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Peers Are Influential, but Parents Matter Too

October 06, 1998

I do not agree with Judith Rich Harris' premise that parenting does not matter (Life & Style, Sept. 25), probably because I have raised three extremely terrific kids for whom I'd like to take some credit. But I hope her somewhat radical premise does not obscure the value of her description of the power of peer groups, which is quite thorough and accurate.

What adults do to support children matters very much. We do need to intercede. I do not mean that we should choose their friends. By then it is too late. What we can do is:

(1) Be an involved parent.

(2) Choose schools for our children that support wholesome values in concrete ways.

(3) Seek other parents to confirm values; join together to hold the line against behavior of which we do not approve.

(4) Ask schools to help parents join together for parent education and support.

(5) Coach. Be the Brownie or Girl Scout leader.

(6) Be around. Spend time with your children and their friends.

What the billboards say is true: "It's the toughest job you'll ever love." Parenting is hard work, and it's the best part of your life.


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