Children are growing up too fast. Culture hides it and passes it off with, "Oh, well, things have changed since I was a kid!”
Let's get real - things have changed because something is driving the shift.
Kid Culture is the new coin phrase. Young children are trying to live 'teen' lives, parents are allowing it, and children and families are paying the price.
For kids, it's all about creating your image through the consumption of a multitude of stuff. It starts in the toddler years with branded clothing and baby gear and parents worrying about what their babies wear and how they look. Many parents buy into the concept that their babies, toddlers, and children NEED this 'stuff' to fit in, succeed, and be happy and popular.
These days, innocent children are being pushed into a category the marketing world coined "tweens" as young as age eight.
EIGHT. What many parents don't understand is, the whole concept of 'tween' culture (or Kid Culture) bubbled out of the greed of several business executives. Looking at trends in teen spending on things like clothing, accessories, and electronics, the big guys figured they could make a lot more money if they got young kids hooked on consumerism at an earlier age. A little more than a decade ago, we saw the 'tween' market explode for the typical 10-13 year olds. But that wasn't good enough. Companies pushed for younger and younger crowds, sucking up every last penny out of a materialistic society willing to buy anything the world said their kid just had to have. So now, we have girls in second grade bugging Mom for a push-up bikini and skinny jeans. Many young children are consumed with anxiety about what to wear to school and whether it will be 'cool' or acceptable to their peers. This is the new normal for millions of the western world's children. It's normal to need to consume. All the time.
Kids are growing up believing they are what they buy. What kind of adults will these children be? Where are we heading? How can I work to protect my own children from this mentality? We can't change the whole world of marketing and mass media. It's a beast that can't be tamed. But we can choose to block it out, turn our heads, and say no to training our children up to consume.
You can choose to stand apart. As parents, we choose how to raise our children. And as for me and my family, we're trying with all our strength to let them grow up slow.
We're actually working to keep them away from negative influences like popular music, television, kid-marketed movies, commercials, the Mall, kid-stores, and the list goes on. That's right, our family doesn't go to the Mall. (I know...) We are choosing to stand apart so we can foster our family's love of God, nature, and the simple things. We strive to build up their confidence, love of others, and true, soul-gripping sense of self through our faith in Jesus and their connection to family and nature. Contrary to what Pop-culture says, for us, it's about learning how not to consume and through our anti-consumption, growing our own sense of purpose in this crazy world. As they grow, we will teach our children to have the ability to make their own good decisions about products. (Our six-year-old already fully understands the difference between a corporate villain and a corporate hero). They will be taught what marketing is and how advertisers use tactics to manipulate people to consume. It's vital that parents educate their children in this way.
Our family hasn't arrived. This is a journey - but the destination is to become less like society. We are called to stand apart in this crazy world and we're humbly trying to figure out just HOW this is done. We can't have all the answers but I know one thing for sure -
We need to let children be children. I believe we are called to first shelter them from the corrupt chaos which is Pop-culture consumption. And of course, there will come a day when they will grow older and have to flex those strengthened muscles of self-discipline and discernment. They'll have to decide how to operate in this consumer-driven jungle. But gosh, at age eight let's just let them kick pebbles around the creek....
How do you feel about the way our culture defines childhood and the tween years? Are kids growing up too fast? And if so, how do you help your children cling to authentic childhood?
"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what He wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you."Romans 12: 1-2 (The Message)