Treating teenagers with respect goes a long way.

Respect starts with appreciation and interest. Respect minus appreciation is obligation. Respect minus interest is politeness. People can feel the difference.

I’m not sure the teenagers I’ve worked with have a ton of adults in their lives who are permitted to appreciate them and be interested in them. Coaches, teachers, tutors, youth pastors–all of us have a stake in the performance of the teens we’re working with. If we’re not careful, those stakes can stifle appreciation and corrupt interest, so that students become means to our professional ends.

Here’s a test question: if a teenager can’t come to any of our classes, practices, rehearsals, or meetings, are we still actively interested in how they are experiencing the world? Are we working to make space for them to explore that? That space is invaluable, and none of us are very good at creating it ourselves.