Addressing Adultolescence

Social scientists have noticed that more young adults (those between eighteen and thirty years old) are putting off the responsibilities of adulthood. Adultolescence is the term that best describes this postponement of adulthood into the thirties. This phase is characterized by identity exploration, instability, focus on self, feeling in limbo, and a sense of limitless possibilities. These characteristics are accompanied by transience, confusion, anxiety, obsession with self, melodrama, conflict and disappointment. Others have called this the “Peter Pan Syndrome” because these kids just don’t want to grow up. The percentage of American children, or “kidults,” in their mid-twenties living with their parents has nearly doubled since 1970. Some never leave.  . . . One survey reports that only 16% of mothers and 19% of fathers say their children (ages eighteen to twenty-five) have reached adulthood. Even more alarming is that their kids don’t dispute it: only 16% consider themselves to be adults.  (You Never Stop Being a Parent, Newheiser & Fitzpatrick, pp. 46-47)

More and more parents are dealing with adultolescent children who eschew responsibility. Some would protest that the economy isn’t helping, but the issue isn’t circumstantial but attitudinal. Parents love to help children who are wise, hard-working, and responsibility-assuming. When theses qualities are absent, unwise assistance can easily exacerbate the problem; it might have created it in the first place.

So how do you handle your son or daughter who refuses to grow up? Newheiser and Fitzpatrick have written a helpful book where they lay out criteria for young adult children living in the home, whether those children are faithful to Christ or wayward:

1. Expect them to be productive.

2. Expect them to be financially responsible.

3. Establish reasonable moral standards (prohibiting drunkenness, substance abuse and sexual immorality whether in or outside of the house).

These standards foster good relationships when parents bestow honor, respect and refuse to micromanage their (adult) children. This means some sort of accountability system will have to be established and the burden for keeping it ought to fall on the child since they’re enjoying the free or cheap rent. Once agreements and methods are in place, it is essential for Christian parents to follow through:

Most parents with wayward adult kids have made many threats, but few have carried them out. They have backed away from ultimatums, allowing the pattern to continue and their kids to never reach adulthood. . . . An adult child who will not live by our rules cannot be allowed to stay in our home. Sometimes your child will try to make you feel like the bad guy for forcing him to leave. Or she may protest that she doesn’t feel like being treated as a child. You should make it clear that every adult has choices to make. As the parent you have the right to set standards for your own home. Your child has a choice of whether or not to stay. (pp. 80-81)

What Color is that Light?

Regarding her new study that found children are more optimistic, volunteer more and get better grades who remember being spanked when they were younger, Marjorie Gunnoe was quoted in this month’s Christianity Today saying “This in no way should be through of as a green light for spanking. This is a red light for people who want to legally limit how parents choose to discipline their children.” Imagine someone distancing themselves from, say, reading to their children if it was found to produce the same results: “This in no way should encourage parents to read to their kids. It simply means the state should not outlaw it.” Phew! I thought I felt some dogmatism coming on.

Inescapable Combat

In Bound For Glory, R.C. Sproul Jr. comments on the idolatrous inclinations of Christian families.

The world has its own peculiar goal. Everyone wants marriages that are enriched, fulfilled and exciting and hopes that their children grow up to be prosperous. In fact, the world is in a mad dash in pursuit of personal peace and affluence. Sadly, too often in the evangelical church it is not much different. Of course, we want our children to become Christians. but that is just an addition to the all-consuming goal, that they would attain their own personal peace and affluence. We pray that they will be Christians just like us, who have found their way in the world. But the command of God for us and for our children is not that we would find our way in the world, but that we would wage war on the world. Continue reading

Rife with the Aroma

Our homes must be rife with the aroma of love. Those who visit us should notice immediately that they have left the world of self-serving, egocentric narcissism and have entered a safe harbor where people value and esteem others above themselves. Outsiders should enters our homes and never want to leave. Our neighbors should find excuses to visit us just to get another whiff of the fragrant aroma of love. The brokenhearted should long to be near us. The downtrodden and the abused should seek us out. Families on the brink of disaster should point to us and say, “Why can’t our home be like that?”  –Voddie Baucham

What kind of impact would the church have if it was filled with homes like this? The church is always a work in progress, but this sort of home-life should be our goal. With loving, self-sacrificial and hospitable families, the work of the Gospel is plain and therefore the Word of the Gospel goes out.

Already Adopted

Being in the happy time of having kids (the world must be peopled), many of my friends are working through the relationship of their unborn and recently born children to God. This quote by Calvin is helpful.

The offspring of believers are born holy, because their children, while yet in the womb, before they breathe the vital air, have been adopted into the covenant of eternal life. Nor are they brought into the church by baptism on any other ground than because they belonged to the body of the church before they were born. He who admits aliens to baptism profanes it. . . . For how can it be lawful to confer the badge of Christ on aliens from Christ? Baptism must, therefore, be preceded by the gift of adoption, which in not the cause of half salvation merely, but gives salvation entire; and this salvation is afterwards ratified by Baptism.

It’s helpful to remember that Calvin lived in a time of great covenant hypocrisy–the Roman Catholic Church of the sixteenth century. He was no stranger to clerical abuse nor of false profession. Still, where the covenant is embraced, covenant blessings follow. And to believing parents, the promises are for them and their children, as many as the Lord will call.