Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be…. teenagers! I know Willie Nelson said don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys, but I’d like to amend that. Your kids don’t have to go through “teen years”. It is not hard wired into them. It is not inevitable. Did you know that prior to 1944 there was no such thing as a teenager? The whole concept of teen culture is actually a relatively new, man-made, invention.
Not surprisingly, the impetus behind this new discovery was money. As World War II drew to a close, there was an rapidly growing population of young adults with disposable income the likes of which had never been seen before. Anxious to capitalize on this new market, an advertising agency came up with the whole idea of “teenagers” as a separate culture needing their own identity, clothing, music and media. Soon manufacturers were rushing to introduce hundreds of new products aimed at this emerging life stage. Prior to that time, children matured in a gradual, steady progression from childhood into young adulthood and eventually into mature adults. There was no detour into teen angst, rebellion and identity crisis.
We decided to raise young adults in our home and so far have succeeded in avoiding the teenage detour. Homeschooling definitely has the home field advantage in this battle. We regularly reinforce the idea of young adulthood by words and actions and our efforts are not undermined by 7 hours of daily immersion in teenage life at a public school.
A Different Path
We talk to our children about God having a purpose and plan for their lives, just as He does for adults. We explain that in this stage of their lives, they are laying the foundation of who they will be as adults. The habits, disciplines and worldview they will build on as adults is being laid down now. Our children are given duties around the house with the understanding that they are part of the team, responsible for helping to keep our household running well. They know they are needed, their chores are important to helping the whole team functioning smoothly.
It seems to be working. Our oldest is out on her own now and at
21 25 years old (and newly married!), she is consistently commended for maturity and wisdom beyond her years. Even adults look to her for advice.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not bragging (well, maybe I am a little 🙂 ) My children are not perfect by any means. But we have managed to completely miss the rebelliousness and striving for a separate identity that most kids seem to go through. It is possible to skip right over the trials of the teenage years by reinforcing the concept of young adulthood, instead.
Stay tuned, my youngest just turned 13, we’ll revisit this topic in another 4 years or so and see how we’re doing then…
Update – it is four years later. My boy is 17 and at this moment is out at his summer job mowing lawns. He also volunteers at a wildlife rehabilitation facility, plays in a jazz band and just finished his Eagle Scout rank. He is helpful, courteous, kind, responsible and well mannered. I wish I could take the credit for all of that. God gave us good raw material to work with and we have an amazing, supportive church family that has contributed to our kids lives in many ways.
As I look back over the past four years I still believe it is all about attitude and expectations. We have always tried to treat our children with respect, seeking their input, and respecting their opinions. By respecting who they are as individuals while still making it clear they are part of a family with other people who deserve respect, I think we have encouraged a healthy balance between allowing them to be themselves without becoming self-centered.