My blogs over the last two days covered the first two hurdles young people must jump in order to authentically mature. I have suggested that our culture today actually makes it harder for children to grow up; it fosters selfish consumers who remain absorbed in their own little bubbles. On Monday, I introduced “speed” and the pace of life as a hurdle we all must jump in order to mature. Yesterday, I covered the hurdle of “convenience” as a hurdle. Today, let’s review a third hurdle that adults must address in the lives of their kids to help them grow up.
3. Hurdle Three: Passivity
One paradox of our youth culture today is that kids are invited into a lifestyle of participation—but for much of it, they remain in a sedentary posture. They text, they vote for their favorite American Idol, they play video games, they tweet, they Facebook, they Skype—they weigh in on almost everything, but much of it is passive stimuli. Their mind is engaged, but they’re inactive. Frequently it does not involve real, meaningful work. It’s a virtual reality. In these instances, they lack something that helps them mature in their perspective: work experience. When it comes to building life-skills, technology is a blessing and a curse. I remember as a young teen having all kinds of theories about how life ought to work—until I actually got involved in a work project or community service. Once I began working at a job or traveling overseas to serve people, I was humbled and gained all kinds of wisdom based on reality not theory. I needed to actively participate. People seldom perceive life in a mature fashion until they gain real life-experience.
To overcome passivity: We must help students participate in meaningful work.
- Invite your student to choose a local community service project. It could be helping a soup kitchen, a recycling non-profit or even a nursing home. Ask your student to investigate and learn the background for the mission of the sponsoring organization. Once you serve together, discuss what you learned.Discuss with your student how to balance screen time with disconnected time.
- For every hour they spend in front of a computer challenge them to spend an hour “unplugged,” maybe even outside, in unstructured activity. If they are old enough, help them find a job that fits their gifts and strengths.
When we teach our kids to value speed, convenience and passivity early on, it may stunt their ability to mature. If everything comes easy, fast and requires no physical effort—it can diminish their ability to perceive and participate in the world as an adult. Everyday, I see people who’ve grown older but haven’t grown up, still acting like selfish brats unable to navigate life because everything doesn’t revolve around them. These three hurdles can be jumped—if we are intentional about their journey.
(This post is a “taste” of my new book, Artificial Maturity, which will be released next year. Stay tuned.)