UNITED STATES—I’ve always asked myself the question at times, at what age should a child begin to take on adult responsibilities? Should it be as soon as they become a teenager, mid-teens, at the age of 18 or perhaps when they turn 21? It has been argued that starting the notion of responsibilities at an early age is a good thing because it shows a level of maturity and teaches the importance of being able to sustain a life without the assistance of others.
However, we have not yet talked about the issue of what transpires, if you give responsibilities to someone at such an early age that they are unable to handle the pressure. Think about what I’m saying before you deliver your two cents. I mean I vividly recall at the age of 10 being responsible for ensuring my younger brother and younger sister got to school without anything happening. In addition, I was always responsible for making sure they got up each morning to prepare for school.
To be honest it was a responsibility that stuck with me until I left for college. It was almost like I became a second parent for my siblings when my mother was unable to do so because she was at work. Did I like the idea of being responsible for them? Not in a million years, but as I got older I respected it because it taught me how to care for others.
The reason this issue is of such concern to me is I question rather parents are placing too much or not enough responsibilities on their kids as they age. I mean I started working at the age of 14, but I was not forced to pay utilities until I started college. Before then I would ensure I paid for my lunch, miscellaneous toiletries, groceries, household items and my clothing. Nowadays, I’m seeing situations where the parent does not work (not because they are unable to), and it places the teen or young adult in a situation where they are forced to tackle more household responsibilities than I can imagine.
I mean I can see paying maybe one utility bill, but paying several, yeah that’s a bit much. I can understand the young adult doing so to help out the family in a time of need, but to be doing so because the parent wants to indulge in other things is just not appropriate in my personal opinion. I don’t think it’s fair to place that level of potential stress and accountability on someone so young who might not have the mental capacity to process the drawbacks of not being able to fulfill those responsibilities.
We already see it day in and day night, where children are forced to raise their siblings because of an absent parent, or a household that is run by a single mother. This is not a grip about single parents not being able to control the home, it’s making a point that boundaries need to be set on what a young teen or young adult can accomplish versus what they are expected to accomplish. Sometimes we are setting the bar a bit higher than it should be. In doing so, we are shaping young adults to feel the need to not only please everyone, but to excel and succeed at all costs, even if it means them mentally, physically and emotionally burning out.
Responsibility is vital for all kids (young and old), but it should be delivered in doses based on what the parent feels and the child feels they are capable of achieving. Let me be clear this is not to say someone should be allowed to have a full-time job making $500-$600 every 2 weeks and not contribute a single dime to the household; trust me I know the feeling because I know people like this right now and the parent seems to have no problem with it. That parent should, as they are coddling the child who will never learn the importance of responsibility and how to take care of themselves and their family people.
When one is responsible it brings about a level of warmth and feeling of accomplishment inside, but at the same time, that responsibility should not leave one wanting to tear out their hair and feel that the weight of the world is on their shoulders. That is too much, and as adults, parents and a society we should be aware of their limits. Teach the importance of responsibility, but don’t set the bar so high it’s impossible to reach it to begin with.