Infantilization and deinfantilization of adolescence, part 1

In the last year I read and was deeply disturbed by the book, Teen 2.0. If you are going to read a book in 2011, make it that one. It shook me.

One of the primary things that Epstein brought up in the book and has dramatically impacted my view of youth ministry is the concept of infantilization. For years, youth workers (myself included) have lamented about how students are less and less mature and less and less willing to make adult steps. Epstein points out and asks us, “Why are students less and less mature?” To that question I offer something to chew on, Maybe because we’ve made them that way? And maybe we like it that way?

I’d like to encourage you in the next 10 days to start recognizing infantilization in action.

  • Where are points where we don’t expect adolescents to take responsibilities for their lives?
  • Where are points in your ministry where you take away students ability to own their faith?
  • What are ways parents are holding their adolescent children back from healthy adult behavior?
  • What are words that you use which infantilize 12-18 year olds in your life?

Don’t do anything but observe. Write them down in Evernote or on a piece of paper so you can keep track.

And then, if you are so inclined, come back and share what you’ve observed.


6 responses to “Infantilization and deinfantilization of adolescence, part 1”

  1. Jeffrey Dick Avatar

    Will give this some thought and listen to words being used, with my children and with youth at church.
    I have not finished Teen 2.0, and find it challenging and thought provoking. Have shared it with two parents in our church as well.

  2. Sean Scott Avatar

    Something that’s been weighing on my mind a lot lately as I have teens who like their creature comforts but don’t feel they should do anything to earn them. I will ponder.

    1. adam mclane Avatar

      Something I’m chewing on. Are students enjoying the creature comforts of laziness because they want to or because their parents don’t expect anything from them and are actually perpetrating dependency because of a sense that THEY need their kids to be babies?

  3. Becky Durham Avatar

    I agree that this is something happening for sure.

    I work with a group of very bright, creative, spiritually mature students. The fight I have a lot of times is with other adults who don’t think they can handle situations. Case in point: we weren’t sure how many children we would have show up to a ministry that our high school students planned and will lead. There was concern that maybe no children would show up. Parents started calling on Thursday requesting that I cancel the event until we could be sure it would be successful. I refused. My thought was that our students were in charge of this ministry and if it didn’t go as expected, that’s part of it. If they are going to lead ministries, then dealing with various outcomes is necessary.

    Thanks for tuning me into this topic! I’m going to pay attention to how this is happening around me. Can’t wait to read/hear more from the community on this!

  4. Eric Avatar

    The Epstein book is great! I’m using it as a primary source for my thesis. Glad to see it’s getting out of the academic ivory tower!

  5. […] challenging and thought provoking. Have shared it with two parents in our church as well. … church youth action – Google Blog Search Related Reading: Growing Souls: Experiments in Contemplative Youth Ministry Sharing GOD Kid Style […]

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