The Social-ization Experiment

I have exhibited some hesitancy in sending my daughter to preschool. And I have casually brought up the future possibility of homeschooling. Both of these statements are usually met, not with fierce warnings or counsels against these choices, but with an accepting shrug and the quiet statement that both of these options might curtail my daughter’s opportunities to socialize. I don’t disagree that if we choose not to send her to formal schooling for a while that she will clock less time around her same-aged peers as other children her age. But I think that that isn’t the same as “socialization.”

In fact, I’m not even sure that I have a truly good handle on what the present-day definition of socialization is and why it has become such a buzz word in our culture today. At no other time in history (to my knowledge) have we been so worried about creating scenarios so that children can specifically socialize with one another. I understand that families and neighborhoods have become more scattered over the last century (as I sit in my air-conditioned house, alone but for my sleeping child), so we may have conceived this worry in response to that. But I would also contend that as parental focus on and the perceived importance of children has also risen, we have on our hands maybe the least “socialized” generation of kids ever. Don’t get me wrong, I still like them. But besides the usual ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous,’ I have met many a kid who won’t or can’t greet me and others properly. It’s not hard to hear laments of a lack of manners especially from older generations witnessing the young. I’m not trying to throw stones at these youngsters. They are, in fact, still young and I have only met a few adults who seemed to have missed the entirety of “socialization lessons” of youth. But it does strike me as odd that in a time when we seem to be more focused on socializing kids, we also seem to be doing a worse job of it on the whole.

So I’d like to know when being a ‘citizen of the world’ became not enough to learn how to engage with other people. Why is it that in other countries without early formal schooling, there are not litanies of social pariahs being produced?

Kids learn to be social creatures (and are really born to be so, love that eye contact!) by being around people of all ages and walks of life. Segregating kids by age until they are thrust into a much more diverse workplace and world after 16 years seems to be a bit short-sighted. Yes, 2-year olds and 11-year olds should learn how to behave around each other, but they should also learn to behave out in the real world as well.

Taking kids to events that aren’t specifically tailored for them is a good place to start. Go to a concert with the whole family. Attend a sporting event that doesn’t have a bounce house attached. Go out to eat. Visit a museum. Talk to them about everything, not just ‘kid’ things. Expect them to address you with respect and it will be easier for them to do so with others. Let them play with friends with as little intervention from you as possible. Model for them the ways that you are there for your family and friends. Allow them to have their own relationships and interactions with other adults and family members.

I’m not advocating a complete disregard for this socialization movement, but I do think that there are plenty of very natural ways for our kids to interact with the world. We don’t have to simply put them on the conveyor belt toward ‘socializing’ and hope for the best.

One thought on “The Social-ization Experiment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s