Friday, April 22, 2005

Turning kids into adults...

I wrote a post recently in which I essentially stated that whether or not one has well-behaved children is not dependent on whether one has compliant children or strong-willed children. The comments on the post quickly ran down the path of whether or not spanking was a valid form of discipline - something that, while a valid topic for discussion, was completely tangential to the subject of my post. What is the objective of discipline? Order? Stability? Strict adherence to rules? Well, at least for our household, the objective of discipline is to teach our children how to eventually become responsible adults. Their bodies are physically transforming from that of a child to an adult automatically; but what of the mental and spiritual aspects of their transformation? Is that automatic? In our Narcissistically Pragmatic, self-sufficiently prosperous culture, we seem to thrive on the pleasure and gratification of the self. Responsibility goes out the door to make room for personal rights. How can this help me, now? becomes our main concern. Is it any wonder, then, that kids have trouble transitioning from the carefree realm of childhood into the responsibility laden mire of adulthood? Is it any wonder that some adults reject the responsibility they must / should carry and return to a life of self-indulgence? Will we all eventually become Twixters? Perpetually adolescent? (HT: True Grit) Or will we, as parents and adults, put forth the effort to discipline? To instruct, teach, guide, mentor, and... love? Hugh Hewitt's book, In, But Not Of, is written primarily to those between the ages of 18 and 30, those most likely to influence the world in the near future. The chapters of the book are, in reality, pithy expressions of advice - advice on how young Christian men and women can effect cultural change in society. Discipline and responsibility. Indeed, consider some of the chapter titles (with my comments in parentheses): Assemble the Right Credentials (your choice of university and major), Learn How You Got Here (respect for history), Tattoos: Don't (ouch)*, A Message About Visa/MasterCard: Don't (ouch again), Know What You Don't Know, Choose a Church and Join It - Genuinely, and Avoid Thrill Seeking (seeking instant gratification). Hugh's advice is timely, but is mainly for those either currently in or recently graduated from university. What about those preparing for adulthood? Is it really practical to expect 18 - 22 year-olds to act, well... responsible? In an encouraging post over at Mere Comments, we read about a private college in Virginia by the name of Patrick Henry College (PHC). Kenneth Tanner writes, in The Remarkable Patrick Henry College, of a letter from Anthony Esolena, contributing editor to Touchstone Magazine (parent to Mere Comments) regarding a speaking engagement he had at PHC. Esolena writes,
The first time I spoke there, two years ago, I was stunned to meet young men and women who—who were young men and women. I am not stretching the truth; go to Purcellville and see it for yourselves if you doubt it;... The young men stand tall and look you in the eye—they don’t skulk, they don’t scowl and squirm uncomfortably in the back chairs as they listen to yet another analysis of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, or one of the healthier poems of Sylvia Plath. They’re frank and generous and respectful, but they hold their own in an argument, and they are eager to engage you in those. They are comfortable in their skins; they wear their manhood easily. And the young ladies are beautiful. They don’t wither away in class, far from it; but they wear skirts, they are modest in their voices and their smiles, they clearly admire the young men and are esteemed in turn; they are like creatures from a faraway planet, one sweeter and saner than ours. Two years ago I spoke to them about medieval Catholic drama. They are evangelicals, half of them majors in Government, the rest, majors in Liberal Arts. They kept me and my wife in that room for nearly three hours after the talk was over. “Doctor Esolen, what you say about the habits of everyday life—to what extent is it like what Jean Pierre de Coussade calls ‘the sacrament of the present moment’?” “Doctor Esolen, do you see any connections between the bodiliness of this drama and the theology of Aleksandr Schmemann?” “Doctor Esolen, you have spoken a great deal about our recovery of a sense of beauty, but don’t you think that artists can also use the grotesque as a means of bringing people to the truth?” “You’ve suggested to us that Christians need to reclaim the Renaissance as our heritage, yet we are told that that was an age of the worship of man for his own sake. To what extent is the art of that period ours to reclaim?” And on and on, until nearly midnight.
Does the fact that ninety percent of the students at PHC were homeschooled have anything to do with their demeanor? Possibly. Yet I think that the foundation of the maturity displayed by these students lies in the fact that they were properly disciplined prior to their arrival at PHC, regardless of whether or not that discipline came about through home schooling. Should we be viewing the teenage years, therefore, as a time of playful frivolity, expecting aberrant behavior from adolescent human beings who, by their very nature, are unwilling and incapable of expressing maturity? Or should we view the teenage years as a time of transition - from that of a child into that of an adult? A time that, despite its inherent playfulness, is filled with lessons of responsibility? Can we truly expect our children to accomplish such a task? Yes, we can.
Additional reading: From Boy to Man--The Marks of Manhood, Part One - Al Mohler From Boy to Man--The Marks of Manhood, Part Two - Al Mohler Perpetual Adolescence - Melinda Penner Wimps and Barbarians: the Sons of Murphy Brown - Terrence O. Moore Heather's Compromise: How Young Women Make Their Way in a World of Wimps and Barbarians - Terrence O. Moore * Interestingly enough, according to Hugh Hewitt, the two page chapter on Tattoos received the most criticism of any in the book, primarily from student-age readers.


Paul said...

I think you miss one important goal, which is to help the child function today, as well as in the future. Dealing with others is difficult at times, and while each challenge is an opportunity to inform their progress toward adulthood, it is also important to teach them how to cope with the challenges they face today. I don't teach my kids to say "Back away!" when someone is irritating them because that's a useful adult skill (though it's a good foundation to build on)!

Rusty said...

Yes, Paul, I would agree.

ilona said...

From my perspective now, I feel that discipline is not so much a method as cultivating a home and a way of life.

I now feel that the culture is too strong for us to simply hold it at bay, we must have something substantial to live with, and understand that not all homeschooled kids will stay in that rarified atmosphere that is seen at times... but our homes and Churches can become the strong refuge that is the Kingdom of God manifested in our lives.
The difference between Children with a Destiny and Twixters is that one has something to look forward to, meaningfulness, and a tried and true base. That is something that Christianity can give to all, and that is the goal of our homeschooling, to maintain and grow the message.

I think, anyway.