Friday, February 11, 2005

Parents or Peers -- That is the Question

I am reading a book which should be read by every parent who still has children at home. The book is called: Hold On To Your Kids, why Parents Matter by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté. Some background information on the development of the book, written by my friend Paul Miniato, may be found here.

I cannot overstate the importance of this book. I also do not want to spoil it for you or to oversimplify its message. I will try to give you at least a rudimentary idea as to why it is so important.

The book revolves around whether a child should properly 'attach' to his parents or to his peers. Every working parent knows how difficult it is to remain relevant to their children, who often spend more time interacting with their peers in daycare or at school, than they do with their parents at home. Factor in additional hours spent by the children 'hanging out' with their friends, and the parents' influence diminishes accordingly.

The authors maintain that it is critical that parents not abdicate caregiving and nurturing responsibilities to the peer group of their children. What children need to know about life is best gleaned from their parents, not from their friends. When children need comfort and succor, it is better that they receive it from their parents than to get it from their friends. Parents add a needed dimension to the attachment with their children... experience. They can offer not only comfort, but advice based on experience -- their own and that of others as discovered in conversations, books, and via other ways of sharing information. Additionally, parents have a strong inborn need to direct their children in ways which will be best for the child over a lifetime, not based on the expediency of the moment.

Children who attach to their peers become part of a pack. Belonging to the group means pleasing the others in the group. That can mean acting, dressing, doing things in a way which responsible parents would never encourage. Although some of the things done by children to be accepted as part of a peer group may be benign in isolation, they are less so if considered as steps of a larger incremental catering to a mob, becoming part of the gang.

I don't want to say much more. Read the book yourself. As a father of a twelve year old boy, I am very glad to have been directed towards this book. Thanks, Paul.

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