This chapter is entitled “Don’t Court The Competition” and talks about how a child having friends/peers is NOT the enemy, it is peer ORIENTATION that is the enemy. That is a large difference!
I liked this quote found on the first page of this chapter: “…today’s parents and teachers view early and extensive peer interaction in a positive light. We encourage it, unaware of the risks that arise when such interaction occurs without adult leadership and input. We fail to distinguish between peer relationships formed under the conscious and benign guidance of adults and peer contacts occurring in attachment voids.”
The authors have a list in this chapter to help parents avoid the problem of peer orientation:
1. “Don’t be fooled by the first fruits of peer orientation” – ie, it is wonderful to have children entertain each other, and the authors point out that a child who is used to peers will go to school and learn more easily at first because they are used to other children and not anxious about being with other children, away from family but how later on, the negative effects of peer orientation really kicks in. “In the first days of school in kindergarten, a peer-oriented child would appear smarter, more confident and better able to benefit from the school experience. The parent-oriented child, impaired by separation anxiety would, by contrast, appear to be less adept and capable – at least until he can form a good attachment to the teacher…..In the long term, of course, the positive effects on learning of reduced anxiety and disorientation will gradually be canceled by the negative effects of peer orientation. Thus follows the research evidence that early advantages of preschool education are not sustainable over time.”
Carrie’s note – I don’t think anyone in the mainstream media of the US are aware of the research studies regarding preschool! Do you?
I also want to throw a note in here: I see some homeschooled families who really isolate themselves in the Early Years. Being home does not mean not interacting with neighbors, it does not preclude being involved with your place of worship, your extended family, etc. It does mean around the age of five, if you have not before, there should be short playdates that are STRUCTURED. It does mean that by age 7, most children can operate in a small group setting without falling apart, even the boys that could not do this before. Social skills do have value!
If you have a very socially anxious child, I think this is a great thing to work on in the six year old kindergarten year, starting small, being steady and fully present and structuring things. The world needs to open up a bit around six if it has not already.
Friendships become increasingly important headed into the nine year change and I feel parents who have not worked on this at all, ie, no social opportunieis for their children at all, are doing their children a disservice.
And again, this is all my opinion so take what resonates with you for your family.
2. “Shyness is not the problem we think it is” – “Adult-oriented children are much slower to lose their shyness around their peers.” Psychological maturity is what eventually tempers shyness.
Carrie’s note: Again, though, I think there is a difference between shyness and anxiety.
3. “The stress of day care in the absence of attachment. “
4. “Getting along with others does not arise from peer contact.” - “Many parents seek playgroups for their toddlers. By the preschool age, arranging peer contacts for our children has often become an obsession. …The belief is that socializing – children spending time with one another- begets socialization: the capacity for skillful and mature relating to other human beings. There is no evidence to support such an assumption despite its popularity.”
A very interesting section.
5. “It is not friends that children need.” - “Until children are capable of true friendship, they really do not need friends, just attachments.”
6. “Peers are not the answer to boredom.” Also a good section.
The authors are careful to point out at the end of the chapter that their intent is not to tell parents that children should not have friends, but that parents should view play time with children as fun, and that’s it and that we should connect with our children after every peer interaction. They go on with sections regarding peers not being the answer to eccentricity, and how peers cannot be relied upon to sustain a child’s self esteem, and how peers are NOT the same as siblings and how a more appropriate substitution for siblings in the case of an only child are not peers, but cousins. A very interesting section!
Did you like this chapter? Thoughts?