Teenagers Don't Know Everything

Teens often have a desire to appear more confident than they really are.

Posted Dec 03, 2019

All of us remember our time in high school. Think back for a moment. There were the classes, the crushes, and, of course, the insecurities. 

The truth is, most of us were insecure in high school. We were changing rapidly in both our bodies and our minds, and we were often confused about our feelings. Yet, we didn’t want the world to see that. As a result, we often showed the world confidence that we didn’t really have. 

Guess what? Nothing’s really changed. Teenagers today are also often insecure. Yet, they don’t really want their friends, or adults, to know that.

Due to this difference between what they’re feeling and what they show the world, adolescents often come across as cocky and quite sure of themselves. They get loud, angry, and aggressive. They are often dismissive of authority figures and pretend they know everything about everything. Even though they do their best to appear that way, it’s not true. 

Teenagers are struggling with the same things we struggled with when we were their age. Remember? There were all of the worries over whether or not someone liked you, or if you studied hard enough for a test; all of those things are present for them, just as they were for you.

Then why is it that adults forget all of that and become so reactive when teenagers talk back or pretend they know everything? The answer may be that adults often have the same core issues faced by teenagers. No one likes to feel ignored or dismissed. The good news is, if adults can get past their own feelings of being unappreciated and minimized by teenagers, they can be a huge help in building an adolescent’s self-confidence

Teenagers want to be respected by their peers and elders. To do this, they believe they have to come across as competent and knowledgeable. This may explain why teenagers are so often dismissive of any kind of instruction or appear impervious to any direction. They don’t want to appear as if they need help, because it often makes them feel weak, or lacking in self-confidence.

As adults, when we realize that much of a teenager’s bravado is just a front because they don’t want to appear vulnerable and admit they’re confused or don’t know something, then we can be empathetic to their situation. Instead of becoming frustrated by their clear lack of respect or attention, we can maintain our perspective. We can then consider the changes they’re going through and the challenges they’re facing when responding to them.

While teenagers can undoubtedly be really smart people, they all lack something that is very important when it comes to making their best choices. They lack experience. They don’t have the perspective of age to see the way that many of the things they’re trying for the first time will work out. 

They don’t realize some of the dangers they face, because they’ve never experienced the downfalls. As a result, we may get annoyed when an adolescent pretends to know something they don’t or criticizes our suggestions because “they know better.” However, if we understand why they’re acting this way, it’s easier to find ways to connect with them by not overreacting.

The bottom line is this: Teenagers are learning. They’re exploring their boundaries and pushing against their limits. They are most likely confused and scared a great deal of the time. It just feels very risky to them to show that vulnerability to the people in their lives. That’s why they often show bravado and criticize the suggestions they receive. 

Adolescents may not know what to do, and they don’t want to appear weak. While it’s important that adults have boundaries of behavior for teenagers to live within, the more adults can stop themselves from reacting to their feelings and verbally lashing out at their teenagers, the better. The more adults realize that teenagers are often disrespectful as a defense mechanism to not feel vulnerable, the easier it will be for adults to help them navigate this difficult time in their lives.