The Myth of Childhood Socialization

No, I do not think that it’s necessary for children to socialize with other children. Rather, I think that children should socialize with adults.

These days everybody is obsessed with children’s “socialization.” But a couple of centuries back nobody worried about that. For ages, children were mostly around adults, hanging out at social events or political meetings, listening to adult stories, philosophical discussions or political debates at the family table. Only recently, when compulsory schooling was invented, were children separated from adults and placed in artificially created groups with other same-aged children. Did anything good come out of that? There are many stupid things children do under the influence of their peers, but are there any good things a 5-, 10-, 12-year-old learns from other typical 5-10-12-year-olds? What good, useful skills or character traits can children learn from other children of the same age? How to play computer games?

Wouldn’t it be more useful for kids to socialize with older children who have amounted to something, or with intelligent adults who have already built up character, accumulated some life experience, and have gained ideas and skills they can share?

Why do people feel such a need to socialize their children? To help their children form friendships? But friendships made in childhood are usually flaky and do not last long. True friends are acquired later in life as we get experience, interests, ideas and look for people with similar interests and ideas. Our children gain little from being socialized, other than occasional playdates, superficial friendships, or bad influence.

Even the word “socializing” sounds artificial and forced. Two hundred years ago people were not worried about socializing their kids, and their kids were generally more mature, smarter, and better behaved than today’s children of the same age. This is because in the earlier times children weren’t forcefully segregated by age groups, so they learned naturally from their surroundings and from adults.

I am perfectly fine with my children playing and socializing with other children whenever they get a chance. But it happens spontaneously and I don’t work too hard on it. I don’t join parent groups just to socialize my children. I make friends with other moms based on common adult interests, not solely for playdates. If we visit friends or invite friends over and my kids find other children to play with – fine; if not, they play with their siblings or socialize with the adults.

Rather than worrying about socializing my kids with other children, I make it my priority to look for opportunities where my children can be around smart older children or adults who are good role models and who can share skills, experience, and inspiration.