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Please don’t ask what’s wrong with today’s teenagers.

Please don’t lament about why they can be rude or uncooperative or selfish or cruel.

Please don’t wonder why we have cyberbullies or kids who purchase guns or intolerance in our schools.

The answer is so simple and it’s right in front of our faces.

It’s us, the parents.

It’s moms who say, “Unfriend me now if you think this way,” instead of “Tell me your opinion about this.”

It’s dads who post insensitive memes after a black man gets killed and justify it instead of talking about where things went wrong.
 

It’s calling a conservative blond woman “stupid” while in line with your kids at the coffee shop and a black woman “nasty” at your dinner table.

It’s using terms like radical liberals and Christian conservatives in the same vein as terrorists or treason.

It’s yelling out your truck window to my 15-year-old daughter that’s she’s a dumbass for wearing a mask outside.

RELATED: There Are No ‘Right’ Decisions About School This Year—Please Just Be Kind

It’s mocking an older woman in a Costco for not wearing a face covering.

It’s paying thousands of dollars for season tickets to watch a man dunk a ball and then shouting that he has no right to have an opinion about his race or religion.

It’s using photos of human beings with disabilities or malformities in memes to get a laugh.

It’s degrading teachers for being concerned for their health and well-being.

We don’t have to look far to see why some teenagers are struggling to find their place in this world.

The hate and vitriol and rhetoric are all around us.

It’s online and in grocery stores and at the park and in our neighbor’s yard.

Your kid may not be on social media yet, but someone else’s kid is—and they saw your post.

Your kid may not be with you when you made that racist comment, but someone else heard it.

RELATED: Dear Parents, This is What Your Teenagers Need You to Know About These Tough Years

You may think that your son knew you were joking when you said that thing about a woman, and you may believe your daughter knows better than to repeat what you said.

But they are watching and hearing it all. Every meme. Every comment. Every slur at breakfast and every offhanded remark in the car.

And it doesn’t take more than a scroll through a teenager’s Instagram to understand that they’re following right in our footsteps.

We can blame politicians and athletes and actors and religious leaders. Sure, they are easy targets.

The buck stops with us, however. Hate begets hate, friends, and we are in a downward spiral.

If we want to change the world for our kids it starts with changing our own behavior.

It starts with how we talk about people. It’s valuing human life. It’s promoting the positives about your beliefs instead of the negatives of someone else’s.

It’s listening when someone speaks. It’s challenging yourself to see things differently. It’s choosing not to contribute to the noise. It’s taking a breath.

These things aren’t easy in today’s world, and we may be too far gone.

But I still see so much hope and courage and beauty in today’s youth.

Let’s give their generation a fighting chance.

It starts with one brave parent.

Be brave today.

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Whitney Fleming

Whitney is a mom of three teen daughters, a freelance writer, and co-partner of the site parentingteensandtweens.com You can find her on Facebook at WhitneyFlemingWrites.

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