Importance of Child Development: Are Friends Essential? Part 1 | Teaching Self-Government

Importance of Child Development: Are Friends Essential? Part 1

Can You Have Too Little Friend Time?

“I was home-schooled growing up. My mom hardly ever let us have friends over. It wasn't a priority for her. We didn't live in a neighborhood, because my father was a farmer and we lived on the farm. I felt very frustrated about that most of the time. I grew up feeling we were "too good" to hang out with other "public school kids." I ended up feeling very self-conscious around others my age for much of my younger life, though I'm fine in social situations now.

Can you have too little friend time? Does it change with the phase/age?”

Nicholeen's Answer:

This is a very interesting story. I wonder a few things about it.

First, when did you start to notice that you didn't get enough friend time? Was it when you were put in social situations like church or dance class, and other children would talk about their experiences, and you felt left out? Or, did you sit down one day and analyze your own situation and somehow compare it with other families' situations and then decide you needed something else? A person doesn't usually decide they need something else unless they are comparing themselves with others. If you were always raised eating rice and beans, you would never want chocolate cake unless you saw someone else eating chocolate cake. In short, maybe it wasn't what your parents didn't do for you socially as much as what you noticed other people were doing socially. However, either way, the topic needs to be taken into consideration while raising children. 

Personally, I have made a big effort to make sure my children understand why our family has chosen to do things a bit differently, and that they all buy into it. I want them to feel secure with our family culture choices. Each week in mentor meetings we discuss our child's friend needs and relationships with them.  I share principles for making a strong family culture in detail in the 10 Step Implementation Course. 

In fact, this week we decided that our daughter should come up to the family camping trip late with dad so that she could attend a friend's birthday party. Normally, we would pick the family time over the party, but we felt in this case that our 13 year old daughter needed to nurture a relationship with the friend and that it would be healthy for her to attend the party. She also got the opportunity to see we really are looking out for her best interest at all times. This means some answers are yes, and some are no.

If you live around people, and go to events, like church, with people, and may even choose to talk to people. Or if you watch movies or television, You would do well to prepare your children for social interactions and social differences which occur from family to family. Talk to them about how to handle social differences and about not judging others for their differences. Deliberately teach them how to make a good friend, and make another person feel valuable. Teach them social rules and conduct. This would help a lot with social anxiety and stress about being perceived as different.

Many of our religious, and community cultures encourage, if not preach, “sameness” very subtly in daily decisions and conversation. Just because people try hard to be alike each other doesn't mean it's a good thing. So, help your children find their individuality in the family early on, so that the child doesn't try to find it by becoming the same with society and different from the family.

Second, did you actually have brothers and sisters to play with, or was it just you? Play really is play, no matter who you are doing it with. Again, I think that the only reason a child wouldn't be content playing with siblings is if the child is either constantly exposed to other playmates, or if the child, with minimal exposure, has not really bought into how the parents raise the children and so chooses to compare to the unknown. This leaves a lot of room for assumptions, and judgments on the part of the child, and can damage family relationships. Building a strong family government, based on deliberate, regular family communication, and skill building will help children take ownership of how your family is rather than try to undermine your family way.

Third, did you choose to be judgmental, and think you were better than other children, or did your parents subtly teach to you? Either way is possible. Both are wrong. Teaching children that they are somehow elite, or better than, another person will only cause social problems and frustration. You can, however, give your children vision and let them know that this vision leads to success. You can also discuss with your child when you see someone make a bad choice to teach your child cause and effect. The key to making this teach, and not cause judgment, is to show your love and understanding of the person who made a wrong choice even as you are pointing out it is not good. We absolutely MUST point out wrong choices to our children to keep them moral and safe, but we should also constantly express our love of humanity and show our steady commitment to not judging others. In the book and audio seminar I talk about appropriate ways to discuss situations like this. 

Fourth, “can you have too little friend time?” Yes. People are social and need to have an element of society in their lives to be content and thrive. However, family are friends. That said, it is almost impossible to live without encountering people outside your family. They will be at classes, work places, stores, and churches. I want my children to be confident, and happy socially, so I teach them the social skills they need to succeed in society.

Next week I will share the seven skills essential for social success. 

This topic will be continued with Part 2 next week. 

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