Habits of Highly Annoying Adults (with respect, Mr. Covey)

by Rod Smith

Dedicated to Younger Readers (From my book: A SHORT COURSE IN GOOD MANNERS for Middle School and All other Humans)

I would love to speak at your event...

I would love to speak at your event…

I will not apologize for adults who treat you with less than good manners, but I will try to articulate a few things that I know annoy younger people about some adults. When dealing with annoying adults, be patient. It might be your opportunity to better equip the adult concerned to understand people who are younger. Keep in mind it is only a matter of time before you will find yourself committing many of the same atrocities toward young people who are, at this point of course, yet to be born.

1. I know you find it annoying when adults try to sound younger than they are. When adults employ your colloquialisms, they are frequently at least a generation or three off, and almost always get the meaning quite wrong. It jars, I know. If you’ve not met it already, you will meet it somewhere in the next handful of years. When I hear it I can hardly disguise my cringe, and so I can only imagine what it does to you. Please, be patient. When I visited Korea this past summer, even my bumbling attempts at “hello” in Korean were appreciated. In fact they were much appreciated. I’d suggest you do the “Korean thing” and accept that at least the adult is trying (no pun intended) to identify with you in some, albeit odd, manner. I’d suggest you mask your amusement and respond with openness and grace. When an adult says, and it is usually quite loudly I’ve noticed, “WAY KHOOL; NO WAY. YES WAY. Oh Grooooovy! Let’s sit around and hang-out and gas, HUH!” in an attempt to “relate” to you, a little bow and a smile from you will go a long way to bridge the gap, which is clearly wider than three or four football fields.

2. I know you find it annoying when adults change their voices – usually into a higher-pitch with an added singsong lilt – in order to talk to you. This is somewhat the equivalent of a waiter asking a sixteen year old if he or she wants a kid’s menu or “carding” your mother or father – although some parents might enjoy being carded. I do not know the reasons some adults do this but I’d suggest you resist all impulses to kick the offender in the shins and then run in the other direction. Talking to you as if you were a newborn puppy is certainly bad manners. Kicking the offender in the shins, while offering you a brief moment of joy, would not solve the problem. A simple, “It is difficult for me to understand you when you sing to me in a baby voice. Will you please assume your normal voice and vocabulary,” will probably assist both parties.

3. I know you find it annoying when adults don’t take your emotional (your feelings) life very seriously. I have heard adults say things like, “She thinks she’s in love at 14!” and similarly insensitive things. While your love at 14 might not be fully developed (as I hope it will be when you are 40) you are apparently feeling feelings that feel like love to you. These feelings are the feelings of love of which you are capable at this time of your life. Yes. I’d suggest that you are as much in love as you might ever be at 14. Enjoy it. It is sad that some adults do not take your love very seriously. My only hope is that you will not close down when it comes to talking about such matters simply because on occasion your feelings were discounted. Again, do the gracious thing. Teach the adults around you about just how authentic your emotional life really is. Be careful. All the adults closest to you will have little doubt about the volatility and the strength of your emotions. It is this very volatility that helps adults feel that all of your feelings cannot possibly always be completely valid or accurate. Learning to govern your behavior and your emotions is both possible and necessary if you are going to be a successful adult. Learn to do both now while you have a lot of “room” to get it right (and wrong).

4. I know you find it annoying when some adults treat you as if you are much younger than you are. Perhaps it is a direct result of wanting to be much younger than they really are. Be patient. Resist the urge to employ your best baby talk or to dribble or urinate on the spot. Being treated like a baby does not mean you get to act like one. A simple, “Please don’t pat my head or squeeze my cheeks or coo at me – I am not a hamster,” will usually do the trick.

5. I know you find it annoying when some adults talk about you as if you are invisible – or at least as if you cannot hear or understand what they are saying about you, and so every private matter of your life is paraded for all the known world to hear while you are standing right in the midst of the discussion feeling as if you are looking in on yourself. The flip side of this is the adult who is suddenly silent when you enter a room and so it is clear you were the topic of conversation or the conversation was about something you are considered too young or too sensitive to understand. Another strand of this virus is the adult who spells words or suddenly switches to Spanish phrases in the belief you will therefore be shielded from whatever it is you are not supposed to hear. Be polite. Little is ever gained by being as poorly mannered in your response to the ignorance of others.

6. I know you find it annoying when some adults turn everything into a race. “Is your grade the highest in the class, the school, the city, the universe?” asks your favorite uncle about your Math score. Before you hit reply he goes on with, “Did you know I have the fastest, and biggest, and most economical car on the block and I was a full partner with my company before your dad graduated from middle school and I own the fastest and most efficient coffee bean grinder in my apartment building which is by the way the largest and tallest one in the largest city in Texas which is by the way the biggest state in the world.” And when you mention that Alaska cut in half is bigger than Texas he tells you not to be a competitive smarty-pants. Be kind to adults who regard life as one big and endless egg-and-spoon race. You might be the first. Enough said.

7. I know you find it annoying when some adults habitually comment on how much you have grown (or changed) since the last time they saw you. First, it is probably true. You are, as you know, growing at a phenomenal rate and while the day to day changes are not quite so noticeable to you, when Aunt Betty drives in annually from Toledo for Thanksgiving, be patient when she sings the same “My how you have grown,” song because you have grown and it gives her a lot of joy to notice and to say she notices. Being patient with an aunt who loves to point out how you have grown or changed – the benefits will be more helpful to you than resisting her joy.


2 Comments to “Habits of Highly Annoying Adults (with respect, Mr. Covey)”

  1. I’m one of the adults now, but I certainly remember what it was like not so long ago when I had to put up with adults who embodied these traits. A good reminder not to slip into that annoying behavior myself…thanks.

  2. Congratulations, Rod. A great site. I’m truly impressed!

    What a great deal of work and dedication you’ve put into it.

    I’m writing from the library, where one only has 30 minutes on the web, so I’ve definitely not had nearly enough time to do your site justice.

    Many thanks for the lovely phone call yesterday.



    in Auckland, NEW ZEALAND

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