No parent predetermines to have a lazy, selfish, prideful, or angry 18 year-old who refuses education, work, or contributing to the betterment of mankind. No parent predetermines to raise their child into a young adult with poor work ethic, poor financial stewardship, poor health habits, poor time management, who falsely believing that the world revolves around them.
Parenting kids who remain kids well into their 30’s or beyond is not a new phenomena. In generations past, kids who refused to grow up would simply bring shame on their families and themselves.
“Most people don’t grow up. It’s too damn difficult.
What happens is most people get older. That’s the truth of it.
They honor their credit cards, they find parking spaces, they marry,
they have the nerve to have children, but they don’t grow up.”
Unfortunately, this cycle goes on and on.
There are a few reasons (among many) why I believe we have so many kids running around in grown up bodies, lacking the good character that we all desperately need in each other today:
- We’ve somehow twisted ‘love people as they are’ to mean ‘leave people as they are’. I pray that I have enough love to graciously address a friend’s addictions, abusive behaviors, crippling habits, or harmful character flaws. Doesn’t real love fight for the best in others? I pray that my friends love me enough to fight for the best in me! It may be uncomfortable for a moment but certainly appreciated in the long run. Our culture tends to have a very laissez-faire attitude toward, well, most anything at any time depending on the mood. But I’ll tell you what – the older I get, the more I realize my desperate need for a strong network of friends and family especially in the arenas of marriage and parenting. It truly does require a village to raise a child …and keep us sane as an adults!
- We struggle with being adults ourselves and falsely believe it’s hypocrisy to place appropriate expectations on our growing kids, pre-teens, and teens. I’m crippled so I’ll allow my kids to be crippled. …um? Suggestion: how about everyone matures a bit?
- We falsely assume that it’s hypocrisy to teach our kids to avoid behaviors we indulged in when we were young. On some level, aren’t all people hypocrites? So is hypocrisy terribly bad if the motive is good? Before you say yes, consider communicating to your young adult that you are growing up alongside them, that you are figuring out parenting as challenges present themselves, that you are flawed but are trying your best to make decisions that will help them, and that you love them and value their future so much that you don’t want them to repeat your mistakes. It’s the the role of older generations to teach the younger wisdom, to share our stories, mistakes, and the lessons learned. Perhaps we aren’t hypocrites after all – we’re humans leading from our lessons learned.
- We falsely believe it’s society’s job to raise our kids. Now, no one wouldn’t openly admit that. (I hope!) Of course we believe it’s our job to parent. But do we really? Or do we just want to ‘survive’ parenting until our kids move out? I’m just going to make the assumption that this kind of parenting will most likely result in having boomerang kids. They leave and come back. They leave again and come back. They simply don’t have the skills to survive long-term as an adult. Why is that? Who’s fault is it? Society’s?
- There are parents who simply don’t want to let go. They unintentionally sabotage their teens’ development or maturity by eliminating ‘real world’ consequences. The question then needs directed at the parent – why don’t you want to let go? What is it that you fear? Why do you need your child so desperately when it’s very normal and healthy to let them go? Is it right to use your personal fears, doubts, insecurities, or loneliness to dictate your parenting?
- We prioritize comfort – both our kids’ and our own. We want them to enjoy their childhood long into their 20’s – long after they have the option of giving their life for their country or voting for our country’s leaders or legislation. It’s still okay for them to be kids when they’re of legal age to buy weapons or get behind the wheel after drinking. I’m sorry – why is it that we allow our young adults to act childish when they need to be adulting? It it because they’ll make our own lives miserable if we raise the standards and expectations within our home? I agree- it’s easiest to let them do whatever they want as long as we’re all comfortable for the time being. But is it what’s best?
These are hard truths – ones that I’ve had to struggle through myself. One day I feel like a supermom in my hyper-diligence and the next day I want to run far, far away while screaming like a little girl who plans on hitch-hiking across the country. Better yet, I could pretend to have a mental breakdown and use that as an excuse to become an eccentric candle-burner, color my hair some weird shade of green, hand paint rainbows all over my home including on the carpet, carry around a bottle of wine, and refuse to expose myself to sunshine. Ever again. Seriously- that option has crossed my mind once or 50 times.
What drives my parenting is the recognition that there is a mind-boggling lack of good men in this world. I want my boys to become good men. I want them to defy the status quo and if any person is going to defy the status quo or lead a life of excellence, it means not living like the status quo. Granted, I can’t control my boys’ actions when they leave home but I can sure communicate and exemplify excellent character while they’re home. To the best of my abilities. On my good days. This requires work on my part. Diligence. Character building for myself. A lot of it.
While I’m not going to get into the specifics of what my stumbling around has looked like, I can offer suggestions that were given to me by women who have walked the parenting roads already. I have to continuously work through what these look like for our family and apply them differently in the different stages of life
*Give age-appropriate responsibilities with accompanying age-appropriate rewards or consequences. (The consequence part sucks but it’s worth it, especially if you want to be taken seriously as a parent.)
*Not every task deserves a reward. Messing or maintaining a home is a team sport.
*Keep the end in mind. Have in mind what you want your teen to know before they leave the house. Work backward from there. There are TONS of resources for parenting For example, if you want your child to learn financial responsibility, seek financial tools for their age group. Dave Ramsey is a good financial go-to. If you want your kids to be responsible for themselves when they leave for college, divvy up the house responsibilities that teach them how to clean, do their own laundry, cook, etc, now. The older they are, the more that they should know about these areas which means that the younger you begin teaching these skills, the better! If you want your kids to communicate clearly with people who have a variety of backgrounds, jobs, and lifestyles, provide those opportunities now. And yes, you have my permission to threaten taking away their electronics if they have a terrible attitude. Just be willing to follow through. Know your mission. Know what character qualities are important and provide opportunities for kids to practice those. Do some research when needed. Confession: I’m absolutely flabbergasted when people say “I just didn’t know about…” Seriously? We live in the information age, people. Finding requires searching.
*Delayed obedience is disobedience. Enough said.
*Speak life into your kids and tell them your vision for their future. Tell them that you are fighting for their best – you want them to be respectable, have integrity, be gentlemen (or ladies), have good leadership skills, be strong, have good character, etc.
If, as parents, we don’t predetermine what character qualities we want our kids to have and work towards those, what quality of character will they have? Who knows?