Role Reversal

We live in a time when parents are using coloring books and children are using day planners.

If you don’t get the weight of that statement, let me unpack it.  Adult coloring books are becoming a growing phenomenon right now.  And I’m not going to throw shade at it.  I enjoy coloring with my kids.  I love pretending I am an artist.

The trend has grown for a few different reasons, but let me just address some potential ones:

  1. Adults are too stressed out
  2. Adults had to grow up too fast
  3. Adults are struggling with responsibility

It’s not just coloring books.  In recent years, people have noticed trends of older people dressing younger, adults taking video games as a serious competitive sport, and the growing number of adults unwilling to leave the nest as they continue to figure out what they want to do with life.

#adulting has become a growing negative trend for 20-somethings to talk about.

On the other hand, children are skipping adolescence and inheriting adult stress too early.  The growing options for tailored schooling requiring admission in the early years, the increase in stress associated with standardized testing, and the insane amount of expected commitment to sports and extracurricular activity are making anxious children.

Many of these children are living in homes where parents knew something of this dynamic as well.

My theory is that current adults were so busy “growing up” in expectations that they were never actually able to mature in reality.

As a result, we have parents asking for crayons for their birthdays and children asking for iPhones.

What is the solution?  It’s complex, and it can’t be a reliance on the system fixing itself because it is on a course that will take a while to turn around.

Change can come.

  1. Change will come when families began prioritizing their lives and making the wisest use of the time (Eph. 5:15-17).
  2. Change will come when adults begin seizing a biblical rhythm to work and rest (Ps. 127:2; Ex. 20:8-11).
  3. Change will come when we begin training our children to embrace fun and responsibility at every stage of life (Prov. 22:6; Eph. 6:1).

Adults need to act like adults, and children need to act like children.

Role Reversal on Mohler’s The Briefing

My thoughts on this issue were found warranted and yet expanded in scope when I heard Al Mohler talk about it on his podcast, The Briefing.  This post was eye-opening:

Next, a very important key to understanding the confusions of the modern world was offered in the weekend “Confidential” column over the weekend in the Wall Street Journal. Alexandra Wolf writes about Erika Christakis, she is an early education expert who is now according to the article moving on after a controversy that led to her resignation at Yale University. As the article says,

“Erika Christakis, an early-education expert who most recently taught at Yale University, thinks that adults and children have reversed roles. Adults, she says, now act like children, reading children’s books and dressing like college students, while children have become overscheduled and hyper-pressured, their childhoods cut short. ‘Adults are paying attention to their own self-care with mindfulness and spa care and yoga, yet children are really suffering,’ she says.

She says that what is happening now is that adults are acting like children. The specific example she gives is that they’re reading children’s books and, on the other hand, they’re dressing like college students. One of the interesting things we have seen in terms of American popular culture is that parents are beginning to dress like children rather than children dressing like parents. Gone are the days when a 15-year-old son would try to dress to look like his father. Now, instead, the father is often dressing to look like his son. The same thing is taking place on the female side of the equation, with mothers beginning to dress more like teenage girls than teenage girls would ever think of dressing like mothers. They are exchanging places. Furthermore, one of the most interesting developments in the publishing world is the popularity, unexpected, of coloring books for adults. But on the other hand, the side of children is really that of suffering. Children, as Christakis says, are becoming “overscheduled and hyper pressured” just like adults. As a matter of fact, as adults are taking care of themselves and sending themselves on vacations, the children are finding themselves under increasing pressure.

One of the things we need to note is that the current culture is putting pressure on children to grow up very fast. Furthermore, children are, just as Christakis says, becoming so overscheduled they often are simply living under more pressure than their parents. And that really tells us something. As an early childhood educator, Christakis has a very important point to make, and that is this: children, in order to thrive, need to be relieved of this kind of pressure, and they need to be protected from this kind of overscheduling, the exact opposite of what is happening in the lives of so many children. Children are facing a myriad of pressures that their parents, not to mention their grandparents, never experienced and possibly cannot even understand. While parents often are running a race believing that they have to involve their children in every extracurricular activity, trying to build up a résumé to get their child not only into college, but into grade school—perhaps even into preschool as we know from recent headlines in Manhattan—but the reality is, as Christakis says, that children need time to be children. They are not little adults. Instead, they are children and they need to be recognized as such.

The title of Christakis’ new book is The Importance of Being Little, a very important title with a lot packed into just as few words. For his own glory, God made us as human creatures that bear his image, who move from infancy to toddlerhood to childhood into adolescence and youth and then adulthood. That’s a very important issue for us to remember. That is not some kind of biological accident explained by evolution. That process of human growth and maturity, even different stages of life, is a part of God’s plan for us from the beginning, something that shows his glory. There is a glory in parents understanding their children and celebrating them and loving them as children, raising them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. There’s something horribly wrong in the world when adults begin to act like children and they expect children to act like adults. It’s also telling that here you have a secular, early-education expert who sees what, evidently, even many Christians do not see.

Not sure how or where this hits you, but I am evaluating our home to make sure the stress, joy, responsibility, and privilege of our home is placed on the right people at the right time.  I pray you can do the same.