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Adolescence is not necessary

Teenagers these days look a lot different than when my generation was growing up. More of them are left to raise themselves. Many more of them are abused. Divorce rates are up; dads work longer and moms have taken jobs instead of staying home to rear the kids.  One result is that the web a…
By Seth Barnes
Teenagers these days look a lot different than when my generation was growing up. More of them are left to raise themselves. Many more of them are abused. Divorce rates are up; dads work longer and moms have taken jobs instead of staying home to rear the kids.  One result is that the web and TV are their constant companions. When MTV raises your children, you can expect dysfunction on the backside.
 
My own theory is that the reason so many children are coddled by their parents is in part because quality time with their kids has declined and, feeling guilty and wanting to protect, they overcompensate. 
Now comes a book, Teen 2.0 by Robert Epstein, that takes critical look at adolescence and the impact it has had on society and culture.


Adolescence, Epstein says, is not a developmental stage and has not always existed. In fact, it isn’t necessary. It’s a cultural phenomenon, one that does not exist in pre-industrial cultures as it does in the West.
 
What we know as adolescence is the result of our cultural dysfunction. Parents have actually prevented teenagers from growing up by over-protecting them and failing to give them responsibility or experience the pain of normal life. And the result is that teenagers learn to fulfill our cultural expectation and become angst-ridden and entitled young adults.
 
The good news
The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way. Epstein has some suggestions to fix things.
  • We
    need to make a shift to competency-based responsibilities and
    regulations in our legal system. For instance, a teenager should not
    receive a driver’s license at 16. He should get it when he is ready to be a
    responsible driver.
  • Parents need to empower their teenagers with real responsibilities that include real risk.
  • Young people need to be initiated.
  • We
    need to break the cycle of extended adolescence and emerging adulthood
    by introducing opportunities to empower young adults at an early age. 
What do you think – how would you change things? How should we help young people become responsible and ready to live the lives God intended for them?

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