Question: It seems to me that we are making our kids grow up too fast. Parents of my children's friends seem to be in a big hurry to make teenagers out of their kids. They arrange actual "dates" for their ten- or twelve-year-olds and give them adult materials to read. Am I right to resist this tendency to rush my children through childhood?
Answer: I agree with you wholeheartedly. Parents in the past had a better understanding of the need for an orderly progression through childhood. Kids in that day were given plenty of time to play and giggle and be themselves. There were cultural "markers" that determined the ages at which certain behaviors were appropriate. Boys, for example, wore short pants until they were twelve or thirteen. Now those markers have disappeared, or they have been moved downward. Children are depicted on TV as having more insight and maturity than their elders. They are rushed, ready or not, from the womb to the nursery school to the adult world at abreakneck pace. This scurrying to maturity leaves a child without a strong foundation on which to build because it takes time to build a healthy human being. When you rush the process, your kids have to deal with sexual and peer pressures for which their young minds are not prepared. There is another problem with making children grow up too quickly. When you treat them as though they are adults, it becomes more difficult to set limits on their adolescent behavior down the road. How can you establish a curfew for a thirteen-year-old rebel who has been taught to think of himself as your peer?
Besides, what's the big hurry, anyway? I think you are right to savor those childhood years and let the developmental process march to its own internal drumbeat.
Book: Bringing Up Boys
By Dr. James Dobson