In the tenth grade, there was a girl I really liked. She had this great family, and I really loved them. I loved to be with them, but there was a fly in the proverbial ointment. I was really immature and annoying. I said stupid things to be funny, and I did foolish things to get them to like me. As I did things that embarrassed myself, I remember thinking, “Wow, Dave, you are really immature.” So how does an annoyingly immature kid become mature? I didn’t have an answer then, but I have part of one now. My suggestion to parents is this:
Allow maturity to occur and commend it.
My personal theory is that the very process of maturing (the curriculum, if you will) is to deal with six vexing problems all at once, and while you are doing that, make sure to get a flat tire thrown in the mix. Maturing is the process of dealing with difficulties, operating under pressure, and learning from it as you go. This is nothing more than the stuff life dishes out. For example, I have learned that when someone becomes an addict—whether to alcohol, porn, meth, or otherwise—they cease to mature. Addicts feel discomfort and pain from their situations—job stress, marriage problems, etc.—and rather than taking care of the issue, they choose their addiction. Since they block the pain of the struggle, they don’t deal with problems and cease to mature. When they begin the process of recovery and stop “using,” they begin to mature again.
An immature college freshman might spend his entire paycheck the first weekend he gets it. Midway through the pay period, he has no gas in his car, no money to fill it up, and he will not be able to get to work if the problem isn’t addressed. If Mom and Dad have taught him to handle this problem well, the result will be walking to work, borrowing his roommates ’87 Caprice Classic with no back window, or…you get the point. And, if this works out well, you had better believe he will never spend his entire paycheck again when it hits the account, and a small bit of maturity will have occurred. On the flip side, the worst possible thing that could happen is that his parents find out he’s in trouble, and they fill up his tank for him. It will be a miracle if this kid learns anything here other than “Mom and Dad will clean up my messes.” This is not a bad strategy if you’re eight years old—but it is a disaster if you can legally vote.
Some things to say to your kids to encourage maturity could be:
1. I’m proud of how you took care of that situation.
2. I was impressed by how you tackled that problem like a man.
3. I know adults who would not have confessed like you did. I trust you more now.
I have a friend who is a godly man and a baseball coach. He tells dads all the time: “Pray your kid loses. Learning how to deal with losing is one of the great benefits of playing sports.” Allow your kids to struggle appropriately (with artistry and flair), and help them figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. Admittedly, it will take more time than just cleaning it up yourself, but for the sake of your friends who will have to spend time with your kids, the future teachers who will have them in their classrooms, and the future employers who will hire them—let them struggle well and mature. And watch yourself mature in the process, too!
Dave Carl is Pastor of Family and Children’s Ministries at Stonebriar. During the past 12 years, Dave has served on staff at Insight for Living in various capacities. His primary role at IFL was as the creator and creative director of Paws & Tales, a weekly children’s radio program. Through this ministry, Dave shared the love of God with a sense of joy, humor, and humility to children of all ages.
Did you know we have a closed Facebook page for parents just like you? Click HERE to join the discussion today.