Recently, I attended a workshop at the national conference of the Association of Classical Christian Schools entitled “Raising Sturdy Children.” The name of the workshop intrigued me, and the speaker, Keith McCurdy, did not disappoint. His workshop inspired me so much that I feel compelled to share the highlights with you here. I will not be able to cover everything Mr. McCurdy shared, so I highly recommend that you listen to a podcast version at https://www.circeinstitute.org/podcast/commons-12-building-sturdy-children.
One hundred years ago the word “teen” did not appear in the vocabulary of most people. But of course persons 13-19 years of age certainly existed. So what did people call them? “Adults!” Once a child reached the age of thirteen, society considered him or her a young adult—lacking both full maturity and refinement in their skills—but nevertheless an adult, and not a child. The average thirteen-year-old could perform all of the tasks necessary for the maintenance of everyday life, and many who resided in cities also worked many hours a day at a job outside of the home. This is how it had been in essentially all cultures throughout history.
Now, I am not suggesting in the least that we send our young adult children back into the workforce to the neglect of their education, but could it be that we as a society have extended childhood too far, to the detriment of our children? The average thirteen-year-old today does not know how to cook a meal, and some parents do not even let their thirteen-year-olds boil water! What has happened to our culture?
Parents one hundred years ago wanted their children to mature into upstanding citizens characterized by honesty and loyalty. Today, parents desire for their children to be—you guessed it—happy! Our culture, and even sadly many of our churches, tell us that our feelings, our emotions, about a particular thing or situation are the most important thing to evaluate, with happiness as the end goal. In primarily desiring for our children to be happy, we as a culture have unfortunately raised a generation of people who are fragile and at the mercy of their emotions. But emotions are not to be trusted (Jeremiah 17:9).
In attempts to keep our children happy, we have minimized struggle and strife in their life. And yet, struggle is the vehicle, the mechanism, by which we mature and grow! James 1:2-4 states, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Our children belong to the Lord, and He expects us to love and care for them by admonishing them and encouraging their growth and development into mature young men and women. God gives us emotions in order to more fully experience His creation and relationships. Let’s not desire for our children to be merely happy; let’s desire for them to know what is true, good, and beautiful! Let’s work to weave truth through their daily experience, to teach them to possess emotional awareness, and to do the right thing when they have a choice not to.
“The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.”
—Tacitus, Roman historian (A.D. 55-120)