How to Avoid the Artificial Maturity Trap

Maturity
Children today are overexposed to information far earlier than they are ready and underexposed to real-life experiences far later than they are ready producing a kind of artificial maturity. Tim Elmore writes in Artificial Maturity, that “it looks so real because kids know so much, but it’s virtual because they have experienced so little.” He continues:
Today, because information is so prevalent, our kids assume they have [experiential knowledge] when they only have [informational knowledge]. With an abundance of knowledge, their confidence can soar, but it’s based on a virtual foundation. Without experience, it’s easier for knowledge to produce judgmental attitudes, bullying, and arrogance.
With all of this information kids think they are mature. And unfortunately, we do too. That’s part of the problem. How often have we seen a “smart” child and thought, “They are sure mature for their age.” Intelligence and maturity are not the same thing. (Of course, we see this same issue in “adults” too.) Elmore writes, “Except in rare cases, their knowledge has only entertained them. It has not produced anything real.”

Leadership
Elmore provides reasons for why artificial maturity has become so widespread, but his real focus is what we can do about it. To transform artificial maturity into authentic maturity, we must concentrate on four areas says Elmore:

Emotional Intelligence. Mature, healthy people manage their emotions. This means developing self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.

Character and a Sense of Ethics. Mature, healthy people live by a set of values and principles. They don’t merely react to what is going on around them. They have self-discipline, emotional security, core values, and a clear sense of identity.

Strength Discovery. Mature, healthy people who become the best versions of themselves are one’s who’ve stopped trying to do everything and focused on what they do very well. This means developing their natural talents and gifts, knowledge base, heartfelt passions, and acquired skills.

Leadership Perspective. Mature, healthy people live lives that don’t just revolve around themselves. They invest their lives in something beyond themselves. A leadership perspective involves a personal vision, responsibility, compassion, and initiative.

Developing maturity is centered on four key areas:
  • Provide autonomy and responsibility simultaneously
  • Provide information and accountability simultaneously
  • Provide experiences to accompany teens' technology-savvy lifestyles
  • Provide community-service opportunities to balance self-service time
In addition, Elmore believes there are four debts we owe our kids: clarity (fosters focused direction), transparency (fosters validation and vulnerability), consistency (fosters trust and assurance), and boundaries (fosters security).

There is far too much information in this book to cover it here, but here are a few more ideas from Elmore:

• Start inserting age-appropriate responsibility into your children’s lives right away. Avoid indulging and overprotecting them and creating hyperinflated egos. We are doing a disservice to young people if we remove their chance to fail.

• Enable them to take control of their lives; to boss their calendars. Hold them accountable and responsible for the choices they’ve made and don’t bail them out. Let them see that failure isn’t final and poor judgment is not necessarily poor character.

• Connect them to people (adults) outside their peer group. This generation doesn’t need you for information (they can get that without you), but they do need you for interpretation. They need mentors to help them make sense of the information and the world around them.

• Communicate that there is meaning even in the small, mundane tasks. Give them a sense of the big picture and how all the little things they do fit into the big picture of history, or of the organization, or of their community.

Authentic maturity is a leadership issue. Elmore concludes, “Our kids have what it takes inside of them, if we’ll just take them seriously and equip them for the future. As they enter adolescence, we must begin to treat them as young adults and train them to be both autonomous and responsible. Then, I dare you to stand back and watch them amaze you.”

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Artificial Maturity is an excellent book to help us understand maturity—what it is and how it is developed. Not only is it helpful for developing it in children but the issues raised are good to reflect on for our own development.

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Of Related Interest:
  5 Leadership Lessons: Tim Elmore’s Generation iY
  Are You Mature?
  Cause and Effect
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