Everything we’ve talked about thus far has to do with what I would call the structural weaknesses of the classroom model—that is, problems that are largely inherent to the very nature of the system. These are general problems, common to the classroom model. We haven’t even touched on the issue of negative influences brought by specific young people in any given school—problems such as drugs, violence, off-color language, dirty jokes, boys or girls pursuing others with immoral intent, and the constant pressure to conform to the newest fads, however destructive or bizarre they may be.

Is all of this part of good socialization? True, our children will encounter evil in the world, and they should understand how to resist it. But is exposing them to it—often unsupervised and in high dosages—really the best way to prepare them?

As we begin challenging assumptions about socialization, we can think through and define our own convictions.

We’ve allowed the critics to define the socialization debate for too long. But as long as we continue accepting their assumptions about socialization and simply answering their questions on their own grounds, taking their worldview as our own, we’ll never be able to redefine the socialization debate. We need to start at the foundation and start building upward. We can do that by challenging the underlying assumptions and helping people see an alternative viewpoint.

Mapping Out a New Path

Too often, we find ourselves intimidated by the world—we feel compelled to measure ourselves by their standards rather than following our own. In the area of socialization, we can so easily fall for the world’s lies and believe that our kids need certain types of socialization in order to somehow turn out “normal.” (And who, we might ask, gets to define that?)

Instead of following the world, we need to follow our own convictions regardless of how others might feel about them. We have to determine what God is leading our families to do. We need to map out a path that follows God and honors His Word.

Now, let me be clear about something. My goal is not to give any family an exact prescription for how to handle socialization. I’m also not saying that all peer-based socialization is wrong or unbiblical. My goal is to give you some things to think and pray about as you intentionally work out your own family’s philosophy on socialization.

As a broad philosophical foundation, I would submit to you that if the purpose of socialization is to teach our children how to be well-rounded adults who know how to appropriately interact with others and experience healthy relationships, there are more effective ways to accomplish this goal than what society in general tends to believe. In other words, there are better approaches to socialization than the intensely age-segregated, peer-based model we typically see. Again, I’m not saying that all such socialization is wrong or destructive. What I am saying is that we should move beyond the paradigm that suggests that massive amounts of this type of socialization are normal and beneficial.

I would contend that children who find their socialization firstly and primarily in the home or in other family-centered situations, with the guiding instruction of their parents, are more likely to learn lessons in how to have healthy relationships with others than those who are left to figure it out for themselves in a peer-based environment.

We looked earlier at the assumptions behind the socialization question. If those assumptions are largely incorrect (as I believe they are), perhaps we should examine some different viewpoints. I’d like to share five basic truths with you. All five concepts are rooted in scriptural principles, but it’s remarkable to me how routinely each is violated by Christian parents as they follow the world’s model of socialization.