Thursday, March 20, 2008

Peer-Dependent or God-Dependent?

The premise of much of what I write is that responsible, Christian parents are mandated by God to disciple their children so they grow to be godly adults and do the same for their children. This concept is referred to in other places as a vision for multigenerational faithfulness...the looking beyond just one generation to what your influence as a parent can be several generations hence.

With that in mind, I just have a few observations about today's youth culture...which in turn, begs the question of why we would send our children to that culture if we are looking out not only for their future, but for the future of many generations.

Probably the biggest issue at hand is that of peer-dependency. Peer-dependency is the overwhelming need for peers and for acceptance by those peers. This means a child will do and accept whatever is necessary in order to gain approval by the group of peers. It takes very little time to realize that children from as young as nine or ten years old are being overcome by peer-dependency.

Peer-dependency is fostered by the evolutionary concept that children should be separated by age in a group school. (People who wonder about "socialization" of children who are educated at home never stop to consider whether their own children being "socialized" by same-aged peers is really normal or best.) I have had experience with a couple of young people intentionally taken from the group school in order to try to arrest the bad influence in their lives.

One of these young people was a twelve-year-old girl. She was devastated, not because she was missing her family, but because she couldn't stand to be away from her peers. She wailed in a fit of despondency, "I have to have my friends; I can't live without my friends!" She was so dependent upon her "friends" she could not even conceive of a life where she could be discipled and grow into a mature young adult. Her only concept was of the here and now...which meant being a mall-rat with her "friends."

Another of these young people was a sixteen-year-old boy. He, too, couldn't imagine life outside of the teen culture. He considered himself and his fellow teens to be the fount of all wisdom, while adults didn't have a clue as to real life, a life that mostly revolved around text-messaging, Facebook, and vile rap music. Again, the concept of looking forward and desiring to grow into an adult was completely missing. The only vision was an angry one of the here and now...and with what was deemed "cool" by his "friends."

Peer-dependency drags these children down by convincing them the only thing that matters is acceptance by peers. In order to be accepted by peers, you have to be identical to the peers, in dress, in speech, in music, in knowledge of pop culture, etc. You have no identity of your own, and the identity you create is that of the lowest common denominator. "Cool" is defining. Today is all that matters. The thought of this period of life being a training ground for adulthood is despised.

The funny thing is that adult culture seems to think this is normal and something to be expected, when the reality is it is something we have created by the methodology we use in raising the children. We place them in age-segregated institutions early in life where they find acceptance only in how much they are like their peers. We communicate how we expect rebellion in the teen years. We let others, to include television and music, become the primary influences in their lives. And then we hope they will grow out of it and become successful some day. Instead we find they never grow up.

So what does one do? Ideally you develop a long-term picture for how to raise your children while they are still young and you have many years with which to work. It is certainly more difficult to change things once they are in the clutches of their peers, but it can be done.

First and foremost is a vision. You must have a vision for their lives and you must communicate it to them so they internalize it. If they have a vision and goal for what kind of person they want to be and for what kind of life they want to live, they will reject the narcissistic, futureless lifestyle of the typical young person.

Secondly, you must not place them in a situation where the peers drag them down...which means you must educate them at home. If you place them in an age-segregated group classroom, it is only a matter of time before the pressure to conform grasps them in its clutches.

Thirdly, you as the parent need to help them grow in godliness by modeling it yourself, and by teaching them to walk according to the ways laid down by God in His Word.

Fourthly, you as the parent need to watch them carefully in order to discern the "bent" God has given them and then help them grow in that "bent" as best as possible. Avoid the temptation to define them according to how the culture defines "successful." Instead, define them according to God's Word and according to their particular, God-given strengths.

Teen culture and pop culture in today's America is a vile thing, desiring to tear down everything you hold dear. As parents who desire the best for our children and who desire generations of God-fearing progeny, we must do our level best to protect our children from that culture and to instill in them a massive vision for a glorious, joy-filled future as servants of the Living Savior, Christ Jesus. Only then will they be able to stand up to the lion crouching at the door desiring to devour them....


Darya said...

An excellent entry once again! Thank you very much! Of course I agree wholeheartedly!

Joanna said...

This is a fabulous post. Even though I was terrified, I wanted to homeschool my children from the moment I knew I was pregnant because I wanted to be their biggest influence in their lives. I remember how stupid I was as a child/teenager and now as an adult I shake my head in confusion as to why we would think that stupid kids can lead stupid kids somewhere other than the pit. Isn't that why God gave us parents?

Charley said...

Thank you for the complements. The underlying Biblical support for this are the verses in Proverbs about what happens to people who are in the company of fools. Combine that with the admonition that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, and you then realize that placing the children in group classrooms is placing them in the company of fools, with all that entails. And less people think we are talking about teens and not children...God only has two categories: children and adults. These kids are not adults...therefore, they are children.

Tony said...

Charley, I had not had the time to read your posts lately but this was very timely. I had been thinking much about what we as Christians take for granted and the idea of needing peers was one of those so called givens. It is amazing how influenced the church is and does not seem to even know it. Whether it is simply desensitization or being so immersed in the culture that they do not know when they are “culturized” I am not sure but it is a real problem.

Again a great post and thanks for your thoughts.

Jenny Schick said...

I realize you wrote this awhile ago but I stumbled upon it today and am so glad I did. One of the main reasons we will be homeschooling our children is to avoid peer dependency! My heart goes out to the children who are introduced to peer dependency from day one as they are placed in day care facilities instead of spending their days at home where they belong. God bless ya!

Charley said...

Why thank you, Jenny. I haven't written on my blog in a long, long time and I'm glad that people still read it and find some value in my musings. I am sure God will honor your desire to disciple your children at home! Read and prepare carefully...and don't make the two most common mistakes: 1) trying to bring the group school home and 2) becoming a slave to whatever curriculum you decide to use. The best part of homeschooling is DISCIPLESHIP and FREEDOM!

Blessings to you!


Unknown said...

Actually, if you look up the Hebrew words, there is a different one for every stage of life: suckling (0-3yo), child (3-13yo), youth (13-20yo), and adult (20+).