I catch myself thinking in terms of the age or grade of my kids all the time, rather than their maturity. Part of this is because our culture marks so many things by age. As a new mom I was constantly reading the milestones for whatever age my kids were at the time. Age four is Preschool, age five Kindergarten. I’m dreading age 16 and driving.
Maturity Level Vs. Age
But recently I was talking with a friend about some videos she had seen on maturity rather than age. Its true right? Maybe you know of a teen with surprising maturity, or an adult with very low maturity. The videos are on YouTube (I’ll link at the end) by Dr Paul Jenkins at Live on Purpose. I watched two of his videos, which don’t rely on any biblical principles that he mentions. But they sound good.
To summarize, he has divided maturity into three stages. As a person gains more maturity, they also gain more control in their life. A toddler who cannot be told to stay out of the street with the expectation that he will obey, cannot have the freedom of playing in the front yard unless someone is watching. Stage one is characterized by consequences, all behavior is selfishly motivated.
Stage two means that a kid has more maturity and also more control. It is characterized by communication. In other words, a stage two kid, when asked to clear the table, may not want to, but can understand that as a family member he needs to help around the house. If he throws a fit when you ask him to do it, he is having a stage one day, and you can take away some of the control he has over his life. Now he lost screen time, or also has to clean his room.
Stage three is consultation. This means that a person in stage three has almost complete control over their life. This person comes to mom and dad and says ‘what do you think about this situation I am in?’ They ask ‘Do you need help?’ and if they see something that needs to be done, they will do it without being told.
Dr Paul’s approach is that your goal is to say ‘yes,’ BUT you put your own conditions on the ‘yes’ you give. So if your child is asking for screen time for example, you can say ‘yes- when your room is clean and you have done these chores.’ Then if they don’t want to fulfill the conditions you set, you say ‘no problem, let me know if you change your mind.’ One thing I loved about his approach is that he says whoever is bothered by the problem, owns the problem. So when you set a condition for your kids, let it be their problem.
How can I decide if I should use this approach with my kids?
So my next question for myself after watching the videos, is ‘Wow this sounds awesome, I want stage three kids! Should I try this approach?’ so I want to take you through my thought process and how I shared this with my kids. First I asked my self these questions:
- How does this line up with scripture?
- Is there anything in scripture that goes directly against this approach?
- What do I like and dislike about this approach?
How does this line up with scripture? This is such an important question! I am passionate about teaching my kids to follow Christ and I want to make sure that I don’t choose to do something in our house that goes against scripture. So I thought about it and decided to include my kids in this step.
I sat down with C and L and described this video to them, and then asked them ‘Can you guys think of any scriptures that support this?’ This really made them think. Kids are so focused on age as well, and I could tell that they had not thought about maturity before. L came up with the golden rule, which I had not thought of. But it is an excellent example of stage three behavior. A stage three kid is thinking about the people around him, and is measuring his actions against their feelings.
They couldn’t think of any more, but this gave me the chance to tell them the examples that I came up with. The first is Adam and Eve when they leave the Garden of Eden. God tells them that now they will have to work hard for their food. But notice, the change God is making is not that they have to work. It is that they will have to work hard!
Work was always a part of life on this earth. Because of the fall we have to work hard. A stage one kid won’t do any work unless they are forced. In stage two a child will work if a parent tells them to. When a person is in stage three they see the work that needs to be done and they do it.
My own experience in learning maturity
As a teenager I went on a summer mission trip to work on a dormitory for an orphanage. During training the leaders did a session on maturity. They told the story of a team that was sent to do construction in another country. Near the beginning of the trip, one of the three leaders was injured while working, and he needed stitches on his pinky finger. He and his wife (the second of the three leaders) drove into town for his medical care. They decided to stay in town while he healed, leaving the 21 year old leader in charge of the group.
A week later when another leader in the organization came to see how the team was doing. He found that the couple was still staying in town for the man’s pinky finger. The 21 year old girl was making meals for the team, directing the construction during the day, and leading the team in Bible Study each night. Maturity is not contingent on age.
Next week, I will post part two of talking to your kids about maturity. I will talk about more ways that this is supported (or not) by scripture, and some of what is going on in our house as we try this approach out.