Try explaining age to a three-year-old. You may say, “One day you’ll be big like me!” And then he’ll respond, as he stands on a chair, “Look! I’m getting bigger already!”
Teens aren’t any easier. Sure, they get what it means to be 16, but they don’t understand what it takes to be considered an adult.
You, on the other hand, hold the membership card. You’ve lived longer, seen more, and know better. That’s why you are the one who leads the way.
So I’m the boss and what I say goes right?
Not exactly. For the strong-willed kid or the independent preteen the adult card is one best played close to the vest.
That’s because your God-given influence only works on kids who like you and know you like them. Knowledge is power, yes, but when it comes to having a relationship with kids what matters isn’t what you know but who you know.
You want to shape the future of the kid in your life? Get to know him.
Yeah, totally. I do that already.
We’re sure you do! You probably hang out, have fun, chat, listen, and relax–all with the purpose of building a strong, positive relationship. That’s great!
Still, many adults make the mistake of offering up activities, time and coveted advice based on two big assumptions. And those assumptions are usually wrong. Mess this up enough and, while nothing is final, you’ll definitely reduce your potential impact in a big way.
Okay so hit me with those assumptions. What might I be doing wrong?
You might think that kids today are like you today.
We know this kind of sounds absurd when you read it. But give us a chance to explain.
The way you do things, the ideas you come up with, your thoughts or feelings when something happens to you—they all make sense. Or we should say they all make sense to you. Or maybe even they all make sense to you now. You are the way you are and you do the things you do because of the perspective you gained during 22, 35, or 48 years on this earth.
Do you ever find yourself in conflict with a kid because they see things differently than you? Maybe you have trouble understanding your toddler’s nonsensical meltdown or your teenager’s immature decision. Is it possible that you’re looking at life through your own lens and expecting kids–with their underdeveloped lenses—to see what you see?
You might think that kids today are like you were back when.
If we didn’t peg you on the first count, odds are we got you here.
After all, you were a kid once. You survived middle school. You fought with friends, made at least one bad grade, had that totally embarrassing lunchroom incident and lived to tell the tale. When it comes to growing up, you know a thing or two. The problem with this kind of thinking is that a lot has changed since you were a second grader.
Think about it this way: you know how bad that first breakup hurts. But can you imagine being 14 and having your heartache announced to the world through a relationship status update? Man, no way. And it’s the good stuff too, you know? Elementary school kids have access to all types of information and opportunities for learning that some of us are only just now discovering as adults.
Gotcha. What should I do instead?
We’re so glad you asked! Trade in your old assumptions for the following:
Assume that kids today are kids.
This means a two-year-old is going to act like a two-year-old and a 16-year-old is going to think like a 16-year-old. And yes, that’s as scary as it sounds. Those brains are still molding and forming.
They are going to get stuff wrong, have freak outs, and go rogue from time to time. This is normal. That’s not to say it’s okay. Feel free to have standards, communicate expectations and hold those boogers accountable. But chill out when they start acting like kids because they are kids.
Assume that kids today are living today.
That means their world looks very different from the one you grew up in. Thankfully, we have a secret and we are going to share it with you. Come close. Okay, here it is . . . you are living today too!
You can study social media, check out the latest hit movies, books and music, and generally work to understand what it might be like to grow up in the golden age of smartphones and all-the-time internet access.
This is the best news of all, really. You once were a kid. Check. You live today. Check. You have the wisdom of an adult. Check. Your powers combined pack a pretty strong punch.
There are approximately 936 weeks from the time a child is born until that child grows up, graduates, and moves on to whatever’s next. But each week in the life of a child or teenager is unique. Kids are constantly changing. And yet, we believe there is immeasurable potential tucked away in these early years of a person’s life. That’s when we began the journey to reclaim the phrase, “It’s just a phase.” Rather than implying that each phase is a time we must simply endure, we wanted to suggest something different: every phase is a timeframe when you can leverage distinctive opportunities to influence a kid’s future. Find our library of resources here.