In response to my recent post, “Kidults: Choosing To Grow Up,” Lauren, one of our faithful readers, posted the following request:
“Today one of my friends and I were talking after school… At one point he said, “What if I don’t want to grow up? What if I want to stay a kid for the rest of my life? I just want to have fun.” Immediately this made me think of what you wrote on this post. I wasn’t quite sure what to say. What is a simple argument for a comment like that?”
This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked this question. A few weeks ago another one of my readers asked me, “Since the people who read your blog probably already agree with you, how are you going to get the message out to people who really need to hear it? How will you convince those who disagree with you?”
In essence, my readers want to know how to respond to someone who has grown up believing the the old Pepsi commercial, “You’re young! Have fun! Drink Pepsi!” How should you respond to someone who just wants to have fun? How do you encourage someone to pursue adult responsibilities when they don’t want to grow up?
Here’s what I’d do if I were confronted with a statement like the one Lauren’s friend made (i.e. “What if I don’t want to grow up? What if I want to stay a kid for the rest of my life? I just want to have fun.”). I’d be thinking: This guy doesn’t share my views about what’s important.
This is a simple observation but a critical one: this guy values “just having fun.” I value responsibility, maturity, and accomplishment. Polar opposites. This means that for me to say “But responsibility is grand!” will have little to no impact on him because his Gameboy is grander.
He’s like a greedy little caterpillar who “just wants to eat,” and doesn’t want to become a butterfly because he wouldn’t be able eat grass and leaves anymore. If he was a customer and I was a salesman, he wouldn’t want my product because he believes that what he has is better. That is the dilemma.
Alex and I will soon be embarking on a new series that will answer the questions: “How did he get this value system?” and “How do we change it?” We’ll talk about how our peers need the opportunity and the social pressure to change, and about how we can provide that opportunity and pressure.
However, in this post I’d like to share with you a simple strategy for getting his attention: 1) convince him that growing up is inevitable, and 2) get him to think about the consequences of not being ready.
You see, at this point he doesn’t think he needs to grow up. He thinks he could happily spend the rest of his life just the way he is. And you won’t convince him to “grow up” until you convince him that he can’t avoid it. This argument is crucial because once he admits that growing up is inevitable he will be forced to ask himself the question, “Will I be ready?”
Well, it sounds good. How do you do it? It’s actually pretty easy. No one can argue with the fact that every 365 days we’re older by a year. Neither can they argue with the fact that someday they will have to support themselves financially (for some people this won’t happen until Mom and Dad are gone, but it will still happen), and that the cost of living is getting higher and higher.
They most likely hope to get married “someday” and will probably agree that a committed relationship requires greater levels of sacrifice and deeper communication than they’re capable of. And, if you push them, they will probably admit that their future bosses and supervisors won’t care how gorgeous they are or what “cool dudes” they’ve become or what great ballplayers they were in high school.
The point you’re trying to make is that even if they feel like little Peter Pans they don’t live in Neverland! They’re going to grow up. Adult responsibilities are going to come. Therefore, the only question is, “Are they going to be ready?”
The reason I share this approach with you is because too often we put the cart before the horse, so to speak. Allow me to use an analogy to explain this:
Imagine that you’ve gone to see the doctor. You get in the office and he sits you down and says, “You need to start taking these large pills twelve times a day in order to avoid getting smallpox.” [Note: For those who don’t know, smallpox is virtually non-existent today.]
You’d probably think he was crazy! Why would you go to all the trouble to swallow those huge pills when there was barely any possibility that you would contract smallpox and when you’d already had your smallpox vaccination? You might politely take the bottle of pills with you when you left, but you definitely wouldn’t take any.
Now, imagine that instead of just telling you to take the pills the doctor told you that smallpox was spreading rapidly all over the world, that even people who were vaccinated were contracting it, and that unless you took these pills twelve times a day it was almost inevitable that you would contract the disease and die.
Guess what you’d do? You’d take the pills! You’d hug the doctor! You’d probably ask him for a Dixie cup and take one that very minute! You’d make sure you received an adequate supply of the pills and you’d faithfully take them every day.
Do you see the difference that occurred once you knew 1) that the disease was coming, and 2) that your vaccination wouldn’t save you?
The same is true when it comes to your friends. Until you can convince them that growing up is inevitable and that what they’re doing now won’t prepare them for it, they won’t see the need to change anything.
In the comment section, please answer one or more of the following questions:
1.) Do you think young people in general have an unrealistic view of how long they can avoid adult responsibility?
2.) Have you ever had a friend talk about “staying young” and “just having fun?” Did you say anything to them about it? If so, what did you say?
3.) Whether its speaking to your friends about the rebelution, evangelizing, etc. have you fallen into the trap of telling people all about the “pills” and failing to adequately explain the nature and danger of the “disease?”