#1: Influence Matters

Each of us is influenced by those we spend our time with. All socialization will tend to lift us up or pull us down, move us in the right direction or move us in the wrong direction. The Bible talks about this when it says that “Evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Corinthians 15:33) and “A companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20). It’s rare to see someone rise above the level of his closest companions—unless, perhaps, those companions are spurring each other on to reach greater heights.

#2: Parents Have a Role

There’s nothing wrong with parents having a highly active role in determining what kind of socialization their children will participate in. Parents need to shelter their children to an appropriate extent. In the book of Proverbs, Solomon gives his son extensive advice about the type of people to avoid. Considering the active, hands-on role the Bible prescribes for parents in the lives of their children, it’s entirely appropriate that parents should be involved in overseeing their children’s relationships and even have the authority to prevent or cut off destructive friendships.

#3: It’s Not Just About Peers

Children should learn to interact with people of a variety of ages. This is real-world socialization as contrasted to the peer-based model found in today’s schools. This is what will best prepare them for later life. This doesn’t mean that your children can’t have friends who are peers, but why not encourage them to break outside of the peer mindset and cultivate relationships with others as well? (Note: Discretion is extremely important, and I’m not suggesting that children should have unsupervised relationships with adults. We all know the dangers posed to children in our world today, and it’s vital for parents to use their discernment to prayerfully determine what is safe and appropriate and what is not.)

#4: Experience Takes Time

Children are inherently unwise, inexperienced, and immature (Proverbs 22:15Proverbs 29:15 . That’s not their fault; it’s simply the way life works. They need to be nurtured and discipled to the point that they become wise, experienced, and mature. Part of raising children should be helping them learn how to handle new social situations, not simply leaving them to figure it out for themselves.

#5: Character Matters

One of the key purposes of socialization for our children, as we’ve already discussed, is to learn how to interact properly with others. One aspect of this which I believe is often overlooked is the role of godly character. We don’t often hear socialization and character talked about at the same time, and yet, character is vital. Applying character to relationships is essentially the Golden Rule in action—it’s treating others as we would like to be treated. It’s teaching our sons to be gentlemen; teaching all of our children to be respectful, polite, and courteous. We must teach our children how to apply character to their daily interactions with others.

These five concepts are not profound, but if we truly heed and apply them, they will take us on a different path from much of the rest of the world around us. But here’s the bottom line: following a different path is a good thing if we want to arrive at a different destination. If we want to end up where everyone else is heading—if we want our children to turn out like everyone else’s children—then we can follow the same path everyone else is following. But if we want something different, we have to do something different. It’s just that simple.