Why do we treat teens like children?

Kate - posted on 11/16/2013 ( 8 moms have responded )

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Back in the 80s, I was allowed to roam around New York City at 13. I was allowed to stay out all night at 13 (2 months before I turned 14) and I was left home alone for 1 week at 16. Most parents nowadays won't even drop their 13 year old off at the mall, even if they have a cell phone. It is safer today, less crime, etc. than in the 80s. So why the shift?

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Enna - posted on 11/18/2013

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I don't think everyone treats teens like children. But technically they are children, so why shouldn't we treat them as such? My daughter is 13 and I don't let her outside, even with friends, after dark. She's not allowed to go wandering the neighborhood alone. She's allowed at the mall with her friends, but not by herself. Our mall has an 8pm curfew anyway. I would not leave her home alone over night.
I live in an extremely nice area, but that doesn't change the fact that the school sent out a notification a couple of months ago that there was a guy trying to entice one of my daughter's school mates into a car with him. She did the right thing: called her parents, went to the police, etc, but it's still frightening that it happens in even nice areas.
I think the other thing you have to consider is the maturity of the child. It's kind of funny, but I would trust my 7 year old alone more than my 13 year old. She just knows what to do. She doesn't panic. She's not afraid. She always makes sure the doors are locked. She knows how to call 911, and she knows what to do if there's a fire. She's just very responsible. (I wouldn't leave her alone anyway, but I'm saying that maturity-wise I probably could and she'd be fine.)
As an example: one day I was ill and passed out on our kitchen floor. The 13 year old panicked and eventually called her dad. He told her to call 911, but she didn't. My 7 year old (6 at the time) checked that I was breathing, made sure I had a pulse, and that I wasn't bleeding. A couple of phone calls later my husband got the older daughter to call 911 (he was driving home). The 6 year old unlocked the door and watched for the ambulance. While the 13 year old stood there staring at me. Yes, I treat my 13 year old like a child. She is one.

Ev - posted on 11/16/2013

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I am worried about my niece in the fact she is in a position now and acts like she is but she isn't. She knows that some big changes are on the way but does not do anything to get ready for them. But she is 20 and can do what she chooses. Her mother hangs on to her like glue too still and that does not help. We have told mom to let her learn it the hard way and cut off all money and other means of support like that...phone cards and such. But she just goes right back to handing it out. Niece won't call mom at all to let her know when she is coming home and such either....I think mom needs to let go.

Jodi - posted on 11/16/2013

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I work with kids who have way too much freedom.....and too many parents who shrug and say "well, what can I do?". So I see the flip side too. The too much freedom.

Ev - posted on 11/16/2013

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We do not have a large one but there are so many kids that go missing around here sometimes....you get the point. But also because of my kids hanging with me at 16 was because a lot of what we did were family oriented things. They had their trips for weekends via church, friends, or other family. I even gave up weekend visits for them to go. So yeah, they got the chance to spread their wings. Also, my daughter went to school across the state on her own choice. My son though is thinking closer to home and living with me until he can get on his feet after he gets down with his schooling after high school.

Jodi - posted on 11/16/2013

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Yep, it is a fine balance :).

Where I live, we are only a city of 300,000, and it is still very community based, so we feel quite safe. Our malls would be tiny in comparison to many places.

Ev - posted on 11/16/2013

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As you said Jodi, its in where people live. I see too many kids under teen years running loose and a lot of them under five. I was very protective of my kids when we went to large places such as malls. They were taught young to stay with me by holding hands or walking next to me. But I can definitely say my kids are well rounded and can handle any situation that comes along. I do have a niece that was so overprotected and guarded by her mother that she did not go to a dance hardely without mom around. I was surprised that my niece got to go to her prom alone. Today, my niece is so social inept that she acts more like a 12 to 14 year old than a 20 year old.

Jodi - posted on 11/16/2013

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I grew up in the 80s too, and my parents would have flipped out if I was out all night at 13. They also would never have left me home alone for a week at 16. Overnight, maybe, but not a week.

My kids have been allowed to have some level of freedom (and yes, sometimes to the mall for a few hours to a movie and lunch with friends, and then maybe some shopping), but I always know where they are and when they will be home. My son is 16 and he now has quite a bit of freedom. He also has a lot of responsibility with this job and his sporting commitments, so he is a sensible and mature kid who knows how to keep himself safe.

Evelyn, I'm going to disagree with you on it not being safe anymore. The OP is right in that it is no less safe. I've seen the statistics. Although I guess that depends where you live. I personally don't understand keeping a 16 year old at your side constantly. But then, my mother didn't do that to me in the 80s either. I was allowed pieces of freedom.

Ev - posted on 11/16/2013

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I also grew up in the 80's and I do not remember my parents letting me run all over after hours at 13 nor going to the mall to run all over without some sort of supervision or timely meet ups places with a parent. I never stayed out all night either just because I was allowed to or wanted too. My parents never let me stay home alone at the age of 16. It sounds like you were just about allowed to do whatever you wanted when you wanted to do so. Most of the kids I knew growing up were not allowed this either. And its not the difference of living in the city or rural or small town either. Crimes may show statistically they are less but that does not mean the chances of one are less.

I also do not see where you get the idea that parents do not let their 13 year olds run all over the place like you did with a cell or not. Its not any safer today than it was then. I see more kids running all over the streets, mall, stores, and other places than when I was a kid. I also see no parents watching their younger children who are also doing the same thing. They just let the kids go.

For those that do not run the mall even with a cell phone, I say Kudos to those parents. They are keeping them safe. My kids were not allowed to run the malls, streets, or other places without me there. We went somewhere and they stayed with me even at 16! Its not safe to let a kid run around anywhere anymore. I trained them to stay with me and it worked up until they were older. I will say I have let my kids leave my side in the store to go look at stuff but I knew where they were and made a beeline for that section as soon as I got my stuff I needed. I let my son go check things out at a medieval fair on his own but I knew where he was. He did not have the cell phone and he knew the general area I was in. Its not that the kids are being treated as little ones in stead of teens, its that some parents care enough to stick to their rules or what not and make sure the kids are where they need to be when they need to be. AND most teens now do act like little kids because they have not been taught any better how to act. Why should I let my teen child go do something like walk the mall if they do not understand safety procedures like calling 911 if they feel that someone is stalking them, call me when things are getting out of hand, and so on. I think also kids are less likely to think about what they are doing and what could happen. I know back in the day, I had to think a bit about my actions before I did them but now I am not so sure that kids do so because they have not been taught how.

As for my two kids, they were raised as I was in the 80's and I guess that makes the difference between them and others. I am not saying they are any more special than others or better: I am saying they were taught better than others.

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