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Guest Post: Dr. Tim Elmore on Artificial Maturity

Dr. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker

Note from Meg: Today’s post is a guest entry from my friend, Dr. Tim Elmore.  Keep an eye on Dr. Elmore’s blog and later this week you’ll see my guest post regarding the 30-day Challenge.



They grow up so fast, don’t they? “My seven-year-old taught me how to download music.” “My fifth grader wants a tattoo.” But how about this perspective? “My college grad wants me to call his boss.” “My 30-year old won’t move out of the house.” The pervasive lamenting about how kids today seem older at an earlier age is being counteracted with the fact that they don’t seem to want (or aren’t able) to grow up.

Adolescence is expanding in both directions—starting earlier and ending later. Children desire to enter it earlier, having been exposed to teen websites, social media, reality TV, explicit movies and unlimited time on screens that beckon them into the teen mentality. Their world is often unattached to the adult world. At the same time, young adults linger in adolescence long into their twenties and sometimes thirties. Adolescence is no longer a doorway into adulthood. It is a season of life.

Artificial maturity is the idea that children are consuming such a large amount of information every day that they think they are mature, fostering over-confidence and often arrogance among them. In reality, they lack the self-awareness, real life experience and emotional maturity that allow them to cope with the world around them.

The following is an excerpt from my new book, Artificial Maturity: Helping Kids Meet the Challenge of Becoming Authentic Adults. It is a sequel to Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future, and is literally a solution book for the challenges we face as we teach, lead and raise kids. I write to pinpoint the reasons kids can’t seem to grow up, and every chapter provides ideas to meet the challenge … ideas that have come from our work with kids all over the world. I hope you find it informative and useful.

(The following is an excerpt)

Please Say No

I just finished doing some staff training with a great group of leaders who serve in a non-profit organization. They work with young adult volunteers between 17 and 25 years old.

During our discussion, one of the staff members told me that her roommate is an elementary school teacher who is finishing her training as an educator. What she told me next was incredible. She said those teachers were instructed to never say “no” to the children. The school felt the word “no” was damaging. Instead, the teachers were to respond to poor behavior by saying: “I would prefer that you do this instead.”

I am guessing the reasoning behind such guidance is they don’t want to curb those kids’ creativity and personal expression. They don’t want to create a negative environment for them. In fact, in many schools, teachers are not only prevented from saying “no,” administrators have asked them not to use red ink when grading papers. They say it comes across too judgmental and harsh. While I recognize the need for positive environments, I wonder if we’ve gone too far.

I can’t help but think what a disservice this is to those young students. The world they will soon enter will certainly say “no” to them. In fact, many of the “no’s” they’ll hear are not negative at all. They are positive, productive words of counsel filled with more wisdom than those kids possess at the time.

I was like any other kid growing up. I hated hearing the word “no.” Since becoming an adult, however, I have learned the benefits of that word:

  • Hearing the word “no” actually may force me toward a better alternative.
  • Hearing the word “no” may save me from harm that I am prone to inflict on myself if I get my own way all the time.
  • Hearing the word “no” actually prepares me for the real world, which often uses this word.
  • Hearing the word “no” may build discipline inside of me that I would never develop if I simply heard the word “yes.”
  • Hearing the word “no” fosters creativity inside of me, as I must look for other solutions than the easy one I came up with the first time.

This generation of adults is determined to build positive self-esteem in kids today. I applaud that goal. I am concerned, however, with the number of 20-somethings I meet who are ill-prepared for the marketplace because of the unreal world they experienced as a child. It can even cause many of them to become clinically depressed, as noted in the book, Quarterlife Crisis.

When spoken in the right spirit—the word “no” is marvelously helpful. Children need to hear it. Athletes need to hear it. Students need to hear it. Young employees need to hear it. It makes them stronger. In fact, it might just get a young person to the goal they wish for—more efficiently.

Caring adults must try to see into the future. In the long-range scheme of things, will a constant series of “yes” responses prepare Generation Y for the real world? Or, can we lay down some helpful tracks for them by saying “no?” The further into the future we can see, the more wisely we will lead our children and the more likely we are to say “no.”

Are you seeing artificial maturity in your children? What are you doing to move them to authentic maturity?

– Dr. Tim Elmore, President of Growing Leader

We’re giving away a copy of Artificial Maturity here on the blog! Please note the giveaway is now closed. We will announce a winner shortly…

Your name will be entered for a chance to win when you leave a comment on this post. For additional entries, “share” this blog post on Facebook or Twitter, just please leave a note here in the comments section letting us know.  

Good luck!


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