Archives For Parenting

Yesterday, I launched a two-part blog series on how leading kids has changed through history. I shared what’s changed and why I think we’ve shifted. It seems we, adults, really want the approval of our young people and we just won’t sacrifice their temporary happiness for anything—including preparing them to be disciplined adults themselves. It’s all about current happiness and pleasure not future fulfillment and wholeness.


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This is not how it’s always been, nor how it is in some cultures today. A few years ago, Izquierdo and Ochs wrote an article for Ethos, the journal of the Society of Psychological Anthropology. They posed cultural questions like: Why do Matsigenka children “help their families at home more than L.A. children?” And “Why do L.A. adult family members help their children at home more than do Matsigenka?”

With the exception of the imperial offspring of the Ming dynasty, contemporary kids in the U.S. may represent the most indulged young people in the history of the world. Writer Elizabeth Kolbert notes, “It’s not just that they’ve been given unprecedented amounts of stuff—clothes, toys, cameras, skis, computers, televisions, cell phones, PlayStations, iPods. (The market for Burberry Baby and other forms of kiddie “couture” has reportedly been growing by ten percent a year.) They’ve also been granted unprecedented authority.”

“Parents want their kids’ approval, a reversal of the past ideal of children striving for their parents’ approval,” Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell, both professors of psychology, have written. In many middle-class families, children have one, two, sometimes three adults at their beck and call. This is a social experiment on a grand scale, and a growing number of adults fear that it isn’t working out so well. According to one poll, commissioned by TIME and CNN, “two-thirds of American parents think that their children are spoiled.”

But who’s really to blame?  Hmmm. We can’t just say it’s the kids. Continue Reading…

Child rearing. Education. Mentoring. It’s all changed in our lifetime, and especially when compared to cultures in history. How did parents in different cultures train young people to assume adult responsibilities? When you examine past cultures in America, Europe and Asia, you find a handful of common markers that describe how adults led kids:

  1. They led by principles – Guiding maxims or beliefs determined their leadership.
  2. They based their leadership on the belief there was right and wrong behavior.
  3. They felt that discipline was the first trait a child must learn.
  4. They built a desire in youth to interact with adults and to become adults.
  5. Their greatest hope was that children become adults who contribute to society.

Today, this is just plain rare. The New Yorker reports that in a recent study of families in L.A., no child routinely performed household chores without being coerced. Many of the kids had to be begged to attempt the simplest tasks; often, they still refused. In one fairly typical encounter, a father asked his eight-year-old son five times to please go take a bath or a shower. After the fifth plea went unheeded, the father picked the boy up and carried him into the bathroom. A few minutes later, the kid, still unwashed, wandered into another room to play a video game.

Continue Reading…

Years ago, we began reading widely accepted research that girls were experiencing puberty at an earlier age than in the past. Now—we’re discovering the boys are facing their own challenges. Males in the U.S. are starting puberty six months to two years earlier than we did when I was a kid. Back in my day, puberty began at around 12 years old. Today, it’s now 10, according to the 2012 American Academy of Pediatrics.

You say—so what?


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Significant challenges accompany this reality. First, this research unveils that boys who begin puberty at about 10 years old, instead of 12 or 13, desire sexual activity sooner than their emotions know how to handle it. Their body screams at them to do something they are not ready to be responsible for emotionally, intellectually, socially or spiritually. Like a ten year old who wants to drive a car—they yearn for something they are just not ready to handle. For instance, they’re big enough to cause physical damage to people or property but are emotionally behind in curbing that appetite to do so.

The bottom line? Their emotional maturity is not keeping pace with their physical maturity. In other words, they’re advanced in some categories of their maturation, but delayed in others. This causes parents, teachers, coaches and youth workers to struggle in how to teach and equip them. In some ways—they’re so ready for what’s ahead. In others, they are so behind. At times, we must treat them like adults; at other times, like little children.

So what can we do? Continue Reading…

Yesterday, I laid out the reasons why our culture today is creating kids who grow older but often fail to grow up. When they finish school, they often fear entering the adult world. Adolescence has been pleasurable and predictable. They’ve learned to navigate their way through Facebook, texting, recitals and video games. But somehow this didn’t get them ready for what’s coming. So what’s the secret to moving kids from languishing to leading?


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I believe we must slowly move them toward authentic responsibility. Yesterday I suggested that what we’ve done with our kids up till now is given them artificial responsibility. They’ve had a simulator of real life, made up of screens, but no real “make or break you” responsibilities. I compared it to going to a local gym to workout, but only looking at the weight machines, not actually lifting the weights. I believe we must help them begin lifting lighter weights, then move them to heavier weights, just like we do in a gym. You must learn to bench press 75 lbs. before you’re ready for 200 lbs. Leadership only develops as responsibility is passed.

When I wrote the book, Artificial Maturity, I included dozens of ideas on how to do this. Let me offer a few ideas below, then if you want more, you can grab the book here:

1. In order to teach them how to treat the opposite sex…

One family required their sons to take mom out on a date before they were allowed to date a girl in high school. They rolled their eyes as first, but each one actually did it. They took mom out, opened the car door for her, bought her dinner, got her flowers, you name it. Once they had “passed this test” they got to date a peer.

2. In order to raise their emotional intelligence…

Some families had their kids host a party—for adults. Mom and dad planned a party for their friends but the kids (ages 11 and 14) greeted them at the door, took their coat, offered them a drink, introduced them to others, etc. This built an ability to converse with grown-ups and get comfortable as they soon took jobs.

3. In order to get a taste for how expensive life is…

One mom had each of her kids sit with her at the computer as she paid the bills each month. Each child got their own time, helping figure the invoice amount and then help pay that expense on-line. Even though it wasn’t their money, they began to see the large amounts required to cover the car, heating and air, phone, cable, etc.

4. In order to expand their vision beyond themselves…

Another family was noticing how self-absorbed their kids were, so they decided to travel overseas, where they could help build a hospital wing and serve children with diseases there. Once they visited, each family member took on their part of the project—raising money, writing notes and using their creativity to meet needs.

Artificial Maturity has a full game plan. If you teach students, coach athletes, or are raising your own kids, let me suggest we get very intentional about building great adults and effective leaders. Our world will need them soon.


Artificial-Maturity-blogPick up your copy of Artificial Maturity today and get your game plan for developing students.


Since releasing my last book, Artificial Maturity, I’ve been interacting with leaders nationwide to discover if this idea rings true to them. Do kids today seem to be experiencing a virtual maturity—built upon lots of data and games—instead of genuine maturity?


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Let me be clear, I do believe there is such a thing as “relative maturity”, meaning a six year old can be mature for their age. However, I’m talking about a phenomenon our culture has created—kids who know a lot, but have experienced very little, in terms of the real world. It’s produced millions of kids who fear entering adulthood and get stuck in adolescence, moving back home after college, with no job, no experience and very few life skills. I believe we should have been working on this issue long before they got to college. Continue Reading…