Forming Children, Forming Young Adults

From Tim Elmore:

I believe two sets of messages must be communicated to students during the first two decades of their life. Sadly, very often only one set of messages gets through. The first ten years, we must communicate childhood messages. If we have done this well, they are prepared for necessary adolescent messages that prepare them for a challenging adult world:

Childhood Messages 

1.You are loved.

2. You are unique.

3. You have gifts

4. You are safe.

5. You are valuable.

Adolescent Messages

1. Life is difficult.

2. You are not in control.

3. You are not that important.

4. You are going to die.

5. Your life is not about you.

I recognize this may sound harsh, but I find myself having to communicate the second set of messages far too often to a college student. If we love these students, we will relay both messages. They deserve the truth from us and they deserve a childhood that prepares them for the life that awaits them as adults. Whether they are emotionally ready as they enter adult life… will be up to us.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Adam

    In the original article it opened with this statement “I’m increasingly convinced we have a more engaged set of adults who care about kids today than at any time since I began my career in 1979″.

    I wouldn’t agree to that. In poorer populations this is certainly not true (hispanics do a better job than most other demographics). In richer populations, I think the adult care is coming from nannies and day cares rather than parents. In the richer population, which the author seems to focus on (especially since he’s talking about college students) I think kids are getting their identity from their grades. Parents don’t have the time or understanding to recognize if their children are learning but can understand an A from a C, and they praise the A but chasise the C saying the child can work harder than that.

    With that as the background, I would say college students are still struggling to accept the childhood messages. They are arrogant because they have adopted the facade that the childhood messages convey but they don’t believe the childhood messages are true because they didn’t receive the time and attention they really needed as children. Or to say it another way, the words were there but the presence was not.

  • http://twitter.com/TrevorHamaker Trevor Hamaker

    Thanks for passing along these lists! As a dad of 2 small children, and a youth pastor for many students, I’m sure I will be referring back to these pretty often to make sure I’m communicating the right messages to the right people.

  • Barb

    That’s a great little list–I was listening to a “multi-generational” event that we had at our church and the songs that we teach children all seem to be up-beat and happy. But the songs that the teens prefer and really get into are more like “help me cope with life”, and show that they are in a much different place with much different needs.

  • megan

    Despite being just in my early 30s, maybe I’m just too old and missed out on all these goodies. I never got a trophy for finishing in 9th place and I carried a massive credit load and earned every grade I got (and no, not all of them were an A). I did, however, manage to get in on that wave of anxiety and depression. I had my first major depressive episode at 14. Twenty years later, it’s still a lot of drugs, therapy and daily struggle to stay sane.

    I can assure you that, at no time in my life–adolescence, college or even adulthood–would it have relieved my anxiety or depression to be told, “Well, you’re not that important and you’re going to die anyway.” I don’t doubt some kids need a dose of reality, but honestly my stomach turns a little at the thought of someone reading this article and telling a severely depressed teen or college student that their emotional problems are all because they just think they’re too darn special.

  • http://flavors.me/gflagg Greg Flagg

    One of the comments throws in the ability of social media to further complicate the issue. We are now at a time of not only instant gratification but also almost instantaneous defamation. People post pictures, statements, “pins”, recipes, ideas and all sorts of things on social media hoping for a positive response. If the instant response is positive, they will probably continue to go to that narcissistic well as the “likes” and comments stack up. If the instant response is negative, it becomes tough to avoid or shake off as more comments pour in and the negativity is reinforced. It’s interesting that most kids enter the social media world as they’re making the turn into adolescence. I think because of this the second realities, which are very important to understand, come harder and faster and parents really need to be on their game to address these issues.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marshall-Pease/1324310862 Marshall Pease

    Personally I think we would do better to stick with the first set. The second sounds like what Freud said, that neurosis is the price of civilization. I sure don’t see Jesus in there.

  • Dianne P

    1. Life is sometimes difficult, but you will find and develop your own unique strengths that will guide you.

    2. You are not always in control. Sometimes what you plan turns out just as planned, sometimes what you plan turns out nothing like what you planned. The reality is that we live in a world with all kinds of things going on, some of which we control, and some of which we don’t. A good lesson from one of my favorite children’s book characters – Pete the Cat: “Do we cry? Goodness no…. We just keep on singing our song.”

    3. You are uniquely important, but no more than anyone else, each of whom is uniquely important.

    4. You are going to die. Does anyone need to be told this? Seriously?

    5. Your life is not about you. Ridiculous statement. Of course your life is about you. But it’s about far more than just you. It’s about you and those you love, and those you don’t, and your neighbors, and your teachers, and your pets. It’s about you AND the whole wonderful wide world.

    And I would also say that these are the same lessons that I try to convey to my granddaughters, ages 3 and 5. See above, Pete the Cat.

  • Dianne P

    Oh wow, my first experience with disqus didn’t go so well. The opening got cut off. so here goes…

    I spent a few years as a college nurse. I was amazed at the self-centeredness of the freshmen… though adult-like in appearance, they acted many times like a 2 year old. Then I was amazed at the wisdom, maturity, kindness of the seniors. Much had gone on in those 4 years, and I was privileged to be part of the journey.

    Perhaps a more optimistic re-write of the adolescent messages. See my previous post.

  • chris white

    The first five are okay for children, but they should be
    expanded as the child matures.

    You are loved—so love others.

    You are unique—understand that others are unique as well.

    You have gifts—use them to help others.

    You are safe—take some risks.

    You are valuable—don’t waste your life with bad choices.

    Life is difficult—give your best and rely on those close to you.

    You are not in control (of most things)—make the right choices and have peace
    with the results.

    You are not important (to everyone)—but you are important to the ones who love you.

    You are going to die (some day)—live every day with integrity

    (The world) is not about you—but you can make a difference, make it a positive one.

    Chris White


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