The daughter of Christians in your assembly comes home to tell her parents that her friends at school think that she is strange. She doesn’t dress right, isn’t up on the latest names in the entertainment world, still enjoys reading books and doesn’t know how to flirt with boys. The criticism comes with advice on how to succeed in all of these areas, especially the flirting aspect.
Perhaps you’re not surprised. Normal for today’s teenagers, you say. Suppose, however, that I told you that the girl was only ten years of age, still in fourth grade? Would your reaction be any different?
Peer pressure is a very real thing. It has always been part of society. Yet what makes it especially malignant today is that it begins to be felt even by small children. The media, especially television, begin the invasion at an early age.
In the business world, men have coined the expression, “Every problem is an opportunity.” Although most of us wish that the problem of peer pressure on our children did not exist, the reality is that we must face it and seize it as an opportunity.
How then do we counter the malignancy of peer pressure?
Perhaps the single most important weapon in your arsenal is the kind of life you live. How do you handle peer pressure? Do you need to compete with neighbors and other believers to have the newest? The best? The biggest? How do you stand against the moral tide of the day? Do our children see us as easily influenced or as able to withstand all the pressures which a godless society exerts upon us to conform? Are we allowing the world to “squeeze us into its mold?” Have we demonstrated both by our lives and by our teaching that the principles of the Word of God transcend any ideas and movements of men?
Today’s parents wear many hats, but God has always required that parents be able to instruct their children from the Scriptures. In most parts of our society today, this responsibility is either totally abandoned or left to schools, churches and peer groups. Little wonder that the results have been so devastating. Where and how can we as parents communicate most effectively to our children?
Few families today sit down together over meals. The hurried pace of life dictates that each member of the family eat whenever possible with little contact. The average North American parent spends about eight minutes a day talking with his children. Meal time should become an opportunity to listen to the ideas and pressures to which our children are being exposed. Deuteronomy 6:7 as well as the questions at the Passover feast all support this.
Rather than moralizing or preaching at our children, use the opportunity to explore their reactions to secular thinking. Bring the Scriptures to bear on the topic, and ask them how they would understand that concept in light of what God says. Underscore the eternal wisdom and authority of God. Don’t demand immediate capitulation to your wisdom. Allow them time to work through it and apply it in their own lives. Do not, however, be afraid of challenging the moral and spiritual darkness to which they are exposed.
Our greatest danger is the failure to be balanced and fair with our children. An unsaved child will experience pressure from peers but not have the comfort of pleasing God. That does not mean we make allowances and lower standards. It does mean that we need compassion and balance.
One of the most subtle and dangerous forms of peer pressure is when your child comes to you, asking permission to do something, and says, “But the other Christians in the meeting allow their children to do it.” Once again, this is an opportunity to show that you do not simply do what others do (peer pressure even amongst believers) but follow the Word of God. You must, however, never condemn others; leave them with the Lord and allow Him to enlighten them if you differ.