I was having lunch with my youngest son the other day when he announced he had grown up. I guess every father likes to hear that from his 32-year-old son.

But Caleb’s comment piqued my interest. I wanted to know what revelation led him to realize this amazing fact. And he had a question for me, too. “Dad, do you remember when I was a kid and wanted a pony?”

Now, Caleb was the kind of kid who not only wanted a pony, but he also wanted a three-speed bicycle, a Pound Puppy, a Slinky, a drum set (he still complains because we got him a Mickey Mouse saxophone, instead) Legos, comic books, a Nintendo, trading cards, drawing supplies, CDs, a hula hoop and every other toy that appeared on a television commercial. But somehow I didn’t think this was the appropriate time to bring up the other stuff.

“Yes, son. I remember that.”
Caleb continued. “If you had given me a pony back then, I would have jumped around the room yelling, ‘I got a pony! I got a pony!’ I would have told everyone I knew and probably some people I didn’t.”

“But Dad,” he added, “If you gave me a pony today, I would start asking questions like ‘How am I going to afford a barn and a pasture to put this thing in? What about the vet bills? Who’s going to clean out the barn and take care of it? Do you know how much a responsibility it is to take care of a horse?’”

He had a few more thoughts to share. “Same pony, two different responses. When I started thinking this new way, I realized I had become an adult.” My son was right: his words sounded a lot like adult thinking. And as I paid for his lunch, I had to laugh.

The Bible points out the different between a child and an adult. “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me” (1 Cor. 13:11). Out of thinking comes reasoning and out of reasoning comes talking. Our job as parents is to guide our children into adult ways of thinking and reasoning. Adult speech and actions will follow.

One day, a father was trying to teach his young son about the evils of drinking. He thought the best way was to place two glasses in front of him, one filled with water, the other with alcohol. Next, he sat the boy down and explained the power of careful observation. The father then dropped a worm into each glass and let the young man monitor the results.

The son studied both glasses. The worm in the water glass continued to wiggle and swim. But the worm in the glass that contained alcohol began to struggle. Before too many minutes had passed, it curled up before the boy’s eyes, dead.

“All right, son,” asked the father. “What does this show you?”

The young man stared at the two glasses, thinking as hard as he could. “Well, Dad, from what I observed, if you drink alcohol, you won’t get worms.”

I don’t know how the father responded. His son’s reasoning was good, but not great. Like many aspects of parenting, developing correct thinking-reasoning-talking is a process that takes time.

When America was an agricultural society, parents had less trouble guiding their children through the process of gaining adult skills. Today, with the advent of television, video games, the Internet and smart phones, we have a much more difficult time leading our children into adulthood. What used to be natural in our society must now become intentional.

Every child wants to grow up. I believe God has placed that desire within them as part of His “ancient paths” (Jer. 6:16). But we have to take the time to help them define adulthood.

As you guide your children toward maturity, 1 Tim. 4:12 gives five attributes to lay against their lives. This passage says we can recognize adults according to their speech, conduct, love, faithfulness and purity. We can hold up this yardstick against anyone and see how that person measures up to the standards of capable, responsible, self-reliant adulthood.

Do these areas of your child’s life reflect Christ? If not, it may be time to put away childish things. You don’t need a pony or a worm to determine whether or not your child has become an adult. The Word of God covers it all.

By the way, do you know anyone who might want a slightly used pony?

Walker Moore is president of AweStar Ministries in Tulsa, P.O. Box 470265, Tulsa 74147, email walker@awestar/org. Phone 800/AWESTAR (293-7827.