Back in January of this year I posted a blog titled, “Are our kids growing up to fast?” In a general gist, I dealt with the issue of allowing our children certain priviledges without them having an adequate maturity level to handle them. For example, purchasing them a car and allowing them to drive or allowing them to spend a lot of unsupervised time with a member of the opposite sex in a dating relationship.
Over the past several weeks I have been considering a similar topic with a twist, “Are we not allowing our kids grow up?” At first glance this question may seem as if it is posed only to parent(s) and guardian(s). However, this question is much deeper than that and has many more implications than just for the family. The answer to this question concerns teachers, church leaders, youth workers, public and private schools, YMCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs, and churches to just name a few.
What do you think? Are we not allowing our kids to grow up? Are we creating an environment that encourages their maturation, independence, and productivity or are we creating an environment that futher extends their childhood years of dependency, leisure, and laziness to the point that many believe they will earn a living as a professional Middle School student?
Some argue, such as Robert Esptein in his book titled, The Case Against Adolescence: Rediscovering the Adult in Every Teen said that…
“For the first time in human history, we have artificially extended childhood well past puberty. Simply stated, we are not letting our young people grow up” (pg. 5).
Why is this the case? Why has our American culture extended childhood past puberty and discouraged young people from growing up? Could it possibly be the Myth of Adolescence ? Has our culture built such a house upon the foundation of adolescence that we are now seeing the house shift, crack, and fall apart because the foundation was faulty?
What is adolescence and how could it possibly be one of the foundational culprits in creating millions of young people who are expected to mature no further than their preschooler counterparts?
Adolescence has been defined as a person in turmoil (Epstein, pg. 13). It is the time preceding adulthood, which is the period from puberty to adulthood in human beings (Encarta Dictionary). Is it just me or are these definitions slightly “general?” What is adulthood? When does that happen? At 18? At High School Graduation? Maybe it’s 21? Or how about College graduation at 23? Wait, I know, maybe it’s 30? Ah yes, here it is, we are officially adults when we have a wife, 1.5 kids, a cat that sheds on everything, a dog that chews the furniture, a mortgage, expensive imported cars that we can’t afford, and a pile of credit card debt? That sounds like adulthood to me.
Regardless of these definitions, adolescence is not something that has been adhered historically, or even by other cultures today. Adolescence is a recent advent that was created by G. Stanley Hall within the past century and furthered by many others since him (For additional information on it’s history, I recommend Robert Epstein’s The Case Against Adolescence)
How could such a recent phenomenon have such a cataclysmic impact upon our culture, especially upon our young people? To best understand how the notion of adolescence has had such an impact upon our culture and young, I hope the following analogy bests illustrates this psychological influence (For the following analogy that I am about to use, I am indebted in part to both Alex and Brett Harris, who are the founders of The Rebeleution, for it.)
In India, elephants are trained to do a wide variety of tasks. These large beasts that can grow to stand 10 feet tall and weigh up to 5 tons are tamed and utlizied for the purpose of assisting people in their everyday life, from transportation to hauling heavy loads.
What is most amazing of all, is at night, these elephants are kept from wandering off by their owner tying a piece of rope around their ankle and attaching it to a small branch that is planted in the ground. Knowing how large and powerful these creatures are, we know beyond any shadow of a doubt that they could easily snap this rope and pull the branch from the ground. However, their ownders comfortably go to sleep each night with the reassurance that their elephants will be right where they parked them when they wake-up in the morning.
But how can this be? How could such a large and powerful elephant be so easily restrained by something of incomparable strength as a rope and a broken tree branch?
To help answer these questions, it would be best to know how elephants are trained. At a very early age trainers keep elephants from running away at night by tying their ankle to a large immovable object. So what happens over time when these young elephants keep trying and failing to get away is that they eventually give up and lose hope. Consequently, when these young elephants grow-up into large adults, all that a trainer has to do is tie one of their ankles with a rope to a small object, such as a tree branch, and they won’t even try to get away because they believe it is impossible to do so.
This is how adolescence has affected the young people of yesterday and today. By growing-up within a culture that does not encourage a young person’s independence, productivity, and/or responsibility, young people grow-up with a rope around their ankle to these lies and this is why many of them are becoming quasi-adults.
But this has not always been the case. If we were to look back into history, and a few select cases today, we would discover that “young people often accomplished great things” (Epstein, pg. 13) and in my opinion, are still capable of doing so today.
Check back later for a brief look into 1 Timothy 4.12 and the call of God’s Word to both young adults, parents, and the community
For part 2 click here