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I have just started reading a book, “Hold Onto Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers” by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate,  recommended by regular commenter HappyHousewife, and wanted to share the simple premise so far and how it explains much of what we see happening in our culture today.

Simply put, human babies and children form a primary attachment that guides them as they learn and grow. In years past, this attachment was naturally to the parents, who were the primary caregivers when most families lived an agricultural based, small village lifestyle.

This lifestyle can still be found in places today, such as Provence, France.  Children socialize as part of their family’s socializing. Everyone knows everyone. Multi-generational groups are the norm. Children were rarely apart from their parents, and when so were with people they knew through them.

Compare this to today’s post-industrial urban lifestyle where both parents work, children are often in group daycare from a young age, spend more time in childcare than with their parents, then the pattern is continued with schooling, often coming home to an empty house. Rather than bonding to their parents as the primary bond, these children attach to those they interact most with — their peers.

This sets kids up in a blind leading the blind sort of way. Language, learning, motor skills, and many other things are delayed because they are learning from these peers, who understand or master such skills just as little as they do. Also bad, peer attachment can be brutal, as it is not based on the unconditional love parent attachment is, but can be very fickle.

Additionally, whomever the child considers the primary bond is who they will follow,   listen to, try to please, develop morals from, etc. Children who are not listening to their parents, the author speculates, don’t have a behavior problem, they have a relationship problem. The solution isn’t punishment and rules, it’s reestablishing yourself as the primary attachment in their life (I have not got to this part of the book yet, the “how to” part.) Without it, you are fighting a losing battle.

As I said I am just starting the book, but already I can see there will likely be lots of post topics springing out of it.

It is a great time for me to be reading this book because so far, I still am the primary source of attachment in my children’s lives, and now I can see even more why I want to keep things that way until they reach adulthood.

Today, many children in the pre-teen and teen years become peer focused, causing the many problems we see today of formerly “good” kids suddenly not listening to their parents anymore, because they are listening to their friends (and other influences like media) instead. While society says it is, “normal” this author speculates it is not, and it is something parents should be aware of preventing. If their friends rule, trouble ensues.

Looking back at my own childhood I can see I peer attached at a rather young age. How about you? Thoughts?