Are Teenagers Pushed Too Hard?

image from flickr - by Dread Pirate Ruth

Tim has posted a thoughtful article at Black Coffee Reflections about teenagers and whether or not they are being presented with a false dream to pursue…

My main problem is the “dream” that we sell our kids. As you know, it goes something like this: If you get good grades, and are balanced with music, sports, theater, you can gain entrance into a good college, and if you do well there, you can land a great job, marry a great person, get a nice home, vacation wherever you want, and do whatever you want to do.” In our Christian homes, we add “and make a commitment to Jesus …” making it the Christian dream.

I don’t know anyone, literally, who does whatever they want to do. Even rock-stars don’t do whatever they want. (Not even if it appears that way on stage).

It’s sad to hear a parent or anyone simply try and add Christ to a faulty set of values.  It’s another case of compartmentalizing our faith into bits and pieces, with Christ being one of the ingredients for success.  Christ cannot be added on to anything.  He is “one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”*

It all starts there, with Christ.  What would happen if throughout the teenage years they are taught that following Christ is the most adventurous and fulfilling dream they can pursue, that it’s the dream closest to the core of their purpose as a human?  We may not see so many rush off to college right after high school, having no clue why.

Perhaps, with a Christ-centric perspective, they would consider a year on the mission field.  Or they would choose a year of experience with someone who is excelling in a field they have a passion for. Or they would take an extended period away and stay in a monastery to learn how work and prayer are connected.

The options are limitless, and most of those types of decisions would result in an education far more valuable than what’s involved in a college degree.  Don’t misunderstand me to say that a college education isn’t valuable.  I believe it is.  However, it must be connected to a much larger picture for a person’s life.  It’s value is greatly diminished when it simply becomes the “next thing you do after high school.”

So I think it’s not that teenagers are pushed too hard.  I think it’s that they are often pushed toward the wrong goals and the wrong dreams.  Why?  Because they are often pressured by their parents toward a life their parents never had: a life without struggle or pain.

As a former youth minister, I heard this theme repeated by parents many times.  I’m not a parent of a teenager, and I recognize that my perspective is limited in that regard. But once I walk in those shoes, I will seek out seasoned, parental “veterans” who have loved and guided their teens toward Christ and the unique dreams he is giving them.

It’s impossible to protect teenagers from pain and struggle, so parents would do well to fight the urge to place such a high value on a pain-free existence.  If instead, they coach them toward life with Christ, they may set them free to establish their own roots and find a deeper life.

*1 Corinthians 8:6

One response to “Are Teenagers Pushed Too Hard?

  1. Hey Jason, glad you enjoyed it.
    It’s a long conversation that many have had so I don’t think I am saying anything original here but I do hope Susan and I, and our like-minded family and friends discourage such flawed mindsets. If our parents generation sent us to SAT prep classes, maybe we’ll be the parents who normalize taking a year/ or season off post high school/college/etc graduation.
    I love the idea of taking time and doing a year long missions trip or studying in a monestarty. Off and on, I’ve looked into opportunities (post-seminary). Not sure what practical (that’s probably the wrong adjective, the idea is not be practical I guess) examples I have yet but still processing.

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