Our vocabulary is always changing and ever-evolving. In 2013, “selfie” became not only a commonplace word, but was also the “word of the year.” 2015’s “word of the year” was “emoji,” which I’m sure there are still some people who have no idea what an emoji is. In this generation, one of the ways that vocabulary is changing is words that have always been classified as nouns are now becoming verbs. One of the more popular examples would be “texting.” One that I am hoping does not become popular is “adulting” This is referring to the idea of transitioning from adolescence into adulthood. The word “adulting” is most often used in a negative sense, such as “I am so fed up and I don’t want to ‘adult’ anymore,” meaning that the tasks that are usually associated with being an adult (i.e., going to work, paying bills, parenting, or just being responsible in general) are becoming too difficult to handle. It is because of this negative association with the word that I am hoping its popularity begins to fizzle.
In a recent article from YM360, teenagers are on a “slow road” to adulthood, delaying jobs, driving, dating and other steps toward independence. While there is an upside to delaying certain aspects of adulthood to cut out the opportunity to engage in risky behavior, there is certainly a downside to having our youth stunt their maturity. If our goal as parents is to see our children “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18) and we desire to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4), then we must understand that means encouraging our children to mature into adulthood as they get older.
It might seem like an odd thing to say, that we must encourage our children to grow up. It seems to imply that there are parents who not only don’t encourage their children to grow up, but are actually doing their part to prevent them from growing up (at least mentally, socially or spiritually speaking). There are other factors outside of parental influence that attribute to a delayed maturity, such as the internet, social media, video games, etc., but in many cases it can be attributed to a form of over-attentive parenting, or “helicopter parenting.”
I would certainly hope that parents would be attentive to their children, and would be concerned with the activities they engage in, the friends they spend time with, and most importantly promoting strong spiritual growth. However, in order for children to develop maturity, whether it be mental, social or spiritual, parents may have to learn to give their kids some independence. In another article from Focus on the Family, it was stated that, “If parents want their children to become mature adults they need to let them embrace life, make decisions and face the consequences of those decisions. Even when it seems guaranteed the child is heading for disaster, parents have to step back, watch and pray.”
It can be difficult to watch your child suffer the consequences of a poor decision, but it can be comforting to know that if those mistakes happen while your children are at home, you can be there to help them through it. It can be even more difficult to watch your children suffer from the consequences of a poor decision (one that they were unaware of because of overprotective parenting) and not being able to be there to help them.
What about the child that is not allowed to make mistakes, or is never told that they are wrong? What is going to happen to them when they finally do venture into the world of “adulting” where mistakes are inevitable and they are crushed when they make one. For many parents, it is this fear that is pushing them to continue to treat their teens like children and their young adults like teens. Quoting the article from Focus on the Family again, “Parents who treat their adult children like younger children they are, in effect, saying ‘I don’t believe you can look after yourself, so I’ll do it.’ The message is ‘we don’t trust you to run your own life.’”
The danger to spiritual maturity with overprotective parenting is that teens and young adults never learn to take ownership of their walk with Christ, if they even have one. They have ridden on mom and dad’s coattails for so long, that they don’t know what it is like to stand on their own two feet when it comes to dealing with spiritual adversity. This is one of the reasons many young people turn their backs on church when they finally leave home.
In another article from The Gospel Coalition titled, “The Remedy for our Helicopter Parenting,” the author states, “The overarching consequence of obsessive over parenting is that by failing to live out the truth of the big story, we fail to pass on the big story. Helicopter parenting subconsciously teaches our disciples that though God may seem so big, so strong, and so mighty, he’s really no bigger than we are. God isn’t mighty to save, but Mommy is.”
With all that said, the question then becomes, “How do we raise our children to become independent, godly adults?” Unfortunately there is not one set way to accomplish this. What works for one set of parents may not work for another. There is a lot of trial and error involved. The point would be to not be afraid of the error. There are no guarantees. Christ tells us we will have trouble in this world. We cannot prevent our children from suffering, but we can teach them how to deal with it in a godly way. Life is not easy but we know that Christ will be with us no matter what. Can you entrust back to God those He has entrusted to you?
Soli deo gloria,