A few years ago, a Hollywood movie made popular a dangerous “game” for adolescents. Following the example of one of the teen stars, youth across America began lying down in the middle of busy streets while cars sped by on each side – all for the thrill of it!
A newer version of the same game became popular more recently, where teenagers competed to see who could be the last one to cross the railroad tracks before the train came. Again, preteens and teens followed this example of invincibility and several were killed, others seriously injured.
Why do kids engage in such risky behaviors?
Early adolescents and teens experience what educational psychologists call the “personal fable.” This is the condition we observe in kids who believe, “I can do anything! Nothing can hurt me.” It’s a “fable” that they tell themselves about themselves.
Youth have an inadequate understanding of their personal limitations. That’s why teenagers think they can take risks (like driving too fast or drinking too much) without anything bad ever happening to them. It’s a normal attribute of preteens, too, but it can be a dangerous phase in their development.
While some leaders may think that rules and safety precautions “spoil the fun” for preteen ministry…or believe that preteens will only be drawn to events and activities that seem to be free of restrictions…this is simply not the case. Although most won’t admit to it, early adolescents still want to be protected. They want to have fun within secure boundaries.
This is why every ministry to preteens should seriously think through and spell out appropriate limits for kids. Every preteen activity should be well-staffed with responsible, mature adults. It’s time to lead kids, not just give them what we think they want.
Join us on the next two Wednesdays at kidzprez.wordpress.com for parts two and three of this series on risk and preteens.
For more posts about preteen ministry, check out:
- Where does love fit into preteen discipline?
- What can I do to bring order to preteen chaos?
- How do you control preteens?
- What’s priority #1 for preteen ministry?
- No bribes? What then?