I am the father of four children, ages 15, 13, 9 and 6. Two boys. Two girls. I don’t have parenting all figured out, but I couldn’t be more proud of my kids. They are turning out (so far) really good. Honestly, it surprises me a little, but I think it come from a biblical principle we stumbled into. Over the last 15 years, I have noticed one glaring flaw in today’s parenting philosophy. The belief that our kids NEED to have friends. Our kids spending a bunch of time with others their age, is considered good and even beneficial for them.
Thinking our kids need friends
From the time our kids are little, we start jam-packing their lives with friends. Play dates, sleep overs and even coercing other children to their birthday parties with jump houses and clowns. (Well … most of us have figured out that clowns are just creepy). Why do we do this? It’s a nostalgic vibe from our childhood. We remember the frivolity we used to have and want that for our kids. We really believe our kids should have several friends their age and spend lots of time with them. We get worried when our kids aren’t popular or don’t get invited to activities. Face it, we are obsessed with our kids having friends.
The problem with ALL kids
Kids are immature. All of them. Even the best kids are not fully developed. Most of this is beyond their control, they just haven’t had enough life experience and character training. They make uneducated decisions, and say impulsive things. They have not learned to discipline themselves. Kids, even teens, rarely have good advice to give each other. Many times, they (and remember I am talking about all them) are completely self-absorbed.
So, what do we end up doing? We find ways for them to spend every waking hour around other immature, impulsive, uneducated kids suffering from a major lack of self-control. Between school, sports and hanging out after school, many kids log way more hours with peers than with adults. Right about now you’re thinking to yourself, “Yeah, that’s the way its supposed to be!”
Well then….what exactly do we think is going to happen? Our kids spend the most crucial parts of their development being influenced by other kids. Then we get surprised when they rebel, are disrespectful, or make unwise decisions? Who knew hanging around mentally and emotionally impaired people 24/7 would turn our children into mentally and emotionally impaired kids? Logic.
So, back to the Biblical principal we stumbled into. This is a solid piece of wisdom, from Proverbs, that all parents know is true:
Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm. Proverbs 13:20
Your kids friends are fools. (Sounds harsh… but come on, just imagine them as an employee where you work!) Not just some of them…ALL of them. Your kids should have friends, but they should spend more time with a mature adult than other foolish influences. Time spent with someone equals influence. For parents this proverb could read
Walk with adults and you will become and adult, walk with kids and you will remain a kid.
Friends are like four-wheelers
We think of friends for our kids like our family car. If we don’t have one we have to do whatever it takes to get one. It’s essential for life. Instead, think of your child’s peers like a four-wheeler.
- They are fun, but definitely not a necessity
- They can be dangerous if not supervised
- A little bit of time with one goes a long way
Try this unconventional parenting method
Try spending more time with your child then they spend with other kids. I limit my kids interaction with children to a bare minimum. They get about all they need at school. Think about it, that’s 7 hours a day spent with … fools. Yep, that’s plenty for me. We also go to church so that’s another dose each Sunday. On top of that, they usually hang out at a friend’s house or have someone over about once a month. I know, you probably think my kids hate me. Actually, they don’t, they really enjoy time at home!
Don’t be lame
You might be thinking, my kids would revolt if I destroyed their social calendar and made them stay home all the time. My kids have often chose to stay home with the family as opposed to go out with friends. Why? Because we try to make our home the most entertaining and loving place on earth. Really! Here are the reasons many kids hate being home without their friends over:
Because their parents are constantly on the phone, or the computer, or watching T.V, or preoccupied by cleaning every crevice of the house. (Or maybe, you’re just hiding from them)
Because their parents don’t enjoy the things they enjoy. I realized my boys didn’t like watching football or many of the TV shows I liked. So, I learned how to play HALO. I didn’t like it at first. I have never really been a gamer. They would shoot me as soon as I figured out where my fire button was. This was super frustrating, (like crying on the floor and hugging my pillow frustrating) but then I learned what a plasma grenade was! They are both still better than me, and I think that’s why they enjoy playing with me. Who doesn’t like to defeat dad? Don’t just humor your kids, really try to like the things they like. I promise they will reciprocate. My oldest is now a huge fan of fantasy football. Win! Don’t put it past me to be seen taking my daughters out for a date as well. Train your daughters how a godly man treats a lady.
Because you are always lecturing them about something. Stop it! It takes exactly 15 seconds to explain whatever you’ve got to explain, then please move on. Either they get it or don’t get it, lecturing will not help! You are killing the family vibe!
Because you don’t invest in family time.
- Family vacations are important. I mean real family vacations, not another trip to the cousin’s house.
- Friday night fun nights are important. Create a culture early on, where kids get excited about Friday night at your house.
- Homemade pizza night is important. Give each kid a piece of dough, let them top their own pizza and watch Harry Potter together.
- Holiday traditions are key. I promise they will remember these forever and even measure their future families by the traditions you start. In our home we don’t throw birthday parties with lots of friends. We wake up in the morning of our birthdays, open presents and eat cake and ice cream for breakfast.
“Well, I trust my kids”
The biggest lie we tell ourselves as parents is “I trust my kid.”
Why would I trust my kid? Listen closely to the words of The Apostle Paul:
For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. Romans 7:18-20
Even a full-grown man (who happened to be an apostle) recognized he could not even trust himself. He desperately needed Jesus to save himself. Even kids who are committed to following Jesus don’t have a mature enough understanding about the Bible and God to realize how weak they really are.
But that’s not really the point. The reason I limit my kids interactions is because of influence. After reading the scripture above, do I really think kids are capable of discerning the truly wise things their friends say from the utterly foolish? In smaller doses … maybe.
Your kids will become the people they hang around with.
Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Corinthians 15:33