Maturation in the modern world is a slow and messy process. When does someone enter adulthood? With their first job? When they drive? When they turn 18? When they turn 21? When they graduate from college? When they move out of their parents’ house? When they are 26 and they have to get their own health insurance? Or when, after moving back in with their parents for most of their 20s, they finally move back out for good?
The fact is, the process of discovering and living out an integrated personal identity or a sense of self that drives decisions, morality, and life choices takes longer than it did even thirty years ago. In terms of identity and adult independence, today’s twenty-three-year-old is often the developmental equivalent of a seventeen-year-old in 1980.
Why is this? We live in a society that worships youth. If you don’t believe me watch car or phone commercials for an hour and get back to me.
Sixty years ago if you were a typical 18 year old man in the United States you held a job, had a car, and were saving up for a down payment on a house. You were likely dating with the intent of marriage and would more often than not be married within half a decade. This is not to say that everyone lived like this, but it was the expectation.
Today many young people are wasting their 20s in an attempt to “find themselves.” They are living at home much longer, are less likely to marry, less likely to be chaste, and they are putting off parenthood and having fewer children. It is not uncommon for a twenty (or even thirty) something man to play more hours of video games than he works in a week.
I say all this to point out that if we don’t help our children mature, they won’t mature on their own. Everything in our society is anti-maturity. This is because thoughtful and mature people don’t spend 103% of their income every year—which is what the average American adult spends annually. A lot of people are making a lot of money off our immaturity and there is therefore a vested interest to keep us immature by appealing to our lowest desires and to make us think that our happiness consists in immediate sensory gratification.
What can we as parents do about this? To begin with, we cannot let our children’s peers and social media form their identities. We need to be proactive in connecting them with a Christian community wherein they will be surrounded by more mature believers who will care for them, pray for them, bless them, correct them, etc.
At home, we need to take time to help our children debrief and process their days (e.g. how was your day, what went well, what could you have done better, etc.). This will require us to spend regular time with our kids, to ask them thoughtful questions, and to give them Godly advice and support. This in turn will require us as parents to say no to things (even good things!) we would like to do so we are consistently and reliably available. It will require us to listen, without flying off the handle, when our children make mistakes. And it will require us to be seeking God and developing wisdom in our hearts and lives so that we have something worthwhile to share with our children.
Christian maturity does not develop naturally, especially in a post-Christian society like ours. “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child…” If we want our children to grow up to be mature and complete men and women of God we cannot be passive, we need to be actively leading and guiding them toward these goals.