As our children approach adulthood, I find myself pondering the complexities of raising the next generation. If there is one area of pre-adulthood which confuses me, it is the necessity to label our children as “teens” or “tweens”. It seems it wasn’t so long ago you were either a child, a young adult, or an adult. Now, some might argue it is merely semantics. After all, what should it matter the word we use? Bear with me… I am not so sure I agree.
While sometimes it is perfectly acceptable to use words interchangeably, there are some words which should be handled with a little more care. It isn’t the words themselves that pose a problem, but the mentality behind them.
If my child grows up believing they are just “going through the teen years”, might they become lax in their mentality? Will this give them an excuse for their lack of self-control or their desire to be irresponsible? On the flip side, if I expect my children to act like young adults, perhaps they will rise to the occasion. My kids might feel compelled to act in a manner worthy of being adult. When my children act out, instead of brushing it off and saying, “Oh, well. You know teenagers!”, this is the perfect time to redirect them towards a more mature mannerism.
An excellent piece of advice I received early on in my marriage was that people will – generally – attempt to be the kind of person others perceive them to be. For example, if I am constantly proclaiming my husband to be the best guy on earth, he is going to try to live up to my perception of him. Shouldn’t this principle apply to our children as well?
Instead of expecting them to act as “teens”, I prefer to perceive my children as young adults. Will they always act in an adult-like manner? No, but that is part of their training. Referring to them as young adults and treating them as such will not mature them instantly, but it will direct them towards the end goal. Calling my daughters “young ladies” and my son “young man” continually points them in the direction their lives are to be headed. My children are not growing up to be “teens”, but adults.
As we are embarking on territory previously unexplored and attempting to navigate the sometimes tricky paths to maturity. I find myself constantly observing those parents who have gone before, learning what I can and praying about what should be applied in our own lives and home. Perhaps I am over thinking this a bit – I have a tendency to do that – but somehow this small distinction seems to matter a lot.
“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
~ I Corinthians 13:11
Your Turn!: Parents of young adults, how do you handle the pre-adult stages?