Are we nurturing authentic maturity or artificial maturity in our kids? For years I've wondered about what's going on with kids and why they seem so mature and yet aren't. Their parents are good people with good intentions as they nurture an artificial maturity in their kids by doing too much for them in trying to ensure their success and not letting them experience life as it is. It is crippling their maturity and ability to grow into independent adults. All people in leadership in churches and schools should read the book Artificial Maturity by Tim Elmore. Here is my very brief synopsis: In order for them to be always successful, adults under-challenge kids and do too much for them, creating exactly what they were fighting against in the first place.
We search for mature teens and expect to find them instead of building them. What we have found is that the maturity in kids has been postponed by the actions of the adults in their lives. While 50 may be the new 40, for many young adults 26 is the new 18.
- Maturity is about the whole person: biological, cognitive, social, and emotional. Many kids may be advanced biologically, cognitively, and socially but delayed emotionally and I would add, spiritually.
- Artificial maturity occurs in kids who are overexposed to information far too early and underexposed to real-life experiences far too late. One without the other causes immaturity, virtual maturity or artificial maturity. The perfect example is how kids have friends on Facebook but struggle with developing friendships in real life.
- Parents don't let their kids ride their bikes around the block and are constantly connected with them on their phones to ensure their safety. They drive their kids to school and schedule every minute of their day. Too much safety and structure prevents kids from taking calculated risks and learning about failure and life's consequences, learning to resolve conflict and think for themselves, and learn problem solving. They do not learn to self-regulate.
- Parents who hover over their kids, constantly monitor them, and structure their time and activities leaves kids with a lot of unfounded confidence which leaves a gnawing sense of doubt. They are confident on the outside and insecure on the inside.
Some thoughts as to how to help:
- Provide autonomy and responsibility simultaneously. Do NOT give independence without responsibility attached to it.
- Provide information and accountability simultaneously. Children receive too much information without any application (Dear Confirmation Teacher...) which produces consumers, not contributors.
- Provide experiences to accompany their technology-savvy lifestyles. Virtual social experiences do not develop the social skills which kids are lacking. Make FACE TIME = SCREEN TIME.
- Provide community service opportunities to balance their self-service time. Mow our lawn and the lawn of the elderly neighbor's two houses down. Don't do the household chores for the kids because they're "busy." They're busy in self-service.
Help parents bring the lives of their kids back into balance!