Which is better, socializing of civilizing? What do they even mean? Join AMBrewster as he helps Christian parents understand the differences and work toward the right goals in their parenting.
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To socialize or civilize; that is the question.
My name is Aaron and I’m happy to welcome you today. If you’re a returning subscriber, I thank you for your faithfulness and friendship.
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Okay, let’s talk about what it means to socialize and civilize and discover which would glorify God more.
And please note that if you have a hard time remembering all the content of the show, we offer free episode notes and transcripts on our blog, Taking Back the Family. There’s a link right to today’s notes in the description of this episode.
Okay, so Merriam-Webster defines “socialize” as “to make social” and they define “social” as “tending to form cooperative and interdependent relationships with others.”
They define “civilize” as “to acquire the customs and amenities of a civil community.” And they define “civil” as “adequate in courtesy and politeness.”
Now, both of those sound fantastic, but in addition to the denotative understanding of the word, it’s important to appreciate the connotative meanings.
To socialize our children generally has the idea of our kids hanging out with others of their age — their peers.
To civilize may give us a mental image of a child with a tutor or nanny learning life skills.
And now we’re probably leaning toward the importance of socializing over civilizing, though — of course — none of us would actually say we wouldn’t want our kids to be civilized.
The point is, our culture has convinced us that being social is desperately important. There’s social media. There’s pro-social and anti-social behavior. And everyone knows how important it is for kids to have friends.
By the way, I strongly encourage you to listen to our three part series about your kids’ “Friends.” They may be important, but they can also be super dangerous if we can’t tell the difference between a friend and an enemy.
So, how are we to understand socializing and civilizing from a biblical perspective?
Does God want our kids to form cooperative and interdependent relationships with others? Perhaps.
Does God want our kids to be adequate in courtesy and politeness? Definitely. Those are biblical requirements.
Now it sounds like civility is pulling ahead of socialization. So I think we need to refine our understanding of what it means to be socialized.
Listen again to the definition: forming cooperative and interdependent relationships with others.
Obviously, in a best case scenario, it would be great for your kids to be able to cooperate with Christ-honoring individuals and form appropriate interdependent relationships with people who are going to sharpen them and build them up.
But Psalm 1:1 reads, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.”
We could say, “Blessed is the man who doesn’t form cooperative and interdependent relationships with the wicked, sinners, and scoffers.”
We could say, “Blessed is the child who wasn’t socialized with the wicked, sinners, or scoffers.”
This is why when I asked “Does God want our kids to form cooperative and interdependent relationships with others?” I said, “Perhaps.”
And this is where we need to reconsider the connotative understanding of what it means to socialize your child. The vast majority of people who are talking about kids and their supposed need to be socialized are talking about children interacting with other children.
Most of the time this comes up, it happens within a discussion as to the supposed downside of homeschooling. They will argue that kids who spend their whole day with mom won’t be socialized — they won’t be forming cooperative and interdependent relationships with children their age.
And to that, I say, good!
Have you met my kids? Have you spent any time with kids in the average public school who are your children’s age? Do you want your kids to learn to be like them?
Let’s be honest . . . most of us hope that our kids will not turn out like their classmates. We’re encouraging them to be a light and make a difference. We don’t want them to have any form of dependence on their peers because their peers are — at best — immature. At worst, they’re sinful, and wicked, and scoffers.
I love the way Dr. Scott and Becky Aniol described this when I interviewed them for episode 82.
Now, this episode is not trying to convince anyone to start homeschooling, though the arguments we’re making are valid.
The purpose of this discussion is to understand that when the world talks about the importance of “socializing” our kids, God has a very different opinion on the subject.
So, consider with me who the most mature people in your children’s lives. Hopefully that includes you, your pastors, your other mature family members, other adults at church, and perhaps even — maybe — one or two older kids at church.
Aren’t those the types of people with whom you’d want your kids to be socialized? Well, that’s what God says.
Older men are to train the younger men. Children are to cooperate and be dependent on their parents.
So, when it comes to whether or not your kids should be socialized, I would argue that it definitely pleases the Lord if they have cooperative and interdependent relationships with people who love the Lord, who are mature, and who will help them grow in their sanctification.
BUT . . .
It would not please the Lord for our kids to be like all the other kids their age. That would not please Him.
This is why civility is so important. To be civilized is to be adequate in courtesy and politeness. We could easily expand those two words and include all the sanctification lists in Scripture. Love, kindness, gentleness, humility, patience, courage, and the like are equally important and play into one’s ability to be civil.
Now, we’re going to wrap up here shortly — I know it’s crazy we have such a short episode — but there’s one more idea with which we have to grapple in order to come to a conclusion about socializing versus civilizing.
We know that socializing can be good if it submits to God’s revealed Word, and we know the civilizing could be considered the very bread and butter of parenting if we expand it to include knowing and living all of God’s Truth.
That means truly Christ-honoring socialization is going to come from people who are part of the process of civilizing my children.
My children are being well-socialized because their forming valuable interdependent relationships with people who are an integral part of civilizing them in the word of God.
But, if the people with whom they’re being socialized are not part of the process of them becoming more like God . . . then that socialization process is no good.
So, who wins, socialize or civilize?
Well, socialization isn’t always good, but civilization is! So, there’s one point for civilization.
But we also learned that our kids will likely be socialized by the people who are part of civilizing them. That means that socializing and civilizing both receive a point.
What does this tell us?
It tells us that civilizing our kids should be the goal. Of course, we have far better words to describe that process than mere “civilizing.”
The Scriptures call it maturing, sanctifying, or training to live wisely. That is the very goal of intentional, premeditated, disciple-making Ambassador Parents.
And while we and other mature Christians are involved in that process, we should encourage our kids to build valuable relationships with those people . . . we could say, to be socialized by and with them.
So, the answer isn’t just that we should civilize our kids and not socialize them. No, in the process of civilizing them, we need to help them not be socialized by the wrong people and be socialized by the right people.
Again, that sounds an awful lot like parenting.
I hope you enjoyed this discussion, and I hope you’ll share this episode on social media.
Also, join us for our next episode where we we want to discuss how to “Teach Your Children to Interpret their Movies Correctly.”
Summer is definitely a time for moving watching, blockbusters come out nearly every month, so it would be wise to civilize our kids to be able to interpret and apply them in a way that glorifies God.
So, to that end, I’ll see you next time.
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