I am reading an incredibly enlightening book called Generation iY by Tim Elmore. He defines Generation iY as people who were born between the years if 1984 to 2002. But I do think that the same insights and cautionary warnings Elmore shares can relate to the young children we are raising today and how we parent them.
In one of his chapters he talks about the paradox of Generation iY. “Most young people today are advanced biologically. They reach puberty one to two years earlier compared to thirty years ago. They are also advanced cognitively because they consume more data than ever. Kids 3 and 4 years old, go to school and are exposed to huge amounts of information. Socially, they are also advanced, with dozens of friends they connect to at school and via the Internet (and cell phones, if I might add). However, when it comes to emotional maturity, they are NOT advanced. Studies show that a significant percentage is emotionally backward.”
He claims that this is largely because kids are being exposed to too much too soon and not to their ultimate benefit. Elmore cites a survey done by USA Today, revealing that parents: allow Internet use without supervision (75%); dress kids in inappropriate clothing (74%); overschedule kids’ lives (63%); give kids cellphones (59%).
Even if it may seem like young kids today can handle the internet, loads of information, adapt quickly to the fast-paced world we live in, and seem willing enough to be pushed to learn earlier than ever before, their emotional health is being neglected. I believe it when Elmore says that “giftedness does not equal emotional maturity in children.” Time and time again I have talked with parents who want to accelerate their child through grade levels because their child seems “advanced” academically. But the reality is a child must grow in all areas of their life, and cognitive development is just one aspect. As Luke 2:52 says it, “in wisdom, stature, favor with God and favor with man.”
One of our sons scored in the 98th percentile across all areas of learning during his last achievement test and can perform way above his level, especially in reading. However, he needs to be guided in mastering and tempering his emotions. He gets frustrated easily with himself and others, and can come across a little bit like a “know-it-all” if he is not careful. The truth is he knows a lot of information, but he still needs training when it comes to dealing with failure, disappointment, persevering when it gets tough, following through, and the like. These are key character traits that will help him achieve true success in life. As a parent, I know that he can be “pushed” and accelerated, but I also know that somehow, it will be to the detriment of his emotional maturity.
We cannot put our kids in a bubble and cut them off completely from the Internet or technology because this is the world they live in, but we can focus on developing our children’s EQ. Elmore states that “in school, success is about 75% IQ and 25% EQ. In the real world success is 25% IQ and 75% EQ. If our children are to successfully pass through the tollgate and move into adulthood, we must focus on improving EQ.”
So how can we, as parents, encourage maturity in our children? Elmore shares practical tips for parents of adolescents in pages 69 to 79 of his book. I’ve contextualized some of them here for younger children and added some other suggestions, too.
1. Let your children interact with different age groups. This will help develop “empathy muscles.” Growing up, I remember how my parents applied this with us. As often as possible, they brought us along with them to their bible studies, ministry activities, engagements with leaders and teachers, and sometimes, counsel people with us present. We got to spend time with all types of people, from all walks of life. This helped us with our relational skills. We were taught how to engage others in dialogue, to ask questions and listen, to learn from people and their experiences, and to be sensitive and tactful, but truthful at the same time. Our eyes were also opened to the needs and circumstances of people who were less fortunate.
2. Teach practical skills, such as budgeting, planning a trip, maintaining a vehicle, cooking, etc. Most children today get pulled into the virtual world without learning how to function and live in the real world. I know of people who get so hooked on Internet gaming, they forsake all other responsibilities and priorities. Their accomplishments in the virtual world do not translate to success in the real world.
Children still need to learn self-help, domestic, and practical skills that will allow them to manage the homes they will eventually live in. These skills can be honed through very simple ways. For about a month, I got each of my sons to take care of a plant and record its growth daily. They had to water their plant, make sure it had enough sunlight and measured its height with a ruler. It taught them responsibility and the rewards of responsibility as they saw their plants grow. When I was a kid, my siblings and I had all sorts of animals as pets. We had to feed them, care for them, and look out for their needs. I even had a pet monkey who was very demanding of my time and attention! Other important skills my parents passed on to me were cooking, baking, cleaning, sewing, painting, carpentry, yard-work, laundry, etc.
3. Build in opportunities for service. One of my good friends who also homeschools held a birthday party for her special needs daughter. However, instead of making it all about her daughter, she had a show put on for down syndrome children and their families and gave them bags of groceries (many of these families were impoverished). She asked her daughters, her niece and nephew, and our kids to help distribute the goods to the families. It was a learning experience for my kids who often see parties as a time to take home candy bags and be entertained.
Elmore believes that getting kids involved in serving others on a regular basis is one way to help them grow in emotional maturity. A friend of mine who struggled with depression was better able to get out of it when she started volunteering to help victims of Typhoon Ondoy. Since then, she has made it a point to look for ministry opportunities where she can serve. Being others-focused has helped give meaning and purpose to her life.
4. Give opportunity to practice maturity. We have done this with our older son Elijah. He gets to be in charge of monitoring TV and computer time on the weekends and it teaches him to be mindful of his own involvement in these activities. And, he knows that he is accountable for his younger brothers, too. I also delegate to him the responsibility of watching his baby sister, Tiana, on days when I need some extra sleep in the morning. He does a great job at it, too.
Every now and then Edric will make one of the boys “leader of the day,” giving each of them the responsibility of carrying out his instructions. He will say something like, “You are in charge of making sure that ____________ today.”
Sports also gives kids the opportunity to practice maturity. My siblings and I all joined athletics programs after we were homeschooled — from soccer, to volleyball, to basketball. Being a part of a team, disciplining the body, working towards a goal with others, learning to share the spotlight or even give it up when you aren’t always the star, dealing with loss and disappointment, and persevering under pressure were some of the things we had to adjust to.
Homeschoolers don’t have to wait til they attend conventional school to be a part of a team. There are lots of clubs out there that would gladly welcome home school kids because they have so much more time to practice! I know champion swimmers, golfers, gymnasts that are homeschoolers. My kids are part of a Taekwondo team. They are just starting out but it has already helped them to grow in maturity.
5. Model emotional maturity as parents. I added this one. Many emotionally problematic people whom Edric and I have counseled are this way because of their emotionally immature parents! Children watch the way we deal with and react to circumstances in our lives and it makes a positive or negative impact in theirs.
One of our sons has been into playing Beyblades. On one occasion, he and Edric were playing with Beyblades and battling it out with these tops. When Edric wasn’t looking, our son screwed on an old, worn out part on the top Edric was using so that it spun out of control and broke apart. Our son ended up winning the round but Edric became suspicious when he picked up the top and examined it closely.
Edric asked our son in a concerned tone,”Did you destroy my top?” Our son’s celebratory mood turned quiet and he suddenly looked guilty. “Yes, daddy,” our son said with his head bowed down. And as his eyes started to tear, he said, “I sabotaged your top.” Several thoughts came over Edric. First, where did he even learn that concept. Second, how could he even think of doing something like that?! So Edric asked him, “Why did you do that?” “I didn’t like it that you kept winning,” our son replied. When Edric realized that this was a serious heart issue, he knew he had to address it properly. “It’s good to push yourself to win and to try hard, but you can’t win like this. This is not real victory.” Our son listened intently, still trying to stop himself from crying. “Wouldn’t you rather win when your challenger is performing at their best?” Edric went on. “And when you love someone, you won’t do things that hurt them. I felt very hurt when you sabotaged my top.” As our son processed all of this and realized that he had been wrong, he turned to Edric and said, “I’m sorry, dad.” He hugged Edric and cried repentantly.
Here’s the thing though…When Edric asked our son where he learned the concept of “sabotaging,” I was one of the culprits! Apparently, our son thought it was okay because I had said to him one evening, “Let’s team up to beat Dad in 7 Wonders (a board game)! I will help you get the cards you need so Dad can’t get them.” This was not technically cheating because it was a kind of strategy but it wasn’t a good way to win. It was a bad example to our son. I was being a sore loser so I wanted to try an underhanded way to defeat Edric. Unfortunately, our son interpreted the immaturity I displayed as “win at all costs!”
6. Prioritize the SQ. I thought of adding this as well because Edric and I constantly experience how emotional maturity happens more easily when our children enter into a love relationship with Jesus Christ. It is this relationship that gives them the motivation to change and grow in emotional maturity. Our children are not perfect and neither are we (that’s stating the obvious!). But, our children are, by God’s grace, moving towards maturity because the Holy Spirit transforms them, convicts them, and gives them the desire to do what is right.
Jesus Christ gives our children the “SQ” — spiritual quotient. He puts his Spirit in them and leads them to spiritual and emotional maturity.
Titus 3:4-6 “…He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior…”
7. Teach your children to wait. Yesterday’s Sunday Service led by Pastor Joby Soriano was a reminder that our children need to learn to delay gratification and practice contentment. When they want something, evaluate whether it is a real need. Our children may live in a world where everything is instant, but they still need to learn the value of waiting as well as entrusting their desires to God. If they really want something, encourage them to pray about it, but don’t give it right away. Teach them to appreciate what they have. Pastor Joby’s message was wonderfully titled “Gratitude Changes Our Attitude.” AMEN to that!
Here’s one practical way we have practiced this with our kids. When our children open their presents during Christmas time, they aren’t allowed to play with every single toy right away. They get to unwrap and see their presents, but they will only play with a select few and everything else gets stored away. During the rest of the year, they get to choose a new toy to play with from time to time. Since they get a whole lot of toys they end up having new toys to play with for the rest of the year (even if they got all of them over Christmas). This keeps them from getting bored with all their toys and it makes them more thankful for the toys they do get to open and play with.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 “In everything give thanks!”
Philippians 4:11-13 “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
Our children may be growing up as part of the Generation iY, but they can overcome the obstacles and challenges that define it if we, as parents, help them grow in emotional maturity. 🙂