“What Is A Capable Kid?”

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by Keith McCurdy

A parent came in recently with an article citing that the adolescent brain is not fully developed until 25.  Is this really a big deal?

This parent was attempting to justify the many foolish and reckless decisions of their “adult child” by insisting that in some way they were unable to live differently.  This idea which has been bought by many in the world today that our “children” are pushed too hard or expected to mature too quickly is just plain silly and is contradicted by history.

Whenever I speak on parenting, I regularly ask two questions; “What was the typical 13 year old girl doing in the late 1800’s?” and “What was the typical 13 year old boy doing in the late 1800’s?”

The answers that are most often given are that the “young adult” woman as she would have been referred to then was responsible for much of the running of the house, especially if she was the oldest.  She would have been responsible for caring for siblings, fixing meals, mending garments right along with or for Mom.  And in many cases, would be considering marriage in the near future.

 The typical “young adult” male would have been hard at work on the farm…most of the day.  These are the answers that I have consistently received after many years of asking these questions.  History would agree that the average adolescent male and female of that era were more independent and responsible than the average 21 year old of today….by a long shot.  “The average 13 year old today would have a hard time boiling water” as a recent seminar participant put it.

So, why is this?  I believe it is quite simple.  The fact that adolescent males and females operated at such a high level of independence and responsibility hundreds of years ago, compared to today, demonstrates clearly that an adolescent is built to perform at that level.  Regardless of when the brain is fully developed, they did it regularly, they were capable.  They are still capable today.

The problem is that we don’t require it and therefore don’t equip them.  Quite frankly, we don’t expect it or even believe that they can.  The number of parents that have commented to me that they don’t believe that their children can handle having chores is staggering.  Their children are living up to their expectations.  If we don’t equip our children to use the capacity they have to be capable, they won’t.  These same children begin believing that they can’t and now they live entitled and dysfunctional.  We can change that message.

It is our job as parents to begin to burden our children as early in life as we can.  It is only by this that they will begin to understand their true capabilities.  When we require much of our children, it does not mean that they will not have fun or enjoy life.  On the contrary, in my experience, the children that are most responsible and mature in how they live, enjoy life the most.  They don’t live in fear and are very confident of their abilities to handle life, whatever it may bring.  These children are free to truly enjoy life . . . and they do.

When we begin to acknowledge the level of responsibility and maturity that our children are capable of, and require and equip them to operate at those levels, we will begin to see mature and responsible young adults when they reach their teen years.  Remember, for hundreds of years in this country this is what has been true, regardless of when the brain matures.

Note: If you want to hear some EXCELLENT advice and perspective on raising children in today’s complex world, I strongly urge you to come hear, a good friend of mine, internationally recognized speaker, author and child psychologist, John Rosemond.  John will be speaking at Faith Christian School on Tuesday, February 21 at 9:30 a.m., on “Parenting with Love and Leadership,” and again at 6:30 p.m. on “Parenting the Strong-Willed Child.”

John is syndicated in approximately 225 newspapers nationwide. He has written fourteen best-selling parenting books. He’s known for his sound advice, humor and easy, relaxed, engaging style. In the past few years, John has appeared on numerous national television programs including 20/20, Good Morning America, The View, The Today Show, CNN, as well as numerous print interviews.

Tickets for either event are $10 in advance and are available at Faith Christian School (796-5200), Dr. Paul Henny’s Office (774-1577), and Total Life Counseling (989-1383).  Tickets are $12 when purchased at the door.  Advance ticket purchases are strongly recommended.