What you should know
In some cultures today, children have a close bond with their parents and look to them for guidance. In other cultures, children often go to their peers for direction.
The latter situation undermines parental authority. In fact, by the time such children become teenagers, their parents may feel that they have lost their influence. And no wonder! When children spend so much time with other children, it is as if they were being raised by each other instead of by their parents.
Why is it so easy for children to bond with their peers and lose their connection with parents? Consider the following factors.
School. When children spend most of their time with other children, they form attachments and may begin to value their peers’ approval more than that of their parents. That outlook can intensify when children become teenagers.
Less time together. In many families, children return from school to an empty home, perhaps because the parent or parents are at work.
Teen culture. By the time they reach adolescence, young people are immersed in a teen culture with its own rules of conformity, including how to dress, speak, and act. What peers think of them often matters more than what their parents think of them.
Marketing. Businesses target many products and much entertainment exclusively toward youths, widening the generation gap even more. “If teen culture disappeared,” writes Dr. Robert Epstein, “many of these multi-billion-dollar industries would instantly collapse.” a
What you can do
Keep your connection to your child strong.
The Bible says: “These words that I am commanding you today must be on your heart, and you must inculcate them in your sons and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.”—Deuteronomy 6:6, 7.
Peers can provide friendship, but they should never replace your role as a parent. The good news is this: Experts say that the majority of children and teenagers respect their parents and want to please them. If you keep a close relationship with your children, you will have more influence on them than their peers.
“You have to spend time with children, doing everyday things together, like cooking, cleaning, and even homework. Do fun things together—play games, watch movies or TV. Don’t think that all you need is ‘quality time’—a couple of hours here and there. Quality doesn’t make up for lack of quantity!”—Lorraine.
Do not settle for peer friendships only.
The Bible says: “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.”—Proverbs 22:15, footnote.
Some parents are content when they see that their child has many friends. Be aware, however, that while peer friendships might help a child appear to get along well with others, peers do not provide a broad range of friendship. And peers do not provide the guidance and leadership that a young person needs and that loving parents can best provide.
“A child’s peers may have knowledge of some things, but they don’t have life skills, experience, and the wisdom to help other young ones make the best decisions. When young ones look to parents, they grow and mature appropriately for their age.”—Nadia.
Provide wise guidance.
The Bible says: “The one walking with the wise will become wise.”—Proverbs 13:20.
Even as they grow older, your children can benefit greatly by spending time with you. Be an effective role model.
“The most important role models for children are their parents. When children are taught to cherish and respect their parents, they will want to grow up to be like them.”—Katherine.
a From the book Teen 2.0—Saving Our Children and Families From the Torment of Adolescence.