Ironically, kids are growing up too fast these days and then not fast enough. Our culture pushes children to act and look like adults at younger and younger ages, and then tells them to slow down and stay in adolescence as long as they want. It's a mixed message of sorts. On the one hand, grow up and be an adult. And then, on the other hand, slow down and stay like a kid. So, what's a parent to do? First, let's allow our kids to be kids. Obviously, this means guiding them through the milieu of media influences on their lives. But there's more to it than that. We live in a culture that pressures parents to get their children involved in all kinds of extra-curricular activities to keep them busy and keep them on the fast track to success. Consequently, our children are always in a hurry obsessed with competition and productivity. They end up shouldering adult-like responsibilities before they reach puberty. And then we wonder why so many kids today suffer from upset stomachs and depression. They are growing up too fast and too soon.
So, we must allow our kids to slow down and have a real childhood; we must allow our kids to be kids. Yet, there comes a time when we must teach our kids to grow up and become adults. Too many kids reach adolescence and never leave adolescence. They are stuck in what some have called, "Adultolescence." Alex and Brett Harris, in their excellent book, Do Hard Things, explain:
The problem we have is with the modern understanding of adolescence that allows, encourages, and even trains young people to remain childish for much longer than necessary. It holds us back from what we could do, from what God made us to do, and even from what we want to do if we got out from under society's low expectations.
Sadly, too many teens view the teen years as some prolonged vacation from reality, rather than the launching pad of their lives. A parent's responsibility then is to nudge their children out of the nest and give them opportunites to rise above these low expectations. We must encourage and empower our adolescent kids to become young adults who can make a difference in the lives of others right now. Practically, that means teaching them to use their gifts to serve and benefit others. After all, you don't have to wait to do something great for the glory of God.
So, while our culture keeps telling our children to grow up and be an adult and then slow down and stay a kid, our message should be just the opposite: slow down and be a kid and then grow up and be an adult.