Categories
youth ministry

How do you measure teenage maturity?

News on teenagers consistently conflicts.

  • We are ecstatic about teenage Olympians. No one puts a teenage qualifier on their accomplishments, an Olympic medal is an Olympic medal, it doesn’t count for half a medal because someone is under 18.
  • Our laws define someone as an adult the moment they hit 18 while providing a completely different legal statute for people under 18. Yet neurologists and developmental/behavioral psychologists are proving that every adolescent matures are a different pace depending on a wide variety of variables. (Some inborn, some learned, some internal)

The Love/Hate Relationship with our Nations Teenagers

We have a love/hate relationship with teenagers. We love their accomplishments, we are disgusted when they fail. We are simultaneously infatuated and disgusted by teenage sexuality. Gasp, Justin Bieber has a girlfriend! OMG, I can’t believe she might be pregnant. Oh, I’m going to watch 2 hours of TV talking about it and tweet/Facebook about how disgusted I am… gimme, gimme, gimme more news on teenage sexuality! I’m not exaggerating all that much, am I?

A 16 year old wins a gold medal and she’s on The Today Show. That girl is so mature for her age! (Succeeding at sports makes you mature) Her girlfriend, in the same school and grade gets pregnant? Oh, becoming a mother isn’t an accomplishment… that’s a statistic! She is SO STUPID! We might even make her go to a different school. 

We (rightfully) decide things have to change when a teenager attempts suicide. But funding the school counselor or making sure her parents insurance covered her treatment before it was a suicide attempt? Well, common logic states, that’s really a parental issue.

This continues on after 18, of course. Those who go to college– well, we give them a pass on being adults because they are students. And students can’t be expected to act like adults because they are students. So we allow college students a pass on being mature. In fact, walk around a college campus and you’ll see that “what’s cool” is to act like a 13 year old, fully fulfilled! (Think about it… a “cool college guy” is loud, obnoxious, gets drunk, sleeps around, avoids responsibility, and doesn’t take school all that seriously. There’s nothing mature about that– but college culture celebrates this as a fully embraces college lifestyle.) But someone doesn’t go to college? Well, they better get a job and fend for themselves. They are an adult now…

So how do we measure maturity?

The point of this post is to point out that our society gives many mixed messages about adolescent maturity. Science and common sense says that maturity isn’t an arbitrary age. It depends on a wide variety of factors. One person becomes and adult at 16 while another might not become an adult until 25.

But we have an arbitrary line. Legally, and to a lesser extent culturally, a person is an adult at age 18.

The Supreme Court has now affirmed that not all teenage criminals are the same, some can get life sentences for their crimes while others can’t, the courts are now allowed to look at other factors besides physical age to judge their ability to understand their crimes. This is a big step. 

I suppose I’m wondering when we, those who work with students in schools, churches, and our neighborhoods, will begin to do the same?

Categories
Current Affairs illustrations youth ministry

Savior: The Adult Desire to Save Teenagers From Themselves

Photo by fengschwing via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Am I the only one who notices that adults seem to obsessed about teenage lives? More to the point, we seem obsessed with pointing out how we need to intervene before they destroy themselves and the human race.

Our culture takes a very negative view of people between the ages of 13-18. If you work with them, you are used to folks turning up their noses when you tell them you love working with that age group.

Here are some recent headlines to illustrate the point:

School: Little as they try, students can’t get a D here [New York Times] more articles…

Sleep: Lack of sleep linked to obesity for teen boys [Time Magazine] more articles…

Sex: Teenage girls rely on the rhythm method [What is the trend] more articles…

Crime: States rethink “adult time for adult crime” [CNN] more articles…

Forgive me if the links provided aren’t damning evidence. You are welcome to browse my entire body of hundreds of news articles on adolescence to get a better flavor. What I am talking about is not a hot pile of evidence. It is a slow burn of negative views on adolescents as well as adult desires to fix teenagers.

Another angle that demonstrates this is our wonderment over a teenager who does something good. Sail around the world? Shocking! Raise money for a worthy cause? News at 11! Start a successful business? Give her an award!

It seems that those news stories are of interest, in part, because we expect teenagers to only do negative/self-destructive things and when they do something amazing it must be newsworthy.

Three observations I want to point out on this topic

  1. Jesus is their savior, you aren’t.
  2. Have you ever wondered why sports are so popular with adolescents? Maybe it’s the easiest place for them to achieve and/or exceed expectations.
  3. Teenagers have about the same grades, sleep about the same, have the same amount of sex, and commit the same amount of crimes that they always have. Our obsessing over it only reveals something twisted in our lives and not theirs.
Categories
family

Big Surprise Headed Our Way!

We are both surprised and stoked to be expecting our third child this February.

No ideas on a name yet. But rest assured that we will buy the URL.

Pray for us. Especially, Megan and Paul.