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How Old Is Old Enough?

by Ronald A. Rowe | November 25th, 2009 | Elementary, Helpful Hints

bday cupcakeOne of the many daunting challenges of parenting is knowing when a child is old enough to [fill in the blank]. Dating, riding the bus, walking to the store alone, seeing a PG movie, having a sleepover, playing sports… there seems no end to the list of topics that need a parental judgment call on age restrictions.

Kids want what other kids have, and they want to do what other kids do. Kindergarteners want cell phones – even if they never go anywhere without their parents and they have no one else to call. If little Johnny’s parents let him see “Slasher Murder Death Movie II”, Jimmy wants to see it, too.

Each child is different, making the decisions that much harder. There is no rock solid guideline about the appropriate age for a given activity or responsibility. A latchkey kid might have a justifiable reason to get a cell phone years before his neighbor with a stay at home mom.

Physical, intellectual, and emotional maturity all play a part in making the age appropriate decision. A frail, sickly child probably shouldn’t play football at 5 years old, but a heartier boy might do just fine at that age.

For families with more than one child, the age limits don’t even translate well from one child to the next. The junior child generally gets to do everything at a younger age than his or her older counterpart. But again there is no hard and fast rule. Temperament, maturity, and situation all come into the mix for each of these decisions.

Our church currently is wrestling with a related question. At what age should they move up from children’s church to the main service? Keeping kids separated too long puts a strain on resources and downplays the child’s ability to learn. On the other hand, moving a child too early simply teaches them how to daydream for 45 minutes while ignoring the sermon.

Each child is different, each situation is different. If only each one came with a customized instruction manual.

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