I am often flabbergasted that youth are blamed for not magically having the many skills they need to navigate the world when they turn eighteen. The complaints and accusations about youth being lazy, irresponsible, and disrespectful just don't compute. This is a gentle reminder that they are a product of the society we have all created.
We have to go back to the cause and effect nature of the problem. Our children are savvier about so much in the world. They are more mature in some respects than kids from my generation, but it is a different level of maturity. At the age of twelve I was entrusted to baby-sit a newborn baby; I was an innocent in so many ways, but I had common sense. I had already taken care of my younger siblings, and I knew how to cook and bake. I was able to look at a situation and decide what needed to be done. I was, in short, responsible.
Today we measure maturity by the ability to navigate a smart phone, by wearing the right clothes, having the correct hairstyle, and owning the latest gadget or fad. In other words, maturity often is determined by what other people think of us and how they see our perceived level of sophistication. Our kids worry about not fitting in instead of being themselves. If they are in the least bit different, they become the outsiders. It truly is a dog eat dog world. To paraphrase a quote I saw recently, being mature is the ability to try to understand why someone hurt you instead of hurting them back. Which brings back undesirable and uncomfortable memories of middle school for many of us.
Superficiality is just part of the problem. The number of opportunities our children have to think for themselves determines another factor directly related to maturity. We don’t allow youth to be engaged in many decisions that directly affect their life. From the very beginning kids are told what to do and it continues through their young adult life. Obviously, we don't want to overwhelm young children with 100 options. But, two or three gives them autonomy and the pleasure of learning how to make a decision. As children grow they are able, with guidance, to make bigger more important, life altering decisions and we should allow them those opportunities. As they become more comfortable making judgment calls, they are often able to look at an issue from multiple sides, therefore gaining the ability to empathize and understand other points of view. And boom they have a level of maturity that enables them to participate in the world as adults.
No it isn't an instantaneous process; it only feels like our children grow up in the blink of an eye. As long as we provide them with the opportunities and space to make mistakes and trust them with important life choices, they will be able to negotiate life on their own terms without apology when they do venture away from home.
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