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September 25, 2010 / W. Stanton Smith

Willing to follow a better way

How did they learn this dirty dancing?

The faculty was in an uproar after the Friday night dance at the middle school. How could the kids dance so lewdly? And so it went.

The eighth grader who was president of the student body was summoned to hear the faculty’s displeasure and generally explain himself and his peers. The president was barely 5 feet tall and spoke in an appropriately squeaky voice. He listened to the complaints and made a simple statement: “We’re sorry if we offended anyone but this is the only way we know how to dance; it’s what we’ve seen older teens do.

“If you want something different, teach it to us.”

The faculty was disarmed by this statement and agreed that the solution was to teach the kids a replacement dance style to that of “grinding”.

My point: if we adults want credibility with younger people it is best to understand where they are coming from. But that understanding needs to be gained in a non-judgmental manner. Remember you as a 30, 40, 50, 60 something could be expected to have a more mature take on the world.

Expecting young people to have the same views as you is not reasonable.

There is lots of research and experience to support the view that young people want adult guidance and mentoring; however they don’t want to be patronized. Before we adults utter the words, “how could you have done (fill in the blank)”? or “that was (fill in your favorite putdown)”, ask yourself the question: “why am I about to engage in behavior that is known not only to annoy kids but to also build up barriers to listening to you and other authority figures?”

These kids are willing to follow a better way. Just show it to them and you’ll be miles ahead in building trust and goodwill…and they might even be open to doing it your way.

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