Friday, 11 December 2015

Tell Off A Teen: Why You Should Start Publicly Shaming Other People's Kids

This is an article in the UK Telegraph, a UK newspaper which I thought was worth sharing. In the article, the writer, Brendan O'Neil is griping about the way the UK society is being taken over by teens who are exhibiting increasingly anti-social behaviour in public, especially rudeness. I thought to share it here because I think it is a wake up call to what our society could become as we continue to embrace western culture so whole-heartedly without considering the need to sieve out the undesirable part of it. Also, I thought to ask the question; Teens of Naija are you as rude as the UKteens described in this article?

I thought to I can't decide if it's because kids really are getting ruder or I am just morphing into an old fart, but getting on a bus packed with teenagers has become a trying experience. 

It's bad for the blood pressure, I'm sure. Never mind cutting out butter; people who want to keep their ticker in good order should cut out interactions with gangs of teens who are high on Red Bull but low on manners. 

That tinny music they play from their mobile phones. (Are they too cool for headphones?), their lack of a volume knob for their voices. Their refusal to say thanks to the driver as they get on the bus, far less when they get off, as we used to do back in the Golden Age of Decent Kids. (That's a joke, yes. We had bad habits too.) 

Earlier this week, one of these gruff bus-riders pushed me over the edge with his behaviour. But he taught me a lesson too. Which is that us grown-ups have got to be more pushy and disciplining with other people's kids. 

It was end-of-the-school-day time, always a bad time to get in a bus. Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out at 3.30pm. 

The bus was pretty full. I was standing. So was an old lady. Ever so nicely, she asked one of the seated teens if he would mind giving her his seat. I was irritated that she had to ask, but I became apoplectic over what happened next: the boy stood up for her and tutted as he did so. 

Tutted. Out loud. So that she would hear him. So that she would feel like it was totally out of order for her to want to rest her creaking bones at the expense of his right to stretch his gangly limbs. 

I lost it. I told him off. Actually, I shouted at him. "Don't tut at the lady", I said. "That's a really stupid and rude thing to do." 

He looked startled. "And she shouldn't have had to ask you for your seat. You should have offered it. That's what young people do for older people."
He was mortified. He looked like he had never been told off before. His gormless countenance gave way to a stung look. I almost felt sorry for him, but then remembered what an annoying runt he had just been. 

Now, of course, he must have been told off before. Certainly by his parents: even the happiest-clappiest non-judgemental parents who mistake their kids for their friends are sometimes forced to bark at or rebuke their offspring. 

And he's surely been told off at school, too. I know the cane is a thing of the past, and teachers feel seriously lacking in authority today, never sure how loudly or severely they can reprimand their crazy charges. But they must still do it, sometimes, right? 

But I'm pretty sure this boy, this tutting grunt, had never before been told off by a stranger. By someone who has neither familial authority over him, like his parents do, nor official authority, like his teachers, yet who still exercised authority over him, in public, in front of others. 

And that made me think: these teens who can be so grating are partly our fault; the fault of adults in general who seem to have given up on reprimanding youths and in the process have conceded the public sphere to their idiotic behaviour and banter. 

As a result of the fraying of generational authority, and no doubt of a culture of fear too, where we come to fret that every teen is a gangsta with a knife, adults have retreated from the moral battlefield that is public life. 

We're still in it, yes, getting our buses, doing our shopping, meeting out mates. But we don't seem to feel any real responsibility for it, for ensuring it remains a nice, civilised place. 

And youths - who, despite their best efforts to prove otherwise, are not actually stupid - pick up on this moral retreat. They milk it. Their loudness and bullishness and tinny music are their cocky, tentative moves into a public sphere increasingly bereft of adults who will tell them to shut up, grow up, or get up out of their seat. 

So, I'm going to stop moaning about yoof. Instead I am making a vow to Tell Off A Teen at every opportunity. We all should. Never mind hug-a-hoodie; the citizens' campaign we need right now is Tell Off A Teen, where adults go back to doing that correcting and disciplining thing that once came naturally to us. 

Parents provide their kids with moral direction, yes. And teachers try to educate and civilise them. But there's a third layer, or there should be: other adults, strangers, who must also take a hand in helping to turn teenage boys into gentlemen and girls into ladies.

Join me. Swallow your fears and go out right now and Tell Off A Teen. They aren't hard to find. Just get on a bus or pop into a McDonald's and you'll see them. If any of them is playing up, shush or admonish them. You'll feel better for it, they will benefit from it, and the public sphere, in the long term, will become a more pleasant place.

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