Idol Chatter

Saturday night at 9, the National Geographic Channel’s “Taboo” series presents a look at “Rites of Passage” from around the world. Tune in, TiVo it, or have someone record it. Here’s why:

This show visits different cultures from around the world—and one in America—showing footage of life transitions marked by more than just a Hallmark card. In the American Midwest, an Apache tribe maintains a grueling four-day ordeal to usher young girls into womanhood. In South Africa, boys become men by going through the traditional Xhosa initiation process which begins with a brutal circumcision.

If your kids watch, it may give a new perspective on teen challenges such as “mowing the lawn,” “cleaning up your room,” “keeping the family car clean and fueled after you use it,” and, oh yes, the big one: “Do you homework and study well for tests.” Not so bad after all, huh?

And the brave watcher might stop and question whether these painful taboos are actually less painful—in the long run—than the long-term consequences of America’s extended adolescence, with adults “working out their issues” well into adulthood. As author and family expert Dr. Chapman Clark has said: Today’s adults want to look like kids, crank their high school “hits,” and passionately cheer on the team. Today’s adolescents see these adults aspiring to live like teenagers, and subsequently they see no reason to make the difficult journey to adulthood.

“In contemporary society, graduate school is often a place to ‘find oneself,’” Clark says “Numerous studies attempt to understand the historically unheard of phenomenon of 30-somethings who have Ph.D.s living at home or waiting tables who have yet to ‘discover’ what they want to do.”

If you watch, fight the temptation to just observe it like an animal kingdom show–as in “watch as Fred puts his hand in the mouth of the alligator.” We need a good discussion about how to help our kids make a clearer transition into adulthood, taking personal responsibility for everything they do. And maybe it’s time some of us did the same.

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