Joys of Parenting

How Childhood Friends Affect Adulthood Careers

If your child has several friends that you worry about and are considering trying to warn your child away from then you might want to stop for a few minutes and think about the consequences your child might face if they were deprived of any a single friend. While the immediate pouting, brooding, and/or rebellious phase is to be expected, it is the consequences later in life that are probably the most telling to a child with few or no friends. Even the absence of a single friend could prove to be damaging later according to psychologists.

The rationale is surprisingly simple on the surface, but it has a lot of depth to it: children learn not only interpersonal skills from their peers but they also learn a lot about personality management. Ask any teenage girl to tell you which of her friends are high maintenance and which she can be totally honest with and there is a good chance that she will be able to describe her friends through the lens of how she has to deal with their unique personalities. As a general rule, males spend less time worrying about their interpersonal relationships than females do but they are still learning valuable social tools.

How are these tools going to prove useful later in life? Noted author and lecturer Dale Carnegie may have summed it up best when he suggested that at least 80% of people that succeed in life and business do so not because of any proficiency for their chosen career but rather for their ability to deal with a wide variety of people. People skills are more essential than ever in a global business environment, and thus children need as much time to learn how to bond and cope with different personalities as possible.

A simple principle of modern psychology states what Aristotle posited so long ago: humans build proficiency by experience. Today we would relate this observation to the construction and maintenance of neural pathways, but the fact is that exposing a child to as many different possible friends builds and strengthens that parts of the mind that focus on the ever so important interpersonal skills that become the very key to success and happiness later in life.

Since any competent parent wants the best for their child the question becomes one of what to do next. While no article can cover every single situation, just remember to add the long term consequences of removing even a single friend from the life of a child to an informed decision making process. Also consider adding discussion periods about the problem a friend is causing, or the lack of friends and suggest viable solutions. If it is possible to limit the risks of exposure to certain personalities or limit the risk of introversion at an early age, a child can take advantage of their amazing learning potential in interpersonal skills as well as in academics taught in schools. The boost to self confidence alone can be dramatic when children start to understand the rules of friendship and peer relationships, which become much harder to master when the disparity between any one person and their peers is smaller. That disparity can grow dramatically with time as socialized children excel and overprotected or sheltered children are effectively left behind.