Over the years, I have spent thousands of hours talking to teens and stepping into their culture. Teens these days are loud, insecure, obnoxious, funny, vulgar (most of the time), and desperate for this one thing.
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They want to be noticed.
You’ll notice their deepest longing, if you’re observant. This is the secret wish of every teenager—to be noticed.
They’ll settle for bad attention.
Kids will go after any attention they can get. Their brains haven’t developed fully in the area that gives them the ability to weigh consequences, so they act on their impulses without a filter. Their main impulse is to receive attention to prove their worth. When they can’t receive good attention, they try to get bad attention because there is only one thing worse than receiving bad attention.
No attention at all is the worst.
The only thing worse than bad attention is no attention. No attention leaves teens feeling invisible and like they are living in isolation. They feel as if they have no value. A long time ago, I was talking to a group of teenagers. Out of nowhere, a freshman said something awkward that he thought would be interesting. No one responded. I’ve often thought of the pain on his face and I lament that I didn’t respond to what he said in some way.
A teen may take your attention or affirmation for granted, but it is still essential.
During the teenage years, kids tend to separate from their parents. A parent may feel like the attention they give teens is rebuffed because the attention they seek most is from their peers. Attracting the attention of peers is their true litmus test for feeling significant while parental attention is a given. While your attention may be taken for granted, it is a vital baseline. It gives them a sense of security.