The Follies of a Youth-Obsessed Culture
Our society is obsessed with youth. It’s only natural that we all want to look young, feel young, and be perceived as “hip.” That’s nothing new. But our obsession with youth has now led us to bend our institutions, our policies, and even science, toward the feelings, desires and opinions of young people.
Shifting Attitudes About Children
Parenting expert John Rosemond has long been the voice in the wilderness, warning parents of the dangers of acting more like their kids’ buddies than loving authority figures. In their book, Boundaries with Kids, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend remind parents that their goal is to train children to become responsible adults. They explain that children are “little people who are out of control of themselves and attempting to control everyone around them.”
Since the beginning of time, human beings have generally recognized this reality. So the traditional model was for the adults of the world to teach children to live as productive members of a society that involves boundaries and limitations. The new model is for society to bend and twist itself so that young people will not encounter boundaries or limitations.
What we all need to understand is that this new model is a cruel and dangerous facade. It not only threatens the future well-being of our society; it threatens the well-being of the very young people we are so desperate to please and protect.
“Sheltering” Kids From Reality
Every adult knows that standards, evaluations and competition are part of life. Our skills and our performance will be measured, and the measurements will matter. So when we tell a child’s tee-ball team that both teams “won” the game, are we really helping them?
We may think we are protecting them from feeling inadequate. What we are really doing is ensuring that they will be inadequate to deal with disappointment, to rejoice in another’s success, to persevere toward the next competition, and to find joy in the process.
School officials and advocacy groups — even some parents — think they are liberating young children by telling them they are not constrained by their biological gender. This is why many schools are bringing “transgender” activists into kindergarten classes. The message they teach is that when it comes to gender, “anyone can be anything.”
I wonder what these 5-year-olds will say a decade later, when they are old enough to understand what DNA is. Before their brains have even fully developed, some will buy into the fairy tale and undergo hormone therapy and surgery to “become” their preferred gender. What will they say when they learn the truth: that a doctor or parent didn’t “decide” their gender, but that their very DNA declares it?
College officials enact detailed policies to shield students from being exposed to ideas that might offend them. They may think they are creating a “safe,” peaceful environment. What they are really doing is injecting young citizens into a petri dish of the very germs that grow into tyranny and oppression. When we give budding adults the impression that they have a right to not be offended, we deny them training they really need: to hear and evaluate new ideas, to engage in respectful dialogue, and to calmly and respectfully dissent when they disagree.
Even our churches now pander to the opinions and desires of the young. Many have traded their commitment to Scripture for fuller pews and a robust, youthful membership. Many have chosen to bend with the winds of time when it comes to teaching about marriage, sexual morality, the sanctity of human life, and the keeping of the Sabbath, among other things.
This is, perhaps, the saddest aspect of our increasingly youth-driven society. Because the Church should be unwilling to bend. Her roots are deep enough and strong enough to hold her steady in any storm of cultural change.
What Young People Really Need
What our young people really need from us is truth. Truth from parents: “You are deeply loved, but the world does not revolve around you.” Truth from coaches: “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Work hard, do your best, and enjoy the game.” Truth from schools: “We live in a world made of facts — some facts we can change, but others we cannot.” And most of all, truth from the Church: “There is a God, and you are not him.”
Yes, America’s youth is her future. That’s exactly why it’s time to stop coddling and kowtowing to our young people. It’s time for some tough, truthful love. The fact of the matter is, love that isn’t tough and truthful isn’t really love at all.