The Character Movement

Acting with Wisdom

While I was out at a shopping mall recently, I saw a young mother tell her four-year-old, “You’re acting like a child.” I wanted to say, “Excuse me, your child is a child,” As a father, I can understand her perspective. Parenting would be so much easier if children acted less like children.

Yet, fundamentally, kids are kids. And kids need adults to act as adults in their lives.

I am often amazed at the wonderful insights young people share. Children are growing up in a different world than we ever did and, therefore, have a different perspective. We are able to learn at any age and gain insight. Yet young people’s insight is different than wisdom.

We are able to learn at any age, but wisdom is something that develops later in life.

Wisdom results from experiences on life’s difficult journey. Grandparents have wisdom. Teenagers – though open and eager to learn – do not yet have wisdom. We endanger our children when we expect them to act and think with wisdom while their moral and decision-making processes are still in development. There is a danger when adults abdicate their responsibilities and neglect to share their wisdom: kids can miss great life lessons.

Adults need to be involved in young people’s lives, creating healthy and wise boundaries to keep them safe – whether it is a gate across the stairs for a toddler or clear rules concerning drinking for teenagers. Youth speaker extraordinaire, Mark Scharenbroich, explains it well when he says a parent’s job is to draw the line, a teen’s job is to cross the line and the parent’s job is to not move the line, but to bring the teen back to the right side of it.

Young people need our wisdom. They need to see that we have navigated the ups and downs of life – and so can they. They also need to learn that when we create boundaries, it’s because we love them and know a thing or two about life that they have yet to experience.

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