So many children in the world are forced to grow up so quickly physical, emotional, or mental abuse. How are parents contributing to this without even meaning to? Often emotional or mental abuse can be unintentionally done. A father telling his three year old to stop crying like a baby can scar that child for the rest of his life, forcing him to believe that showing any emotion is childish. This can lead to him exploding in rage, often phsyically damaging those around him.
Many parents will take away a favorite toy, blanket, pacifier or bottle from a child believing the child is now too old for such things and should put these things away now. But the problem is that we are forcing this child to embrace adulthood far too early. When is adulthood? At what age is a child or teen now an adult ready for the adult world? "Today the process of becoming an adult is positively glacial. When does it begin — with a driver's license? Voting age? Drinking age? College?" (Source 1)
Even the school systems are concerned with the idea that children must be at a specific age to be in a specific grade. A six-year-old in kindergarten is seen as having some kind of disability. She or he is too slow and must be pushed to grow up mentally to meet her peers. "There is no kindergarten. It has gone the way of the little red wagon and mud pies. The time when children learned how to go to school, how to use a tricycle, or wait their turn on the swing is gone. These were important skills -- vital to success in the grades to come. We do not have time to teach them now. We have worksheets that need completing. We have take-home books to copy and homework packets to staple." (Source 2)
Why are children being forced to lose these skills? It is skills of the first 4 years before school that help us later in school. A child can learn numbers by playing childhood games with friends or family. A child can learn the alphabet by reading with a parent. Now, school must teach them everything yet doesn't have the time to do so either. There are standards that must be met, and if a child is behind in these standards, they are simply pushed along because of the social standard of age. Parents have begun to slack in their duty as parents; everything is up to the schools now.
According to American society, a full American citizen--someone who has lived in America all their lives--is someone who is voting age, 18. However, you aren't actually seen as a complete adult by most until the age of 21, when you can drink. But how do we decide that a person of this age is actually prepared to be an adult? Dr. Robert Epstein, quoted often in Source 1, created a test called the "Test of Adultness." "The test is based on Epstein's idea that an adult must show basic competence in areas such as love, sex, problem-solving, interpersonal skills, managing risky behavior and handling work and money." (1)
This same doctor, a psychologist, has written a book "The Case Against Adolescence: Rediscovering the Adult in Every Teen", and while I haven't seen this book or even the test within it, I can bet I would score pretty low on his "Test of Adultness." According to this test, an adult must show basic competence. I know a little about love, but while in my first relationship ever, I had sex and got pregnant all in less than 9 months. I don't think that's his idea of basic competence about love and sex. I'm pretty good with problem-solving and interpersonal skills as well as managing risky behavior.
It's handling work and money where I have the hardest problem. Don't get me wrong. I would love to work. Unfortunately, job searching is really not my strong point. I have a hard time getting up in the morning simply to fill out applications and hope that one day, one of these hundreds of companies will give me a call. And on the small chance that I get an interview, that interview is often the closest I get to having a job. Repeated disappointment after repeated disappointment ends up leading to a refusal to search at all for several months.
The next part, money. I have a hard time with holding on to my money. Granted, my bills will get paid if I have money, but often I spend most of my money and have nothing left for bills. My guess is that this is not a basic competence in money. However, I am 21 years old. By society standards--and legal standards--I am an adult. I can drive, I can drink (not at the same time), I can vote, I can get married, and I can have children. At 23 years of age, I am declared as a legally dependent adult whether I like it or not. This legally removes me from my parents' health, car, and other insurances.
Does all of this make me ready for the adult world? No. In fact, it scares the shit out of me. About the only way I feel an adult is physically. Emotionally and mentally, I feel completely unprepared.
How does this all connect to the original topic? Well, some of us grow up too quickly, and some of us grow up too slowly. What can we do about any of this? For one, we can play a large role in keeping a child from growing up too quickly, but as far as growing up too slowly, I haven't figured that one out just yet.
- Silow-Carroll, Andrew. "Do our children grow up to fast, or not fast enough?" JWeekly.com. JWeekly, 30 Nov 1999. Web. 15 Sept 2009.
- Jones, M. "Children Have to Grow Up Too Fast." Edutopia.org. Edutopia, Apr 2008. Web. 15 Sept 2009.