To kick things off, we need a pinpointed definition to frame our discussion. Let me give you one …
Adolescent: a person who has an adult’s body, wants all of the freedoms of an adult, but doesn’t want any of the responsibilities that go with being an adult.
Like … the teenager son who wants access to the family’s best car, with a full tank of gas, a parent’s debit card in their wallet, their personal smart phone in their back pocket (paid for by you), but considers it unfair that you expect him to get up at a reasonable hour on Saturday morning and spend a good part of that day doing various chores for you around your house.
… or the college student daughter who wants you to cover her tuition, room, books, and give her a weekly mad money allowance, but believes that her personal drinking habits and boyfriend sleeping arrangements are none of your business.
… or the 35-year-old son who’s living in your basement, hasn’t paid rent for years, hasn’t applied for a job in months and doesn’t understand why you’re frustrated that he spends all of his waking hours in his Star Wars pajamas playing video games.
We skipped all of that with our kids. Obviously they had momentary pockets of adolescent behavior (just like their dad still does), but for the most part they moved from being children, to young men and women, to adults fairly seamlessly.
It wasn’t hard. In fact, helping our kids skip adolescence was a lot easier than what it would have cost us in emotional agony had we let them give adolescence their best shot. We just followed a few basic steps that incline a kid to transition from childhood to responsible adulthood without feeling they need to wade into the swamp of self-absorbed irresponsibility along the way.
Step 1. Understand EXACTLY what forward thinking love for a child requires.
If love is the commitment of a parent’s will to their child’s needs and best interests, regardless of the cost, then it is NOT in a child’s best interests to accommodate their laziness, disrespect, self-indulgence, or irresponsibility. If we put up with or encourage these kinds of bad behaviors, it’s usually because we love ourselves more than we love them. We love our comfort, our public image and our artificial peace more than them. Obviously, they’re going to want to give adolescence a try. Just don’t make it easy for them to achieve. The first time and every time you see adolescent attitudes or behaviors respond with strong, deliberate, and memorable pushback to it. We’ve got to make it far more personally costly for our kids to take the adolescent path than the responsible one. Disadvantage, discomfort, and discipline have a way of making the correct path much more attractive to them.
Step 2. Don’t allow anyone or anything to rob your children of their years of childhood.
Kids who aren’t allowed to be kids when they’re kids, often grow up to be adults who feel cheated (think: a typical childhood starlet’s adult track record) How does this dilemma show up in a rank-n-file family? Regardless of how the Kool-Aid of public opinion tastes, having a kid so one-dimensionally focused on academic or athletic success that they never get to actually record a balanced childhood often sets them up to act childish once they’re supposed to be taking on the mantle of responsibility. (Think: the number of professional athletes and entertainers who make enormous amounts of money but end up broke once their star power fades).
Step 3. Adult freedoms are earned; not assumed.
Freedom has always had a quid pro quo arrangement with personal responsibility. You want the use of a car, a smart phone, a debit card, a college classroom, dormitory accommodations, and a meal plan at the university? Simple; demonstrate the respect, responsibility, and gratefulness that goes with them. Otherwise, buy your own car, gasoline, smart phone, tuition, dorm room, and meal plan. When we supply these things to irresponsible or disrespectful kids, it’s not giving them freedom to mature but license to self-destruct. Proverbs 17:16 says, “It is senseless to pay tuition to educate a fool, since he has no heart for learning.”
Step 4. Raise them focused upward and serving outward.
When kids are raised in an environment that encourages them to assume they’re the axis of their universe and the center of the world’s attention, we shouldn’t be surprised when they behave childishly as adults. On the other hand, when kids are raised in an environment that is focused on God and where serving others isn’t an occasional event of the family but rather its default mode, these kids are far more apt to move into an adult’s body ready to handle the privileges and potentials that go with it.
It’s really simple math. Whether you raise your kid in a way that makes it easy for them to pull off-road onto the treacherous terrain of adolescence or move them directly onto the respectful, responsible and reliable thoroughfare towards adulthood, the fact is that both options will require a lot of effort on your part. But when you factor in the human toll, the lost years, and the relational regret that goes with that adolescent journey, the sweat-hard work of raising kids who skip adolescence looks more like a cake-walk.