Last week, I spoke at various locations in Oklahoma, sponsored by LifeChurch. The topic: “Generation iY.” Parents, teachers, employers, coaches and youth pastors gathered to discuss how adults can better connect with and equip students to become the adults our world needs.
One issue that came up repeatedly as I signed books was this: “You say kids are getting stuck and not growing up. It seems to me they are growing up too fast! My daughter is eight and wants to get her body pierced, she wants a tattoo and a boyfriend. She is actually speeding up her maturity. How could both be true?”
The answer is both simple and complex. I believe adolescence is expanding on both sides. Kids want to enter adolescence in the second or third grade—and often want to stay in it, well into their twenties. Adolescence is no longer a doorway into adulthood. It is a season of life.
Journalist, Sharon Jayson from USA Today, reminds us that at five and six years old, kids are playing with toys and dolls, crafts and puppet shows. It stops at seven. After that, kids skip to a “tween” stage marking early adolescence. They want independence but not responsibility. Parents fear giving kids too much independence because of the unsafe world we live in. They’re torn about letting their child ride their bike around the block and they frequently stay on the phone with their children the entire time.
Today’s kids may never know the innocence, the exploration, and the imagination that we recall from our childhood. Parents rarely let their kids use public transportation, and they schedule their day full with piano, soccer, ceramics and gymnastics.
Sadly, while our intentions are good, we leave kids without the tools to self-regulate. This is why the average college student is in touch with their mom or dad eleven times a day. Or, why 80% of students return home after college. They are unable to be autonomous adults. Oh, they want to have the autonomy but they may not be ready for the responsibility.
The key is simply this: parents must provide their kids with autonomy and responsibility simultaneously. One without the other stalls their maturity. Kids need to be kids, in their early childhood, but adults must help them move into both self-regulation and self-sufficiency as they become teens.
How are you doing this with your students?