Be Curious and...

There is an old saying, "Curiosity killed the cat."  The interpretation of this quote from Google is:

Proverb: being inquisitive about other people's affairs may get you into trouble

I am a huge proponent of curiosity, inquisitiveness, question asking and thought provoking.  As an educator and mother, I know that the timing of these questions or thoughts are sometimes lost on teens and not always appropriate.  But, I do prefer curiosity over compliance.  I appreciate random thoughts and prefer that over mundane repetition.  And, I often relate the thinking of teenagers to the squirrel-chasing of dogs.  If a teen and I are engaged in a conversation or I am giving instructions to a class and, randomly, "Can I get a hedgehog?" or "Why are you so tall?"  are shouted out. 'SQUIRREL!' is my usual response.  It helps me remember to be kind, find humor in the situation and/or respond with love, not irritation or impatience. 

I sometimes label myself a social scientist because I LOVE to watch the interactions between people, especially youth and adults.  I am floored by the consideration and thoughtfulness of our youth, but, sometimes, equally shocked by adults and their responses (I include myself here).  How often do adults consider the feelings of teens?  How quick do adults label teenagers as rude or inconsiderate?  How fast do school personnel determine that a student is disrespectful because of tone or body language? How do adult responses affect relationships with teens?  How do adults consistently respond to teens with love and patience?

Teens are smart, sensitive human beings.  They want love and kindness as much as the rest of us.  Our society, through media and cinema, tend to describe teens as angry, conflicted and rebellious young adults that don't care about themselves or others.  But maybe they are angry because no one listens to what they say.  They are conflicted because no one will answer their questions honestly.   They are rebellious because they want to try it a different way.  They are curious.  Success or failure, they just want to know. 

As an adult, working with or raising teenagers, one has to be careful when defining a youth as "rude", "disrespectful", "loud", or "disruptive" because these characteristics can also be interpreted as "assertive", "passionate" or "inquisitive."  Why are negative-associated words used instead of positive ones?  Humans like to categorize.  We gather information that supports or denies the truthfulness of one's opinion. This process can create a stereotype: develop an opinion based on a few experiences, make a conclusion and perpetuate the conclusion (assumption through word and deed.  By only focusing on a few characteristics, we build a single story and miss the whole person.  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie states, “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”  She talks about rewriting the narrative, the stories we tell, to include more than one "thing." 

How do we see ourselves and each other, including teenagers, as three-dimensional human beings?

“If you don't understand, ask questions. If you're uncomfortable about asking questions, say you are uncomfortable about asking questions and then ask anyway. It's easy to tell when a question is coming from a good place. Then listen some more. Sometimes people just want to feel heard. Here's to possibilities of friendship and connection and understanding.” ~ Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie