Teenagers watch and learn more from adult actions than from their words.
Take two situations that have recently developed in New Mexico. In Taos, adults are squabbling over who owns the intellectual rights to an app developed by teens geared toward suicide prevention, while in Santa Fe, lawmakers and the governor are still bickering over a state budget.
What have the Taos teenagers smart enough to develop an app learned from some adults in recent weeks?
The teens developed an app to help address the heart-wrenching situation of youth suicides. The app won a national award, which came along with a cash prize. But some of the adults involved as parents and school administrators ended up in a battle over who owns the intellectual rights to – and the cash involved with – the app. The disagreement led to the original team splitting into two groups, each pursuing separate apps. The adults haven’t figured out a resolution to their disagreements that prompted the split.
These adults are supposed to be showing teens how to handle conflict and disagreements in creative ways that lead to some measure of satisfaction for all involved. Instead, the situation has devolved into threats of legal action and behind-the-scenes name-calling.
The adults involved in the app debacle aren’t the only group of adults who seem incapable of practicing the very skills we encourage teens to learn before they leave high school: the art of negotiation, of compromise and of collaboration.
New Mexico’s governor continues to be in a pitched battle with state lawmakers over the state’s budget. Every community, including Taos, is affected by this battle. While the two sides play chicken and see who will blink first, the state’s services and employees are left hanging. Our Republican governor has finally called for a special session to begin on May 24. The governor hasn’t spelled out what she wants to see in her version of the budget and now she’s also calling for an overhaul of the state tax system, far too much to handle well in a special session. We think she’s intentionally setting Democrats up, forcing them into a position where they won’t pass her budget, making them look like the bad guys.
It’s all bad politics with taxpayers and working families in the state held hostage.
It isn’t easy to find resolutions to disagreements. It isn’t easy to set aside our outsized egos, stubbornness and tendency to blame others. It is hard to both fight for what we believe is right and find a middle ground where solutions can be found that don’t cause undue harm or end up in a lawsuit.
But if the adults can’t figure out better ways to resolve their differences, why should teenagers bother trying?
Adult leaders in both of these situations need to step up, lead by example and do better.