter how well-behaved teens are, they are still subject to the capricious whims of those legally responsible for them, i.e. parents. Heaven help the teen that wants to work full-time at 14 (or 15, or 16), go to school full-time, make their own responsible decisions, and control their own destiny. They are forced to simply bide their time for nearly 29% of the time they have been alive. I know plenty of teens whose chances at their selective college of choice have been ruined because of overly strict parents who will not allow them to be involved in the activities they need in order to have a chance.

    On the other hand, what happens when teens are “bad”? As an adult, if I am not well-behaved, consequences are concrete and immediate (unless I’m REALLY sneaky about it). I can lose my livelihood by being fired and becoming unemployable, I can lose my house, I can lose my children; if it’s bad enough I can go to federal pound-me-in-the-grass prison. If teens are not well-behaved (and they get caught), we treat them like children, which is an insult to the free will they have at their age. On the other hand, if teens are not well-behaved (and they don’t get caught), they generally have an enjoyable experience being a teen and lots of great stories to tell well into adulthood.

    Teens as a whole will be exactly as mature as: 1) they are allowed to be; or 2) they are forced to be. I think it would be an interesting experiment to reduce the age of majority from 18 to 13 and just see what happens. I bet the vast majority of teens (especially all the good teens that everyone knows) would absolutely flourish with adult autonomy as a reward for good decisions.

  • Ann November 28, 2012, 3:12 pm

    I do like the overall message, BUT “helping out at home” is hardly going to work within an abusive, chaotic household, which is often the cause of a teen needing somewhere to hang out in the first darn place.

    As well, aren’t we talking about Large Children (aka Teenagers) here? They DO need recreational facilities and guidance from the adults who run the programs.

    Too bad libraries don’t have the funding to keep the same hours as malls.

  • violinp November 28, 2012, 3:57 pm

    I still remember going into Books – a – Million as a 16/17 year old with my sister so she could buy a book. I thumbed through some titles as well, and during my perusals, I caught the eye of an attendant, who gave me the stink eye. I still don’t know why, though I’m sure she thought I was some kind of hoodlum just biding my time until I could steal all the books. *eyeroll*

    Teenagers are not, in the main, horrible menaces to society. Of course, I, and everyone here, has met some teens or kids who were true menaces and needed loads of help, but they are not a representative majority by any measure.

  • Akili November 28, 2012, 6:19 pm

    Thank you so much Library Diva! I was always a shy teenager who did whatever choes she was given, gave up free time to work at a animal shelter for no pay, took care of my youunger siblings whenever my parents worked from age 13 up, and I can still recall being bored out of my mind at times because there was nothing that I could do as a teen whenever I had free time. If I wanted to go shopping (which I hardly had money for) then I’d be followed around, if I wanted to go to the library I could only spend a hour or so there before the person at the desk started getting worried about me scaring the children. And I could only go outside when it was warm enough to do so, otherwise I could just stand around in the sleet being pounded into my face because hanging around the playground could either have parents come over to yell at me or someone calling the police to chase me off. Half the teens in my area spend half their freetime cow tipping because it is the only thing to DO.

    Sure, the world never owed me anything, but if anything would have made me into a lawless heathen it would have been how I was treated as a teen (and even now by people who think I’m still in that age group).

  • Meggatronia November 28, 2012, 8:24 pm

    I’m going to have to be one of the few that actually agrees a lot with the original post. I see so many people here agreeing that recreational facilities should be provided for teenagers. What happened to going for a walk? A bike ride? Or just hanging out at a friends house? Or are these things just not cool enough these days?
    I never had a problem keeping myself occupied as a teenager (and this is only about a decade ago). I went to school, worked two jobs (my choice) , was in my school band, school theatre productions as well as local community theatre productions, played in a local sport team, walked my elderly neighbour’s dog as many days as I could, and in my spare time was happy to just visit a friend, watch a scifi show with my mother or even *gasp* read a book! No one found these activities for me to do, I went and actively sought them out. so many people are saying in response to the line “What can we do, where can we go?” … My answer is, Go home, mow the lawn, wash the windows, learn to cook, build a raft, get a job, visit the sick, study your lessons, and after you’ve finished, read a book.”
    that “people need time for fun too”.. well building a raft sounds fun to me, as does learning to cook, and reading a book is one of my favourite things in the world to do.
    I do see a very strong sense of entitlement amongst the youth of today. I’m not saying they are all like that, there are some great teenagers out there doing wonderful things and being productive young members of society, but I now work in an office with a lot of younger people and all I hear from them is complaints and demands because they expect everything to be handed to them on a silver platter and don’t realise that you need to actually work and earn things.
    I think the sentiment behind the post is great: If your bored, go find something to do, you want something, go get it. Nothing comes to those who sit and wait for it to be handed to them, you have to work for and earn the good things in life, and when you do, they’re so much better…. and so are you.