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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
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?

Comments (5)

  • Right on, Right on, Right on…The last 3 or 4 generations have had to invent things to worry about or create their own chaos b/c things have been so easy here in the USA.

    We need to raise our kids to stand by their commitments, even when it hurts. We need to teach them what hard work is, even if they get blisters or sunburns or sore feet. We need to teach them to think through a problem rather than immediately pick up their phone and call someone to talk them through it.

    Adolescence has become a 12 year window where nothing significant is expected of a kid. No wonder they don’t want to grow up.

    Hard work guarantees you nothing, but w/o hard work, you are guaranteed nothing.

    Wes

  • I like that phrase Wes … “Hard work guarantees you nothing, but w/o hard work, you are guaranteed nothing.”

    I see a problem with this society’s worship of youth and fear of aging, and low expectations for young people. People fear aging, so they try their hardest to offset it and remain young forever, rather than trying to age gracefully. Everyone in society can pick up on this, and so this idea seems to develop that getting older, and whatever that may come with it, is a negative thing. Not to say that this is the sole reason for the problem you’ve written about, Seth, but I think it plays a part in a generation of responsibility-phobic individuals.

    Many folks – anyone out of their teens – are also shocked when a kid or a teenager do something seemingly remarkable. Take for example a 10 year old who composes a symphony, or a teenager that raises millions for a charity. We are all capable of doing great things at any age, but many don’t expect younger people to be able to accomplish much beyond good grades and athletic awards. They have the brains for it, they just need the room and encouragement to use them. If you hear something enough times, you start to believe it… part of why marketing works.

    We need to keep “marketing” responsibility and actual greatness to them, adults as well (too many adults have settled for a passive existence). And actual greatness is the application of your passions and gifts, not just saying you’re great without ever doing anything with yourself.

  • I can say as I believe that our children can become responsible with values, beliefs, and a conscience… none of which are gotten by electronic devices i.e babysitters. The word is the way-spoken or read is the solution BUT that requires a comittment from parents–imagine what life would be like had God our father and His son Jesus our brother had NOT been comitted??? A comment on one example taken from the book about a drivers license… just because it is legal does not mean it is the right time especially if that teen is having trouble with day to day repsonsibilities. imagine the adults we are creating? love your blog!!!

  • Responsibility comes with risk love it. When people take a chance on you it makes you want to rise to the challenge. With all of these boundaries everywhere it’s like teens are expected to fail and they eventually own that expectation as part of their identity because they aren’t trusted with much. And they use that as an excuse to act dumb when they really know better but nobody believes in them enough to draw it out. A culture shift must take place.

  • Unfortunately the trend seems to be extending into adultlescence…20-somethings still acting like teenagers. However it is a real blessing when I see teens taking their faith seriously and setting a Godly example for adults.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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