Adult Adulthood Defining when a Child becomes an Adult Redefining Adulthood

It is an undisputed fact that we cannot create a desirable state of development by decree. Yet we persist in our attempt to do so by arbitrarily stating when a child becomes an adult. We have created an immense problem for ourselves by decreeing that a child becomes an adult at the age of 18. Then, having heaped all of the freedoms and responsibilities associated with adulthood upon them, we choose to abandon them. Just what have we actually done? We, and WE in this instance means this misguided society overall, have failed the most vulnerable youth of this nation.

Why should we expect a poorly educated, immature and confused child, who has no training in a technical skill or professional area, isn’t financially capable of living independently, and who isn’t willing to be involved in constructive self-improvement, to be anything more than a problem for society?

Though I have felt that there are serious problems in this area for a very long time, it was a passage in a book I recently read that really made me think about things from a different perspective. From the book, End of The Spear, by Steve Saint: “People can’t take responsibility for things in life that they don’t have authority over. That just doesn’t work. That is why, in North America, as the government has taken more authority away from parents, it has also had to take more and more responsibility for the children. The converse is also true. You can’t have authority over something unless you are also willing to take responsibility for it.”

The few words contained in this very valid quotation have resounding implications for our entire educational process, the way we view accrued age since birth as compared to emotional age, the authority we assume and/or dispense, our confused and mercenary legal system, and at what point we consider a child an adult. Common age alone cannot be relied upon to determine when an individual is mature enough to assume responsibility for themselves. This society has an obligation to itself and to the children within it to ensure that everything possible is being done to prepare each and every child for responsible adulthood before we consider them to be adults.

The state of our society overall and the damage being done to our youth is an indication that something is dreadfully wrong and that it must be addressed immediately. The unwholesome permissiveness that permeates our society is itself a condemnation of leadership at the state and national level. What are some of the areas in which we have gone wrong or that we have shot ourselves in the foot’? Perhaps the best way to illustrate this is by listing these areas in statement and/or question form.

1. Have you ever wondered that if the concept of freedom and democracy was carried to extreme lengths it might actually be comparable to anarchy? Consider, if you will, a definition from Webster’s New World College Dictionary. “Anarchist: A person who promotes anarchy, as by flouting or ignoring rules, duties, or accepted standards of conduct.” Doesn’t this definition apply to the antics of countless Americans, from problem children to corporate executives and members of the U.S. Congress?

2. Just who decided that a child being supported by their parents and attending school should be considered an adult and receive all legal rights, freedoms, and the various restrictionsof adulthood merely because they turned 18 years of age? Does this truly make sense?

3. Doesn’t it seem just a bit ridiculous that a child attending college and being supported by their parents can actually prevent the parents from having access to their grades if they are 18 or more and so desire?

4. Should a child of 16 be allowed to drop out of school merely because they want to? This is a critical juncture at which many youngsters go astray and begin a downward spiral. Isn’t acquiescence to this poor choice of a mere child tantamount to allowing these children to choose a life of poverty and crime?

5. Children are extremely selfish and irresponsible. If they are allowed to make poor choices they will persist in doing so. The age of 18 is merely an arbitrary number that has no true meaning. Should we bestow the further freedom of choice that comes with being an adult upon those who don’t deserve it and clearly aren’t ready for it?

6. Should we as parents, communities, individual states, and as a nation, demand that the authority that has been taken away from parents and teachers be reinstated and even strengthened as required for the good of society overall?

7. Should a young person be legally considered a child until they meet a set of adult guidelines that are designed to indicate their actual fitness to assume a place in the adult world? If they are unable or unwilling to assume responsibility for their actions, do they deserve the adult designation? Would this improve our society?

8. It goes without saying that parents have a distinct responsibility to do their best to raise a child to be a responsible adult member of society. Therefore, should parents that refuse to fulfill this responsibility face some type of prosecution by our legal system?

9. Our legal system, and our law enforcement agencies, are apparently content with the arbitrary age of 18 as that which indicates adulthood. By accepting this questionable figure, have they abdicated a commitment owed to these children, their parents, the educational system, and our society overall?

10. If parents, the Church, and the schools, do their part to create moral and responsible adults, what action should we take against a permissive and out of control society that seems to be diametrically opposed to anything positive that may be accomplished? Is this truly a government of the people or is it just another case of the tail wagging the dog?

11. What do we demand of our state and national elected officials who have let our society get in the shape it’s in by catering to the porno, rap, music, amusement, and entertainment industries and allowing wholesale distribution of both visual and audio filth? This is mind altering material. Children and weak minded adults can be programmed and/or brainwashed to think thoughts and commit acts that they otherwise wouldn’t consider. See item 1. above, concerning “accepted standards of conduct”.

12. We are all aware of the term sexual predator’. These are adults who victimize others to satisfy their sexual urges and desires. They are also likely to have been driven to act by the visual and audio filth mentioned in item 11. above. This is an extremely serious problem, however, overzealous reaction to it has made victims of those who don’t deserve the label.

The following illustration also involves the problem associated with arbitrary adulthood:

My daughter is a school counselor in the Atlanta area. She related a story to me that is heart rending in its unfairness and ridiculous nature. A boy who lived in the Tampa, Florida area, had an ongoing boyfriend/girlfriend relationship with a girl that was younger than he. The relationship developed into a sexual one of mutual consent and the mother of the girl became aware of it. She disapproved of the relationship, and the boy, but the relationship continued.

These youngsters had talked of marriage after both of them finished high school. When the boy turned 18 the relationship was still ongoing by mutual consent. However, when the mother of the girl discovered the boy was 18 she went to the police and charged the boy with statutory rape. This drastic action by the mother forced the girl to agree to end the relationship. The boy ended up on the sexual predator list in Georgia where he now lives with his current girl friend. He was recently forced to move because he lived too close to a school bus stop.

13. Each and every parent and thinking individual really needs to give the problems highlighted here some deep thought. We have turned countless millions of emotionally immature and childlike creatures loose on society with the illogical title of ADULT. The problems this has created are far reaching and extremely troubling. The reasons for the problems are even more troubling. It will take more than a whistling in the dark, pollyanna attitude, to remedy this. This is about real life and will take real life based solutions to remedy it. This isn’t a stage play that we can critique, discuss and then dismiss as an inane exercise in futility. This is our society going to the dogs and it demands a solution.

This sub-title was created by me in order to explain and highlight the very real problems associated with the haphazard way in which we define adulthood. If you submit an article that doesn’t address this problem, then it really doesn’t belong here. Those parents who are fortunate enough to have unusually mature and responsible children are extremely lucky. However, this is not meant to be a forum which invites praise of unusual children by proud parents.