Making Connections with Friends, part 2

I want to bring more explanation to the cause and effect connection between outside-the-family peer relationships and the unpleasant or even devastating conditions I listed in my last blog post.

Right relating, no bickering between siblings

Lizzy, Annie, Josiah, Rachel, and Phillip Poling
2010

Children most definitely have needs which ought to be met by other people. They need to:

1.  Be approved of, affirmed and validated
2.  Go through life with a sense of belonging
3.  Grow into their God-designed purpose
4.  Be taught how to selflessly love others

So the question becomes—Who are the people God intended to meet these needs in children?

Deuteronomy 6, and the book of Proverbs and God’s structure of reality clearly places this responsibility to meet children’s needs on parents for their own children within their own home.

So what happens when parents assume these needs of their children should be met by their outside-the-family friends? Or what happens when parents are unaware of these needs in their children, and go along with society in the belief that children need to have outside-the-family friends?

Socializing or Relating Rightly in Love?

Before I discuss these questions, let me distinguish the difference between socialization and right relating in love. Socialization is the ability to be sociable—to have basic manners and know how to carry on superficial conversation, and to know and practice things like personal space and appropriate public conduct. It’s easy to teach children how to be sociable. If parents are diligently paying attention, they can lead their children in appropriate social behavior by the time they are 4-5 years old.

Right relating, however, is about learning how to love much and love well. Love is about serving and giving, blessing and encouraging, honoring and treasuring, being full of compassion and gentleness, and many more things such as kindness, patience, understanding, expecting nothing in return, etc… Learning how to love and give out of a selfless heart, with no personal selfish agenda requires years of focused heart-level training, consistently addressing the attitudes, intentions, and motivations of the heart in all sorts of relational interchanges. It takes years of specific training to bring children away from self-centeredness and toward selflessness and Christlike loving relational behavior.

1. Your Child’s Need to be Approved of, Affirmed and Validated

What happens if we surrender or encourage our children toward forming outside-the-family relationships at the expense of investing that time and emotional effort in our family’s relationships? Our children will try to meet their need for approval and affirmation from their peers. They will end up developing relational habits that make them feel approved of by their peers, and begin to reject their God-given need for their family’s approval and affirmation, because peers are much easier to please than parents and siblings.

This selfish and unloving peer relating is even more compounded when the majority of time with Mom at home revolves around requirements to do many school assignments for a large part of their days, along with getting some household chores done. Obviously, it is even more compounded if Mom or Dad are regularly disappointed, critical, irritated or angry. The effort involved in meeting the parents approval and getting the needed affirmation is very high, and in some homes impossible. At the same time, friends require very little effort to please. This increases the draw on children’s immature souls toward seeking their need for approval from their friends, and eventually giving up on their natural God-given draw of getting the approval of Mom and Dad.

This condition is evident when children begin to resist or reject their parent’s values, and prefer the company of friends over the company of family.

2. Your Child’s Need to Go Through Life with a Sense of Belonging

If you allow or help your children to have plenty of peer connection, they will build their life and place of belonging with their peers. Fun events are with peers, birthdays and important events are celebrated with peers, conversations that mean the most to them are had with peers, many memories are built with peers, so that the most important people in their life become their friends. It may seem for the time being like they have a place of belonging with their outside-the-family friends.

However, our culture is still built around the family. Grown people are generally expected to celebrate holidays and special occasions with their family. Our culture still believes that the family is supposed to be the main support when life is tough because of hard financial times or illness. When we’re getting old and needing help in life, the family is expected to be there giving that support and meeting those needs.

When our children build their life with their peers, they end up having very little belonging within their family, and yet culture demands they keep those family ties in some capacity. Those cultural family connections become empty and dutiful at best, or broken and non-functioning at the worst.

Friends come and go because they must pursue the building of their own lives and maintain a minimum connection with their own families too. The result is that the feeling of belonging your children seem to be creating with their peers is fleeting, causing a sense of lostness and loneliness that is so common in our society. Most don’t even realize they’re living with lostness. Rather than training our children to have deep loving relationships, the practice of surrendering our children to their peers trains them to expect abandonment and the need to maintain walls of independence to harden their souls.

The loneliness, lostness, and independence is especially deep right around the age of 18, when kids are generally leaving their established set of peers for a whole new set of people. It causes this time in life to become a desperate search for belonging, which accounts for the high rate of kids who abandon their previous values and beliefs through their post-high-school experience.

People don’t generally turn to their family with these deep feelings of lostness and loneliness. They’ve been trained by their upbringing to turn elsewhere, toward entertainment and the search for outside-the-family peer connection. This habit carries on into their marriage and their relational habits with their own children. Have you seen it? Are you living with it too?

3. Your Child’s Need to Grow into Their God-Designed Purpose

Since peers have no idea what your children’s God-designed purpose is, or how to help your children develop it, this need in your children will go completely unmet if they are building their life with their peers through regular peer connection.

In opposition to becoming who God made them to be, they begin to become the sort of person who is the most pleasing among their peers. They become who they think their peers want them to be. As a result, they end up not knowing themselves, which contributes to the lost feelings as they approach adulthood. Since they’re trying to be who their peers want them to be, their lack of knowing themselves and the loss of life-purpose is compounded by the regular disruption of their unstable peer structure.

They become adults who don’t have confidence in who they are, and are unaware of their own God-designed unique purpose. These adults continue to seek the approval of their peers, internally shaky and fearful of doing anything different or apart from what their peers are doing or walking in fierce independence in an attempt to protect their own lonely soul.

4. Your Child’s Need to Be Taught How to Selflessly Love Others

When your children are building their life with their peers, the need to learn how to love also goes completely unmet in your children’s hearts. During peer interaction, their own immature selfish nature is in charge of directing and creating their attitudes, intentions and motivations toward the way they are going to relate. As they’re trying to get their need for approval, affirmation and belonging met from their friends, and trying to figure out who their friends want them to be, they develop strong habits of using others which is the very opposite of loving others.

Niceness and sweetness toward friends or the ability to be sociable are not the same thing as selfless love! If your children are not consistently and deeply loving and serving their siblings at home, but they are nice and sweet to their friends, you can be assured that your children are using their peers for their own selfish gain, instead of selflessly loving them.

If your children treat their siblings with less enthusiasm than their friends, you can be assured that your children are using their peers for their own selfish gain, instead of selflessly loving them.

If you experience resistance, opposition, temper flares, or pouting and crying when you do something to restrict or interfere with your children’s connection with their peers, you can be assured that you are seeing the evidence they are using their peers for their own selfish gain, instead of selflessly loving them.

Strengthening Your Family through Separation, Not Isolation

As I said in my last post, Lifestyle of Learning™ is not about isolating your children from other children, but strengthening your family to be the God-designed source for your children’s approval, affirmation, and sense of belonging. Separating your children to you as unto the Lord provides the environment for this training. Lifestyle of Learning™ Ministries has materials to show you how to teach your children how to love, and to help them discover their unfolding God-designed purpose by combining spiritual growth with learning for a whole-life education.

Isolating children from their peers while neglecting to meet their needs and train them at the heart-level results in very bad and strange relating practices! It is these strange relating practices that the world associates with weird homeschoolers. People in general believe these strange behaviors come from a lack of socialization, when in fact, they come from the combination of isolation and a lack of parenting.

EmpoweredImageLifestyle of Learning™ materials show parents what they need to be doing at home with their children, as well as HOW to cooperate with God in raising their children for Him. In this way, when the children are trained and grown, they can go out in strength of character, love, and confidence in who they are with a strong sense of belonging.  They will encourage and serve others according to their God-designed purpose. Instead of being takers and users, they will be a source of selfless love and blessing.

If this post is causing you to question your thoughts about friends for your children, I strongly encourage you to read Marilyn Howshall’s ebooks, Develop Vision for Your Family and Come Home from Home School, and Empowered—Healing the Heartbeat of Your Family.

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4 Comments

  1. MichelleG
    Posted September 6, 2013 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    This information is so powerful. I was raised in peer influence and have certainly experienced loss of knowing God’s purpose for my own life and “walking in fierce independence in an attempt to protect (my) own lonely soul”. I’m so grateful to the Lord for being my perfect parent, who affirms and validates me and gives me a sense of belonging. I know He has a specific purpose to reveal to me and guides me in self-sacrificial love the way He loves. He wants me to shower my children with this same style of parenting…affirming and validating my children, helping them discover their God-given purpose and loving them with self-sacrificial love. What a fulfilling way to live.

  2. GB
    Posted September 13, 2013 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    I have been browsing your posts for a while, and this one (Parts 1 & 2) have caught my attention. What does all of this look like in a family with only one child? I hear so much about multi-children families, but hardly anything about raising an only in homeschooling and dealing with the strong desire for friends. I agree with all you are saying, but I am struggling with my one. Thanks! GB

    • BarbiePoling
      Posted September 13, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      Dear GB,

      Those with only one child have a challenge others do not. But the challenge isn’t in meeting the child’s need to be loved and known, find their sense of belonging, and find their God-given purpose. These needs are still to be met in the family. The challenge for the parent with and only child is in finding opportunities for the only child to selflessly serve. Larger families have a built in body of people for the child to learn to selflessly give and serve. I know the Lord will be very present to you when you seek Him, to guide you toward opportunities to train your child in selfless service.

      ~ Barbie Poling

  3. Cari
    Posted September 15, 2013 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Wow! That explains so much in my own life, as I grew up with a major peer influence being in public school. Gratefully, my mom did a decent job of giving me positive influence & we lived in the country meaning I only had the influence of peers while at school. I am thankful that the Lord led my husband, children & I away from peer influences in recent years. I was confused by how natural & peace-giving it was to just look to our immediate family for love & acceptance. Society had done a very good job of brainwashing me to think friends were an unnaturally vital part of our growth & identity. But God weaned me slowly from that thinking, and now this article brings it all into clear focus. Thank you!! Now for the work of bringing us all into a selfless, serving place, so that we can truly be friends to others in time

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