conscious parentingWhat Is Peer Orientation and Why It Matters to Know

16 September 2023

With a new school year ahead, and lots of life challenges as it is, let’s remember the importance of keeping our children close to us and be mindful of the time they spend with their peers trying to fit in at all costs (add the influences of social media to this mix).
This is a long post, but I beg you, take the time to read it. It’s worth it:

A fragment from HOLD ON TO YOUR KIDS book by Gordon Newfeld, PhD. and Gabor Mate, M.D. – a must-read book for all parents.

“The secret of parenting is not in what a parent does but rather who the parent is to a child. When a child seeks contact and closeness with us, we become empowered as a nurturer, a comforter, a guide, a model, a teacher or a coach.  For a child well attached to us, we are her home base from which to venture into the world, her retreat to fall back to, her fountainhead of inspiration. All the parenting skills in the world cannot compensate for a lack of attachment relationship. All the love in the world cannot get through without the psychological umbilical cord created by the child’s attachment.

The attachment relationship of child to parent needs to last at least as long as a child needs to be parented. That is what is becoming more difficult in today’s world.  Parents haven’t changed—they have not become less competent or less devoted.  The fundamental nature of children has also not changed—they have not become less dependent or more resistant.  What has changed is the culture in which we are rearing our children. Children’s attachments to parents are no longer getting the support required from culture and society. Even parent-child relationships that at the beginning are powerful and fully nurturing can become undermined as our children move out into a world that no longer appreciates or reinforces the attachment bond. Children are increasingly forming attachments that compete with their parents, with the result that the proper context for parenting is less and less available to us. Not a lack of love or of parenting know-how but the erosion of the attachment context is what makes our parenting ineffective.

The Impact of the Peer Culture

The chief and most damaging of the competing attachments that undermine parenting authority and parental love is the increasing bonding of our children with their peers. It is the thesis of this book that the disorder affecting the generations of young children and adolescents now heading toward adulthood is rooted in the lost orientation of children toward the nurturing adults in their lives. Far from seeking to establish yet one more medical-psychological disorder here—the last thing today’s bewildered parents need–we are using the world “disorder” in its most basic sense: a disruption of the natural order of things. For the first time in history young people are turning for instruction, modeling and guidance not to mothers, fathers, teachers and other responsible adults but to people whom nature never intended to place in a parenting role—their own peers. They are not manageable, teachable or maturing because they no longer take their cues from us. Instead, children are being brought up by immature persons who cannot possibly guide them to maturity. They are being brought up by each other.

The term that seems to fit more than any other for this phenomenon is peer orientation. It is peer orientation that has muted our parenting instincts, eroded our natural authority and caused us to parent not from the heart but from the head, from manuals, the advice of “experts” and the confused expectations of society.

Normal But Not Natural Or Healthy

So ubiquitous is peer orientation these days that it has become the norm. Many psychologists and educators, as well as the lay public, have come to see it as natural—or, more commonly, do not even recognize it as a specific phenomenon to be distinguished. It is simply taken for granted as the way things are. But what is normal, in the sense of conforming to a norm, is not necessarily the same as natural or healthy.  There is nothing either healthy or natural about peer orientation. Only recently has this counter-revolution against the natural order triumphed in the most industrially advanced countries, for reasons we will explore. Peer orientation is still foreign to indigenous societies and even in many places in the Western world outside the “globalized” urban centers. Throughout human evolution and until about the Second World War adult orientation was the norm in human development.  We, the adults who should be in charge—parents and teachers—have only recently lost our influence without even being aware that we have done so.

Peer orientation masquerades as natural or goes undetected because we have become divorced from our intuitions and because we have unwittingly become peer oriented ourselves. For members of the post war generations born in England or North America and many other parts of the industrialized world, our own preoccupation with peers is blinding us to the seriousness of the problem.

(…) An even scarier thought is that if peers have replaced us as the ones who matter most, what is missing in those peer relationships is going to have the most profound impact. Absolutely missing in peer relationships is unconditional love and acceptance, the desire to nurture, the ability to extend oneself for the sake of the other, the willingness to sacrifice for the growth and development of the other. When we compare peer relationships with parent relationships for what is missing, parents come out looking like saints. The results spell disaster for many children.”

( fragments published on Dr. Gabor Mate’s website)


  • Read the full book. ASAP.
  • Be clear and (more) firm about limits regarding peers and social media/ phone usage.
  • Delay allowing social media apps as much as you can ( up to 14 years old if possible).
  • Spend time together. Make the time.
  • Listen without lecturing. Get interested in their world.
  • Get my course. Enroll today. Get the help you deserve. Book a call with me today, click here