Dave Ramsey caught my attention. He said that one of the hardest things to figure out as a parent of a teenager is what “age” they’re dealing with at that particular moment. At any given time they can be a mature 34 year old, planning their future and fixing your computer. The next moment they can be working with the emotions of a 5 year old that “wants it now!”
They key for the parent is to know what age you are working with and respond accordingly. You wouldn’t treat a 30 year old coworker like a preschooler, so when your teen is showing maturity, you need to adjust. Same goes for when the tantrums and pouting start. At that point, logic and discussion may fall a bit short.
Tim Elmore writes about “Artificial Maturity” and has a theory that teens can be both advanced and delayed with a “maturity” range of 8-34 years. Three areas that Tim brings up that are interesting:
- Overexposure to IT – The electronic world can dominate relationships, recreation, and time. Their child’s level of skills in electronics can be intimidating to parents. Parents seem to take a surprising amount of pride in watching their 3-year-olds surf YouTube or their 9-year-old make movies. Technology isn’t inherently bad, but overexposure leads to other important things being overshadowed.
- Underexposure to real-life – Lack of face-to-face interaction, work, creative play, problem solving, consequences, and delay. Real-life is hard and requires some key interactive skills like negotiation, disappointment, and service. One of the great impacts of a short-term mission trip is the way it exposes the clarity of real-life.
- External confidence not supported by internal confidence – Kids are experiencing great amounts of success early in life, whether it is on the “club” level, soccer field, or scholastic achievement. Great success can breed an external confidence which many times overshadows the importance of inner strength and confidence. Michael Phelps achieved greatness at the Beijing Olympics yet his reputation and pocketbook were hurt by his lack of inner confidence which led to drug use.
- Give your time, attention, and feedback – How you react and interact will set the pace for your kid’s maturity.
- Focus on achievement that develops internal and external confidence. Define what it means to win and make sure their “winning” doesn’t become your winning.
How have you seen your child be mature and immature in the same day?