Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations. Proverbs 27: 23-24
No, that’s not a misprint. “Adulting” drove my spell check a little crazy when I was editing this post. Until recently, I thought the word “adult” was a noun. It describes the stage of life that an adolescent reaches by demonstrating that they have matured enough to be economically sufficient to be on their own.
“Adulting” is now a verb, and it describes things that the next generation do which they identify as being something adult. Something as simple as paying their bills on time, or doing chores That’s considering adulting. It’s a description of doing grown up things.
A recent essay by a new senator to the US Congress, Ben Sasse, entitled “How to Raise an American Adult” amused me with this latest “fad”. There’s a difference of playing grown up like we used to do as little kids, often with the girls even borrowing their mothers shoes and having tea parties.
No, this is something else. This role-playing is from the next generation who have fallen into “perpetual” adolescence. As I’ve noted many times in my posts, the millennials are remaining adolescent late into their twenties and even their 30’s. The demographics studies from Pew, Barna and other researchers bear this out.
Sasse mentions a few culprits that have caused this. While a poor economy is a contributor, so also are social and cultural factors. Among them is affluence – getting accustomed to a comfortable life style as well as not exposing our children to real work. Millennials have been taken hostage by things digital, resulting in shortened attention spans
When it comes to short attention spans, I came across this startling comparison. A goldfish has a 9 second attention span, but the average attention span of a millennial is only 8 seconds. It doesn’t say much about a millennial when they are being compared poorly to goldfish.
While the next generation hasn’t learned to grow up, part of the blame goes to the parents who have forgotten how to teach them to become adults. This trend has been decades in coming going back to the 1980’s.
The urbanization of our culture over the last century has had an impact. In a rural setting, all kids had jobs to perform – often on the farm or around the house. Having jobs and learn to work was eclipsed in our catering to developing our children – getting them to soccer games, dance practice, band practice, and every other extra-curricular activity you can imagine.
There was no time for work, and even the daily ritual of having a family dinner together often got lost in the shuffle. Parents unconsciously catered to their children who grew up with little or no responsibilities.
Sasse, a former college President, goes on to give five suggestions to parents, and one to grandparents. He suggests that parents resist over-indulging their children with stuff, and teach them the difference between what they actually need and what they want. Bottom line is that materialism is to be avoided.
He recommends that children learn the value of hard work including doing menial chores around the house. To that he adds connecting with older generations and that meaningful travel to other environments. Finally, parents should encourage their children to read. Sasse points out that “the average American now reads only 19 minutes a day, and the younger you are, the less you read.”
Literacy promotes creative thinking, which is another theme I have written on before and which is sorely needed by the next generation.
Secondly, let your children experience hard work, even humble jobs like chores around the house or mowing the grass. Learning to work at an early age makes an easy transition later in life. Also, to the extent possible, expose your children to the world by traveling meaningfully.
One suggestion resonated with me – “connect across generations”. Adolescents generally hang out with other adolescents. That is also true with those who are over 60. A 2014 study by the Boston Globe found that people over 60 rarely talked to anyone under 36 about things that were important. To me, that is so sad and almost disheartening.
Studies show that isolation (in this case of the next generation) often leads to anti-social behavior. The next generation can learn about vital social skills from the older generation, and they gain a valuable perspective.
I liked Sasse’s essay. In reflecting on raising our own children, my wife and I managed to follow most of his suggestions. We continue to incorporate some of them in new ways. One example is a summer European trip with Sarah, our 11-year-old granddaughter.
We will go to 6 countries in all, and I’ve had her doing research on each destination to find things that she wants to do or see. The trip will accomplish two of the recommendations: It will provide times for inter-generational discussions, as well as giving Sarah valuable experiences traveling to new places.
The suggestions are all common sense when you think about them. The challenge is to incorporate them in your life and family, whether you are a parent, mentor or grandparent. I especially want to urge the older generation reading this to become involved in the lives of your grandchildren and the next generation. Both you and they will be enriched.
MENTOR TAKEAWAY: While you may not be able to travel with your mentee over long distances, even an hour in the car together will go a long way to deepening your relationship.
FURTHER STUDY: The Wall Street Journal article by Ben Sasse on raising an American adult:
WORSHIP: Listen to Matt Redman sing “You Never Let Go”:
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