A Privilege of Adulthood

What is so great about being a grown up?  Lots of things!

Have you ever heard an adult complain that kids have it great and don’t even appreciate it? Of course we want our children to have a low-stress life.  It’s a travesty to think of children who themselves have to think too early about “grown up” topics like financial hardship, physical disability, the uncertainties of the future.

Childhood can be a terrific time.  However, so can adulthood!  I worry that kids are buying in to the idea that it is better to be a kid than a grown up.

Recently I led a workshop about respect.  We were talking about the ways to address adults and one of the fathers in the room noted how meaningful it was to return from college and be invited by his friends’ parents to address them by their first names.  “It was really a special privilege and made me glad to become an adult.”

In an effort to be less authoritarian than our parents’ generation and the ones before, many adults give this privilege to children.  “You can call me Nancy!” is actually a way of making the adult feel younger, and more comfortable, and has very little to do with the child.  Kids can call adults Mrs. Jones just as easily as “Nancy” and this will help them remember who is the adult.

I don’t think that teens look forward to adulthood just to call adults by their first names.  I do think they would look forward to adulthood more if they knew that some respect from younger people would come their way when they reached adult status.

Teaching respectful behavior helps children get along better in the world.  Holding off some privileges until they reach adulthood makes being an adult more of a prize.  Could there be a connection between the privileges we are awarding too early and the recent tendency for people in their twenties to act as if they are still in their teens?  After all, if you get all the perks and none of the pressures, it IS better to be a kid.

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4 thoughts on “A Privilege of Adulthood”

  1. In mentioning the switch, after college, to calling adults by their first names, I think you touched on another benefit of becoming an adult. Not only do these nascent adults gain the respect of a new generation of kids, but they are earning the respect of their elders (who are now, possibly, peers).

  2. That is absolutely true Monica. The privilege of talking to adults as a peer can allow relationships to deepen and change. And there is the added practical benefit of the mentoring and young adult can get when he has always treated someone with respect and now is moving into the job market and workplace.

  3. I recently had this gentle argument with a friend of mine, who is now letting his 8 year-0ld call him by his first name instead of dad, I said, “but if you do that there is sense to her that you are her friend, I think you are setting yourself up a little, a friend will tell you what you want to hear, a parent needs to tell you what you need to hear. It may get a little confusing for her, when you aren’t acting like a friend.” He fully disagrees, and thinks this is more of a way of staying on the same level, and not asking her to cow tow to his authority..in his mind giving her more confidence. We’ll see how that works out. best wishes,clea

  4. I agree with you Clea. I think that this is really understandable, but a mistake. Parents of our generation often think long and hard about how to shake up the system. We want our children to feel valued and some feel that it is prideful and wrong to assume that we are deserving of power inequality in our relationships with our kids. However, this is a mistake. There is a power inequality, and calling her dad by his first name won’t change that. It can, though, make her feel that she doesn’t need to do as he asks, or follow his rules. With equals we listen to opinions and then go our own way. That is not how it should be for parents and children.

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