rebelling against low expectations

Kidults: Ruining Our Lives With Fun


As an encouragement to our new readers to take advantage of our “past series” on the sidebar, we post the following installment from our series “Rise of the Kidult.” Enjoy.

Moe is a stereotypical American teenager who enjoys multi-annual vacations, has a computer and television in his room, and spends 32+ hours per week playing video games and watching television. Not only that, but nearly all of his income is discretionary, with Dad and Mom underwriting most of his expenses. He shoulders the burden of a job only in order to pay for expensive activities he enjoys and all the while his culture blares the message of a retired Pepsi commercial: “You’re young! Have fun! Drink Pepsi.” He is irresponsible, carefree, and has all the toys he needs to be happy. Life is grand when you’re a stereotypical American teenager.

Fast-forward ten years. Moe is now 27-years-old. He spent over five years to complete college and still owes the institution $15,000. He graduated with a brand-spanking-new degree in cognitive science but is working as a waiter in a local restaurant and says he’s just getting started on finding the career he wants. He’s had three addresses in the past five years and though he’s two years away from the average age for first marriage he sees marriage as a decidedly post-30 milestone. He spends more than the average person on clothes, going to/renting movies, computers and software (including games), and eating out. A perceptive observer might conclude that Moe is either having trouble or just plain doesn’t want to grow up.

Why? Well, let’s ask Matt Swann, a real person, and another 27-year-old. Matt is very similar to Moe, he spent 6 1/2 years to complete college, received a degree in cognitive science, works as a waiter in Atlanta, Georgia, and is just getting started finding the career he wants. When interviewed for a TIME Magazine article entitled, “Meet The Twixter’s” and asked if he was looking forward to marriage, family, and owning a home, Matt replied: “I don’t ever want a lawn. I do not want to be a parent. I mean, why would I? There’s so much fun to be had while you’re young.”

The reason for Matt’s predicament is found in that last sentence: There’s so much fun to be had while you’re young. It seems as if that old Pepsi Commercial had a great effect on Matt’s pubescent mind. Whatever other feelings he has towards adult responsibility we at least know this: he doesn’t think it’s very fun.

My questions are these: Who said life was about having fun? Who said adolescence was about having fun? Who said adultescence was about having fun? Does the truth of the Bible teach it or does the lying tongue of our culture spread it? Did spending his teen years having fun prepare Matt for the rest of his life? And since the answer is obviously “no,” could it be that “just having fun” is a distraction from what’s supposed to be going on? Could it be that “just having fun” is a hindrance to the character and competence that should be developing while we’re still young?

At the root of many of our culture’s problems, including our generation’s problem with growing up is this idea of fun. You can’t get away from it. It’s hammered into our heads through by every kind of media; it’s even enforced by “understanding” and respectable adults who have also bought into the lies of our culture. We live like the Nike slogan: Just Do It. We have tons of fun while we’re young.

Granted, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying yourself, but if it detracts from your development and preparation for the future it’s gone too far. Dr. Mel Levine, author of “Ready or Not, Here Life Comes,” advises parents: “Don’t overindulge kids with spectacular vacations, opulent material possessions and relentless tides of programmed activities after school and during the summers. Avoid creating hyper inflated egos living within protected spheres that will burst in early stages of a career when supervisors won’t care how gorgeous your kids are or what “cool dudes” they’ve become or what great ballplayers they were in high school.”

Dr. Levine’s message is clear: overindulgence in “just having fun” will not prepare you for life. You will reap no benefit from making childhood an impossible act to follow. Rather, you will find adult responsibility dull and unappealing. But guess what? Adult responsibility was originally intended to make up 70% of your life! What a waste to ruin the largest portion of your existence on earth by buzzing yourself numb during childhood!

If only we knew how our culture was shortchanging us by telling us to spend our teenage years just having fun! If only we knew the joys of committed marriage, of fatherhood & motherhood, of faithful stewardship and eventual leadership that are being gutted by the miscellaneous notion that life is about fun.

Here are a few practical steps to “save” the joys of adulthood:

1) Stop viewing your teenage years as a time to goof off before you have to settle down and be responsible. Putting off responsibility does not prepare you for responsibility. The teen years offer the best time of preparation you’ll every have. No other time in your life will allow you such undistracted preparation. No other time in your life is as pivotal to what you will become as these years.

2) Don’t separate what you are now from what you will become. If you hope to be a stay-at-home mom someday but at age sixteen can’t stand sitting around at home for two days straight then there’s a problem! If you won’t be able to play 20+ hours of video games per week after you’re married, don’t play that much now. Don’t expect extreme transitions to be made smoothly. Your best chance is to become now what you want to be then.

3) Begin establishing deadlines for yourself, assigning yourself responsibilities, and setting priorities. Anything that helps you develop self-discipline and responsibility. These characteristics are markers of maturity.

4) Limit your time spent playing video games, watching television, randomly surfing the web, and listening to music with headphones. All of these activities tend to isolate you and prevent you from the developing the kind of personality and character that makes living with you enjoyable. Work at simply interacting with people more, better yet, organize an activity (besides watching a movie, playing video games, etc.).

For example, my eleven-year-old brother Isaac just organized a 50+ player airsoft war on our property. He got all of these people to show up at the right place and at the right time. He made tons of phone calls to ensure that everyone had a working gun and safety goggles. He divided them all up into to even teams and we had blast last Sunday.

This story tells you that we are not against having fun, but we do believe that our fun should occur in such a way that it prepares us for the rest of life, rather than ruining us for it. Isaac developed organization and leadership skills as well as an ability to work with people that will serve him all his life. And he’s just eleven-years-old! You can do this too.

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About the author

Alex and Brett Harris

are the co-founders of and co-authors of Do Hard Things and Start Here. They have a passion for God and for their generation. Their personal interests include politics, filmmaking, music, and basketball. They are both graduates of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia.


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  • Yes, our family, during homeschool years, once investigated the origin of “fun.” From the old 1828 dictionary, it derived from the word “foolish.” The word “funny” came from “fun.” Just researching it made us realize how ridiculous it was. The Bible talks about how youth will “pay for it” in the end, when they choose to have fun. Even youth is capable of being serious about life. Their lives are as fragile as any age, and could be snuffed out at any moment. Therefore it is important that they live seriously. They can enjoy the normal things in life–the day, the weather, the celebrations, the joy of living, without casting all care to the wind and living with abandon. We were taught in the 50’s by our parents to remember God at every moment and not to get too silly or lose ourselves in the moment of foolishnes.

  • This was an awesome post. I have been coming out of my shell slowly as I enter my highschool years. My life is filled with paper work, but it’s not horrible. I love reading and writing. It’s who I am. With the promise that I’ll become a writer one day I continue to invole with such activities… Sadly, I still have the difficulty talking to others. I’m just too shy (past experiences). My social skills were killed after years of error, and my speech isn’t the greatest tool in the world. Instead I tend to write to communicate.

  • Awesome post, y’all! This is definitely a prevalent issue in our culture, one that we as Christians should definitely watch out for. Thanks for the reminder/challenge to do hard things. 😀

  • I am in total agreement with this. I believe that the teen years are to be spent getting ready for your future.If you don’t now, you will have wastd so many precious years.Great blog!!!

  • Excellent, excellent, e-x-c-e-l-l-e-n-t post! This is such a big issue for me… my worst fear is that when I am all grown up and look back at my teen years, and see I wasted it on just having fun…or that I did not prepare well enough for my future and for life…

    ~Elisabeth Gruber

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you>>> I as a parent needed this wake up call and the encouragement to put these principles into effect. Especially when society is telling my three children its all about material things and fun.

  • Great article! I have always been concerned about the work ethic among teenagers and as a mother of 4 I have always tried to incorporate physical work days into our family. As you say, life is not all about having fun and goofing off. If we constantly indulge our kids we rob them of a very important life lesson.

  • What I really want to know is how do have a balance of resposibilty and fun? I know some teenagers who take being responisble to highly and never relax and our always stressed because they feel like they have to always work work work. But on the other hand I know teens who are always wanting to have fun and don’t take on any responsiblity and are always getting into trouble that way. So how do you have a balance of each side, and is it even necessary to have balance?

  • Your post was right on target! I take a couple of classes at my local community college and what really stunned me the most was how many kids dropped the English class. My english class my easiest class because there are no tests and basically, allyou do is write essays and and submit them along with portfolios, which are also easy. seriously, sometimes i just don’t get peoples definition of hard sometimes.

  • I definitely agree with your post! It is funny (sadly so) that even my parents when I am working hard on school or not spending much time on “fun” (just God/school/family) tell me to relax and have “fun”. What I do not think that they realize is that school is fun for me, I enjoy being responsible I have always wanted to make a difference in this world and I try to work hard to stick to my goals and dreams. I am not a goofing off type of person. I just have a passion for doing my best and becoming all that God created me to be.

    Trying to do Her best for Christ Bailey

  • In my opinion the main reason that when people grow older, they’re not prepared for all the responsibilities & such is because when they were younger (say 13 or 14, my age) they weren’t told to do hardly anything, at school, around the house, etc. when you’re not used to responsibility it doesn’t come easy to handle.

    to prepare teenagers for adulthood, I think that our parents & teachers etc. should give us more responsibilities & more chances to do hard things. because habits such as laziness don’t just all of a sudden stop one day. if you’re taught that responsibilities aren’t necessary when you’re young, that’s exactly what you’re going to believe when you’re an adult.

  • Wow, this article was a great encouragement for me. My parents and other positive influences have really helped me to find the balance of good, clean fun and responsibility. There is definitely is a balance to both, but it seems like today everything is “in the moment.” To stress more on responsibility makes a lot of sense.

    Even more importantly for Christians, taking on responsibility can result in maturity that isn’t possible when you’re sitting around all day “playing video games.”
    God’s Word is full of verses, examples, stories, etc. of people taking responsibility, “carrying their cross and denying themselves” so to speak.
    Perhaps this is the reason for a person doing hard things?

  • I want that I could have employed your website previously since it would have served me an entire great deal. Nicely, much better late than never ever. Retain up the excellent deliver the results.

rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →