Every two years at Cottonwood Creek Church we hold a fun and informal event for 4-5th graders that serves as a sort of milestone in their approaching transition from our children’s to our youth ministry, from childhood to adolescence.
Adolescence is expanding in both directions. It starts earlier and ends later than ever. 26 has become the new 18. Twenty years ago, the Wall Street Journal reported: “The amount of time Americans spend in limbo between childhood and adulthood is the longest it has ever been—and getting longer.”
Why are kids taking so long to become adults?
Tim Elmore is an authority on this subject. In his excellent book, Artificial Maturity, Elmore says the problem is a matter of kids being both overexposed and underexposed:
- Overexposed to information far before they’re ready
- Underexposed to real-life experiences far after they’re ready
This over/underexposure creates a maturity “fool’s gold” that looks real. Kids seem mature due to information knowledge and screen abilities but have so little experiential understanding.
Low Expectations: Many adults don’t expect teens to be ready for adult responsibility. And teens are happy to accept that.
Elmore explains that overprotecting, under parenting and poor leadership have created a situation where our kids end up “living down to our expectations.” In the final chapter of Artificial Maturity, Elmore lists seven contributing myths about kids that I have reworded into seven truths about kids:
- Kids can make and keep commitments, even in a culture of short attention spans.
- Kids can work while in H.S. to learn responsibility, reward, balance and other life lessons.
- Kids can have adult conversations. Involve them with positive multi-generational influences.
- Kids should always have what they need as opposed to always what they want.
- Kids should be allowed to take risks. Falling, failing and succeeding are part of growing up.
- Kids can wait. Learning to delay gratification is a basic quality of real maturity.
- Kids can and want to be producers. Teach them to contribute and serve, not just to consume.
I’ll add another: Kids can and should become adults before age 26.