Author of the Habitudes series, Tim Elmore reveals the new way of parenting for this millennium.
Contributed By Carol Loi
This is the most serious problem that children face today: they are growing up too fast. Adolescence has become too long a season, and lingers too long into young adulthood.
This was the hard truth presented by Tim Elmore at his parenting forum on July 23 at Suntec Singapore, where he spoke to about 100 parents. Elmore is the author of the best-selling Habitudes book series, and the founder of Growing Leaders, a non-profit organization created to develop emerging leaders.
This “extended adolescence” problem stems from children being over-exposed to information long before they are ready, explains Elmore. This can be attributed to the prevalence of technology and the lack of real-life experiences that children are exposed to.
Elmore notes that a number of disparate but crucial factors compound this problem, ranging from developments in science to the effects of having fewer children later in one’s life.
Studies show that the more time we spend playing video games, the poorer we get in relating to people. Yet children are often allowed to play video games often, for long durations.
The availability of prescription drugs have made children overly sedated. When children get more active than their parents can manage, they are often brought in for assessment and prescribed drugs to manage their hyperactivity.
Parenting styles have also changed over the years, as parents have fewer children and invest more resources on them. As a result, they do more protecting than preparing, and often avoid letting children experience failures. Being overly protective, they structure their children’s lives around various “safe” activities. What parents need to do, says Elmore, is to give children opportunities to take risks and let them learn to overcome them even at a young age.
There are many endocrine disruptors in our everyday lives: BPA or Bisphenol A is an organic compound that has been shown to be estrogenic and it is commonly found in the plastics and water that people use. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with endocrine (or hormone system) in humans. These disruptions can cause learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, feminizing of males or masculine effects in females. Media and advertising glamorize teenagers. Children therefore want to stay as children as long as possible instead of taking adult responsibilities. Additionally, children surrounded by media and technology tend not to have “hard” conversations about their lives.
Elmore also introduced a new urban term to parents: children born in the 1990s are now growing up as “Generation iY,” with technology impacting every sphere of their lives. Having studied surveys conducted on thousands of teenagers, he concluded that Gen iY children may champion or join a cause just because it is fashionable to do so amongst their peers. They tend to be more self-absorbed, and more confounded about the options they have in the future, as the possibilities seem to be endless. There is also accelerated growth when they are young, but postponed maturation—they don’t grow into adulthood until they are around 26.
HOW TO STRIKE THE BALANCE
Elmore shared that parents have three balancing acts.
In terms of leadership styles, parents need to be responsive yet demanding. To be responsive is to display acceptance, support and relief, and be attentive to children’s needs. To be demanding is to establish standards and hold their children accountable to those standards
They need to transit their children from childhood innocence into the realities of life as they grow into adolescence by telling them key truths (see box).
They need to give their children autonomy bridled with responsibility. Autonomy without responsibility will backfire.
In light of the information overload children are exposed to today, Elmore said that there are three ways parents deal with it. One is isolation, which is to shelter one’s children from all evils. The second is saturation, which is to give one’s children full access to everything. And the last is intepretation, which is to expose children to everything, while helping them to put on godly lenses in order to decipher right from wrong.
Obviously, the path of a parent is wrought with myriad challenges. Elmore ended his session by reminding the attendees that parenting is a journey, and he encouraged parents to invite others to join in the process for mutual encouragement and support.
Wu Wei Lin, a mother of two children aged eight and six, said, “My key takeaway from this forum is that we, as parents, need to prepare our children for the real world, not protect them from it. Yet we have to be discerning about the type of information they are exposed to, especially when they are not ready for it. It is a tough balancing act indeed. As a Christian parent, I want to hear more from experts like Dr. Elmore who couple practical parenting tips with a strong biblical foundation.”
For more on Tim Elmore, go to http://www.growingleaders.com.
|Truths parents give their children in childhood||Truths parents need to give their children as they grow into adolescence|
|You are loved.||Life is difficult.|
|You are unique.||You are not in control.|
|You have gifts and talents.||You are not that important.|
|You are safe.||You are going to die.|
|You are valuable.||Life is not all about you.|