In a 70-year study of Harvard University male graduates, Dr. George Vaillant reported, “The only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.” [i] Teens know this: When Elissa Moses asked global teens about the principles of highest importance, relationships are top of the list:
1. Relationship with family, 56%. About 44% enjoy spending time with their families. Most (79%) trust their parents more than anyone else, more than their friends, girl or boyfriend, teachers, and religious or political leaders.
2. Accomplishing as much as I can, 46%
3. Relationships with friends, 42%
4. Having fun, 34%
5. Having the power to get what I want in life, 29%
6. Being accepted as an individual, 28%
7. Making the world a better place, 26%
8. Never being bored, 25%
9. Fitting into society, 22%. Most agreed with the statement “It’s up to me to get what I want our of life.”
10. Upholding traditions, 12%[ii]
Change about Adults (their bad habits, lack of understanding and judgmentalness, bossy, disrespectful, and materialistic
I want them to stop smoking in the house. Gamabunta, 8, m, Japan
I don’t them to drink so much beer. Laiziemon, 8, m, Japan
Most of them drink (alcohol), and I’d like to stop it. Joaquin, 9, m, Brazil
I would change their bad ways of drinking beer and smoking dagga [marijuana].
Mulenga, 10, m, Zambia
I wish they would not fight a lot and have less evil hearts. In Seong, 13, m, Korea
The fact that people in the world do things that they know are bad for themselves and the environment, like smoking and wars. Sam, 14, m, New Zealand
I would have them stop cheating on their wives or husbands.
DeeDee, 15, f, California
They have to stop drinking alcohol much because it isn’t going to benefit anything. Editha, 15, f, Tanzania
They always think that they know everything when us kids get in trouble or do drugs and get caught. They talk to us like they’ve never done drugs before.
Mac, 16, m, California
The things I’d like to change about adults are their loaning behavior, greed, lust for sex, and the behavior to make kids stupid (and themselves of course).
Nara, 15, m, Indonesia
Adults think that taking drugs, smoking, dancing in the clubs etc. is the most important thing that they need to live, even more than the breath they take. Usama, 16, f, Pakistan
Shehroz points out, “Alcohol and Clubs are illegal in Pakistan. Alcohol is prohibited in Islam. And so is clubbing,” but it still occurs.
If there was one thing I could change about adults, it would be their pessimism as it is a thing that will get them nowhere. Dessislava, 17, f, India
The bad habits of my parents because they are drunkards. Flari, 17, m, Nepal
How they use too much of a drug. Lillian, 18, f, California
Their bad habits: gamble, smoke, and so on. Jin, 18, m, China
I would try to stop bad behavior like rape, unnecessary drunks, and all illegal business like selling drug abuse. Sarrwatt, 19, m, Tanzania
To make adults do not smoke and they should keep studying until they pass away. He Ran, 19, m, China
Their bad habits like sleeping late in the morning. Sova, 19, f, Nepal
Listen, Be More Understanding and Less Judgmental
So they would understand first, then judge and punish. Sasha, 11, m, Russia
Adults cut us off before knowing the whole story and don’t see it from your shoes. Madlen, 11, f, British Columbia
I would like adults to allow us not to listen to them. Sometimes we do not know why we always have to listen to adults. Certainly their advice, suggestions, or ideas are good, but why don’t they listen to us or let us do what we think is also possible in their eyes? Enoch, 11, m, Hong Kong
I would want them to listen us a lot. Bahar, 12, f, Turkey
I would want them not to watch TV. Feyzanur, 12, f, Turkey
I want them to listen to children’s opinion more because they don’t listen to me at all. Taro, 12, m, Japan
Many adults underestimate children completely, or they pretend to understand them when they sometimes don’t and they make “wise” statements about it. Enya, 12, f, Germany
Adults should break the rules more. They should be willing to stand up for what they believe in. Also, they shouldn’t judge anyone, especially teenagers.
Meg, 13, f, Quebec
I wish they’d have an off switch. Tom, 14, m, New Zealand
They have to understand that it is the present; it’s harder than the past when it was easier. Shay, 14, m, Lanai, Hawaii
They always have to make a comment about what you do, what you wear or how you act; they can never keep a negative comment to themselves.
Lindsey, 14, f, Belize
Sometimes they really underestimate the younger ones and sometimes do not understand what we try to say. I would like to change them by making them think they we can do much more than what they think and they should try to understand our viewpoint. Zamina, 14, f, Tanzania
Adults automatically assume that they know everything, and children still believe that they do. Adults should try and listen to what we, as teenagers, are saying. They shouldn’t jump in or cut us off. Teenagers like me tend to speak in metaphors, and adults should understand that. Didn’t they go through the same thing and vow never to be like adults when they were young?
Verena, 14, f, California
I’d like to change their outlook. I want them to understand me. I can’t tell them everything, I can’t relieve my feelings, and they won’t get me. Vera, 15, f, Ukraine
They are so close-minded. I just want everyone to be heard, and listened to, cause we all have something to say. Anabel, 15, f, California
Adults think that they have lived so many years and they know everything and we youngsters don’t know as much they know. But the real fact is the problems we face to in our day-to-day life and the way we manage differ a lot from those they have faced in their life. We are maturing and we have all potential to face our own problems. Alexander, 15, m, Romania
Listen to the problem first before yelling at someone. Mukta, 15, f, India
Be less anal and more open. Deanna, 15, f, Quebec
I would change their blithe attitudes. Sometimes I need some one to console me over something petty, and I don’t want to hear the “When I was your age” stuff. I just want to hear an, “I’m here for you, things will be okay.” It’s nice to hear that every once and a while. Sara, 15, f, North Carolina
I feel like adults aren’t as empathetic as they could be. Yeah, we all know that you guys were kids once, you did the same things as us, but can you guys remember how you felt when your parents talked to you, and why you did the things you did? Shauna, 15, f, New York
I wish they’d understand and wouldn’t be so damn confused or shocked by us! Vienna, 15, f, New Zealand
I would change their attitude to the hobbies of modern teenagers, like listening to music that seems strange to them. Sometimes adults judge teenagers because they still live in the past. Alexander, 15, m, Romania
They should listen to you more and do things our way.
Yojta, 16, m, Czech Republic
They think just because I did, you will too. We’re not all alike, or they think if one kid made this mistake, we all will. Danit, 16, f, British Columbia
I would give them back all the insights they’ve forgotten since childhood–all those feelings that they no longer understand because they’ve grown up. This would be the best gift/change that I could give to the adult world, because it would lead to a better understanding of younger people, and better relations between people in general. Bethany, 16, f, Washington
I would make adults more understandable and would like them to be more attentive to their children. Gregori, 16, m, Ukraine
Sometimes adults seem to be really judgmental towards teenagers’ looks and I think if some adults were more open-minded, they’d learn that the teens are actually really nice people. Devon, 16, f, British Columbia
I would change their need to always know what’s going on in their children’s lives. Sometimes kids don’t want to talk to their parents; maybe they’d rather talk to their friends. Most parents don’t understand this and they need to let their kids be kids! Kristian, 16, f, Manitoba
I would like adults to understand young people’s taste in music.
Tatiana, 16, f, Ukraine
They decide something important without saying to us. Tomomi, 16, f, Japan
The sole quality about adults that really irks me is an arrogant nature. The haughty claim that they are always in control, always correct, when in fact most are so insecure that they will never admit to a mistake. Austin, 17, m, California
How do you keep an open mind and the magic of the world as you grow older? Sarah Louise, 17, f, British Columbia
Adults don’t treat children the way they should be treated. There is no equality and everyone ignores them. Small children are not given much freedom to decide what they want to do. Thus adults become a hurdle between success and individuality of youngsters. Raza, 17, m, Pakistan
Adults think that they have lived so many years and they know everything and we youngsters don’t know as much they know. But the real fact is the problems we face to in our day-to-day life and the way we manage differ a lot from those they have faced in their life. We are maturing and we have all potential to face our own problems. Edith, 17, f, India
Take time in a day, to put you in the mind of us (kids/teenager). Imagine what will you feel when things that happened to us happened to you. Things that happened to you back then are different than what happened to us now. Seriously, when something happens to us, please don’t judge us. Even though you are dying wanting to say, ” I told you so,” just don’t. Those bad experiences are the one that will teach us the most about life. Melinda, 17, f, Indonesia
They think they know anything. Ariel, 17, m, Israel
I wish they would stop talking to us like we don’t know what we’re doing, or we don’t know what is in store for us in the future. They think that just because they went through the same thing that they are an expert on the issues of the “real world.” Yes, they have gone through it, but they should leave those experiences and difficulties that may come with it for us to see and discover for ourselves and stop trying to tell us what will happen and what we should do. Everyone has to live with the consequences of actions, including the next generation of America. Jess, 17, f, Georgia
To change their attitude towards traditional Chinese culture–they don’t pay attention to it. Luefeng, 17, m, rural China
To make them believe science, not superstition, and change their education model. Jixuehai, 18, m, rural China
Every adult should have more understanding of kids’ behavior and humor.
Carea, 18, f, Germany.
I would like more adults to be able to remember what it was like being a teenager—identity crisis, etc., so they can understand better.
Willo, 18, f, British Columbia
Communication is the secret to success in any relationship. I’d ask the adults in your life about their experiences as teenagers so you demonstrate and teach understanding for them. Part of communication is asking for a specific solution to something that bothers you, putting it on the table for negotiation, and letting the other person know you understand what he or she is feeling and why. You don’t have to agree; just understanding each other goes a long way. So does humor.
To get adults to listen, use active listening skills where you let the person know what you understand her to be saying and feeling. Also, set aside regular time to talk as a family. The meeting rules are to really listen, repeat what you think you heard, and stay positive, letting family members know what you appreciate about each other. End the meeting with a fun activity so people want to continue having them. Useful books are listed in the endnote.[iii]
Less Bossy and Rigid, More Fun
I would make it so that they have a child inside them, so they would be more interesting. Alexa, 10, Sudan
They control our time. Eartha, 11, f, British Columbia
I want my mom to be gentle. ?, 11, f, Japan
Adults are too serious and never have any fun. Kylee, 12, f, New Mexico
I would want them to do whatever I want. Deniz, 12, f, Turkey
We should enjoy our childhood as much as we can because when we become adults we can’t have as much fun. Augusto, 13, m, Brazil
They should not be so uptight and just slow down to see the beautiful things in life. Corey, 13, m, Australia
[I think that] you can decide when you want to get a piercing done or when you want to smoke; it is your own life. Roos, 13, f, Netherlands
All adults want to control us all the time and everywhere! Our grandparents and parents, teachers and neighbors want to make our lives like they have planned! They push us to work the same way like THEY do, to achieve what THEY want for us! This thing bothers me very much! I want to make my own mistakes, to build my dreams and make my life myself!!! Yaroslav, 13, m, Uzbekistan
We started out as dependent, helpless babies. Parents get used to taking care of little kids. It’s not easy to get used to your children growing up. It helps if you talk things over with them and gradually ask for more freedom as you prove your good sense.
I would make them more pure, as in make them more of who they are, not who they are forced to be. Also, I would make them more imaginative and creative. Sally, 14, f, New Zealand
I don’t like the way most stop dreaming when they get older, losing sight of their own personal goals. Not everyone stops, but those who do, well, most feel lost somehow. Namine, 14, f, Australia
When they get old, they become stubborn like a mule. Simone, 14, f, Switzerland
They need to look at the little things more, the flowers growing in sidewalk cracks, dew on spider webs in the morning, saying good morning to strangers, and walking barefoot in the grass. To stop worrying about money, materials, jobs, and themselves. I wish adults weren’t so afraid to be children. People always say teenagers are bad, or create trouble; this is what people have created. We are told we have no wisdom and that we have nothing to say. If people would just let us speak, they would find the optimism and love we all carry. We want to be heard. Let us. Chauncey, 15, f, Oregon
They should retain some wonder and respect for the world and for life.
Caroline, 15, f, United Kingdom
I want adults not to ask everything carefully before I am going to do something. I want them give me more freedom. Annabel, 15, f, China
Discuss this with them, suggesting some areas you’d like to have control over so you can learn responsibility and decision-making.
They should stop being so serious and telling us to grow up. Why should we when you’re grumpy for being old! I don’t want to grow up; I want my childhood forever. Brooke, 16, f, United Kingdom
If there were one thing I could change about the adults it would be their psychology. It drives me crazy when they always worry about such things like the mess in the flat or grades in school. Diana, 16, f, Ukraine
Intolerance, and a lot of adults can’t see the elephant in the room.
Casper, 16, m, California
They always say they’re adults, they always let me do this, but not do this.
Weik, 16, f, China
I would like to stay up as long as I want at night, sleep as long as I want in the mornings, play my computer games as long as I want and eat whatever I want :). (I have to have a diet because I was sick.) Fateyev, teen, m, Turkmenistan
Just because they pay for us they tend to get too bossy at time. I would really want them to stop ordering kids about what to do all the time.
Samana, 16, f, Pakistan
Adults should realize what teenagers go through and should not impose their decisions on them. Instead they should let the teenagers make their point and look for a solution that is the most desirable one. Sadif, 17, f, Pakistan
They always want to have the last word; they always want to be right.
Charles, 17, m, France
They are too serious, should get weird sometimes. Staebel, 17, m, France
If I could change adults, it would be their constant quest of projecting their insecurities into their children and having them suffer because of it.
Arias, 18, m, California
Their feeling of being superior and dominant due to wanting their juniors to do what, when and how they want. ?, 19, f, Nepal
I wish that after 30 they don’t die inside. Bill, 18, m, British Columbia
I’d like it if adults could get out from marriage and enjoy life as they did before marrying. Wen Zhen, m, 19, Chin
I wish that they didn’t lose their passion and individuality and willingness for change and difference. Kara, 18, f, Northern Ireland
Hypocrisy levels–if an adult does something in their past they always forbid their kid to do it. You should let them experience things for themselves. Like I got a piercing this weekend and I love it, while my dad got one when he was a kid and he hated it. It doesn’t mean it will be the same for me and he should let me do what I want and learn for myself. Amanda, 18, f, South Dakota
When I am an adult, I want to keep a child heart, so I will feel happy everyday. I like childhood. I like playing with my friends. That is wonderful.
Zheng, 20, m, China
I would ask my father, and if he was busy, I would ask my mother, “I would like to know why bigger kids or adults sometimes mistreat kids by being rude, ignoring them etc. Also, why are kids sometimes disrespectful to adults, for example if an adult says “hello” they do not reply. Mohammad, 9, m, Saudi Arabia
I know the saying “respect your elders,” but what about “respect your youngsters?” Vilma, 9, f, Belize
I’d change that they see me just as a kid and thought of me as just the same as them, only they’re a little farther down the road. Bunny, 12, f, California
I don’t like to be called a kid. I’m 14. You can call me a young person. Don’t call me a kid. I, personally, find it degrading. Maybe that’s just me, though.
Cherry, 14, f, North Carolina
Society barely gives teens a voice. They doubt our ability to actually understand something and constantly use our age as a reason to keep stuff from us. What they don’t realize is that if they just gave us the opportunity we could actually accomplish a lot. Kirby, 15, f, Rhode Island
Sometimes I ask an adult if I can do something with them, and more than half the time, the answer is “No, you’re too young.” I think adults use that as an excuse and think we’re stupid enough to believe it. I don’t know why but they think it’s okay to lie, but it hurts. Does it mean we can lie too? Aren’t they supposed to be the role models? Maybe it’s time for the youth to be heard for a change.
Anabel, 15, f, California
I wish they would think more about what they did when they were young and don’t lie, saying they never did things we do now. Lea, 15, f, Germany
They always think of teenagers as rotten kids. We aren’t all disrespectful and we aren’t here to cause trouble. It’d be nice if they could treat us like normal human beings instead of as if we were always below them. Michelle, 15, f, Washington
For them to take you seriously instead of just anything you say they think it’s a joke, cause you’re a kid. Talia, 15, f, Australia.
Their idea of being always right and never bothering or concentrating a lot on what the young have to say. Also I don’t like it when they interfere with kids’ businesses. Bright gal, 16, f, Tanzania
The way they lie to kids because they think they won’t understand. Ami, 16, f, United Kingdom
All adults think that we teenagers, 16-years-old, are very small children. I want they change their opinion. Evgeniy, 16, m, Uzbekistan
Just because you’re older, it doesn’t mean you’re better than I am. Although you’ve seen more and have experienced more, I am the same as you and I deserve to be treated like a human, not some freak in a circus.
Rachel-Claire, 17, f, Scotland
I actually like the majority of adults. But, there are always the few adults who tend to treat kids like children without giving them a chance to show their worth. I hate adults who talk to me as if I were still eight-years-old. I believe all people should be treated the way they act, and it’s wrong to just assume every teen acts like… a teen. Jessica, 17, f, New Mexico
I think our generation gets a bad rap for being “wild.” The excessive partying that is supposedly a new and horrifying trend has been around since (at least) the 60s. It’s completely unfair and illogical for some adults to act like the youth of America’s morals are disintegrating. Laurel, 17, f, California
I’d make all adults more laid back, act like kids again, not all stuck up, and not to look down on us. Scott, 17, m, British Columbia
Don’t be too up to themselves just because they are older than us!!
Chi, 18, f, New Zealand
Adults cannot believe youthful persons enough. So I would make them believe us enough so that can find our first jobs easily. Xiaotang, 19, m, China
The constant arrogance that if you aren’t old, then you do not know anything about life. Experience can come at any age, and adults often forget that. Some kids are quite mature, and even if not, everyone has powerful personal experience. Usually adults forget about this until they run into someone who can surprise them enough. Marine, 20, f, France
I want them to be kind to me. Tomo, 9, m, Japan
I’m happy during the Spring Festival, because adults won’t lose their temper easily at that time and they try to be very nice. Manqi, 9, f, China
I hope that adults should stop giving exams to us and stop shouting us so that we (children) could be happy all the time. We do not want to have too many exams because exams are great pressure to us. We are also unhappy about adults shouting at us. We would like to be happy all the time and live happily.
Winnie, 11, f, Hong Kong
Don’t shout back. Be a good example by speaking in a normal voice and ask if the adult will sit down and talk with you about what is bothering him or her. You can’t do anything about the exams but change how you think of them, like scoring on a video game. Read the section on how to do well in school in the school chapter.
I would change all the terrible adults into babies. Some adults are good but some adults are bad. In order to stop bad adults doing bad things, it would be nice to change them into babies. Then no more bad things happen any more.
Kieran, 11, m, Hong Kong
That they wouldn’t get annoyed when kids do some things and that they would be interested (like, really interested) in lots of things kids do (not 3-year-olds of course). Elisa, 11, f, Canadian in Belize
Adults cut us off before knowing the whole story and don’t see it from your shoes. Madlen, 11, f, British Columbia
I would tell adults not to shout at their kids because shouting at their kids is not a good way of teaching them to be good and also it scares them and even affects their personality and emotional development. Jonathan, 11, m, Hong Kong
I would change the adults to be more gentle. They are rude in my eyes and they don’t listen to children’s words attentively and closely. Henry, 11, m, Hong Kong
The bad moods and the vulgar vocabulary some adults have.
Christian, 12, m, Columbia
That they would not fight a lot and have lesser evil hearts. Shen, 13, m, Korea
I want them to like us. Ebru, 13, f, Turkey
Don’t be mean to children oralways think they are wrong. Ko-Yun, 15, f, Taiwan
[I wish they would care more about the children than money, sex, and drinking. Dan, 15, m, Florida
I feel the only time I can make them happy is if I am ranked the best in class, then both parents definitely are happy. It is not the only time my parents take pity on me, but I felt in the heart that is the only time that I can feel [their love].
Febri, 17, f, Indonesia
Adults have anger issues I think. They get angry and rule the kids just because they ARE ADULTS and they think by talking to them in a loud voice and don’t giving them a chance to speak will earn them respect in the kid’s hearts, as well as some fear which will make them the real TYPICAL ADULTS. This is wrong. They should have a healthy and strong relationship with kids. I know the kids are in their learning stages and they need to study and learn the social standards of life, but by bursting your anger at them so they lose all their confidence and boldness, is definitely wrong and unfair.
I believe one of the issue adults get angry about is their life. Sometimes they don’t have enough money to pay the tuition fees for their kids. And they feel their kids as a burden. So they yell at their kids for none of a reason. Thus, the kids grow in such kind of circumstances and have the same attitude as their parents did and the same amount of anger. I am not blaming parents or anyone. Anger is a part of nature. We should control on it because the person who can control his anger is brave in true sense. Hassan, 17, m, Pakistan
I would like adults to take more care of the old. Yuan, 20, m, China
Most religions teach the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” We all would like to be taken care of if we’re old and weak, but some elders are neglected and abused. It’s difficult to care for an infirm elder who needs their diapers changed, because unlike babies they don’t usually get better, and may complain rather than being thankful. This problem is going to get more common as people live longer, and fewer babies are being born to grow up to be workers who pay into social programs to help the elderly. The elderly will outnumber children for the first time in 2045 (22%), increasing the burden on working people, according to A United Nations report in 2010. Governments need to provide programs to care for impoverished elderly.
Shehroz tells us: I think the Older/Younger relationship is a more of a cultural factor. Through my observations, I have seen that Kids in USA respect elders a lot less than kids in Pakistan on a general basis. For example, we would never call anyone older than us by their name. We would always use words like ‘mister’ or ‘uncle’ (even though he is not out real uncle) or some words in our language which show a sign of respect. For example, in schools and colleges, the student would always call his teacher by SIR or MADAM and never by name. In Pakistan, a kid would get up and leave his chair when an elder enters the room. We are taught to do that. Pakistani lifestyle is all about raising the kids in such a way that when the parents get older, the kids would take care of them financially as well as practically. Most people in Pakistan will never let their parents live alone in their old age.
[ii] [ii] Elissa Moses New World Teen Study. John Wiley & Sons, 2000. A survey of 34,000 teens in 44 countries. The respondents were mainly middle class high school students in urban and suburban areas.
[iii] A useful book by a teen is The Teen Code: How to Talk to Us About Sex, Drugs, and Everything Else—Teenagers Reveal what Works Best by teen author Rhett Godfrey. How to Talk So Children Will Listen and Listen So Children Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish and How to Talk So Teens Will Listen and Listen so Teens Will Talk.