Helping Your Child Deal with Peer Pressure
by Tricia Goyer
I walked into the third shoe store with my elementary-age son. It was soccer season, and Cory was trying to find just the right shoes. He'd tried on a dozen pairs that seemed fine to me. Finally, at the third store we found the ones that were “perfect.” After we got to the first game, I understood why. A few of the “cool” kids on the team wore the same brand Cory had chosen. His choice wasn't by accident.
As our kids grow older, they’re more aware of other kids around them. They start by picking up the phrases of their peers and wanting to dress like them. But that’s only the beginning. In elementary school, the pressure’s on when it comes to movies or music they know is inappropriate. I know parents who were horrified when peer pressure led their kids to use foul language, smoke or view pornography on the computer.
Every child will face the pressure to conform at one time or another. Here are some tips for preparing your child for when that time comes and helping him or her to stay strong.
Remind your kids that they are unique. We can dress like others and act like them or we can enjoy who God made us to be. Help your kids discover their style — one that glorifies God. Style means how we dress, as well as how we talk, interact and observe life. Kids will feel less inclined to model someone else when they’re comfortable with themselves.
Be the scapegoat. When our children started having sleepovers, we let them know that anytime they felt uncomfortable with a movie, they could call us for help. And we would be the scapegoat for them. Our daughter took us up on that offer. We were happy to talk to her friend or friend's parents and give our disapproval for a movie whenever she felt pressured to watch something she knew she shouldn't.
Talk about different decisions and related consequences. Role-play situations where your child may be tempted to follow the crowd. Pretend to be an older student who offers a cigarette or a child on the bus who wants to tell your child a distasteful joke. If you help your child find the right words ahead of time, he'll be prepared when the situation arises.
Share what the Bible says about our behavior. My friend Regina offered this advice. “I talk with my kids about various situations and then discuss what the Bible says about them. We also consider what Jesus would do. A few of our family’s sayings are: “Kill them with kindness” and “Be the better person.” Knowing that Jesus lived a certain way can help kids understand that the behavior they need to model isn't just a good idea with mom and dad.
Remind your child that God can help in any situation. A great verse to memorize is 1 Corinthians 10:13: “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure” (NLT). Remind your child that everyone faces temptations, but we can pray and ask God to strengthen us. He will help us to be strong when we ask and give us a way out.
Help choose your child's friends. My friend Heather was forced to separate her son from one of his classmates who was leading him in wrong directions. Yet even while you help your kids choose better friends, you also have to remind them that those decisions are theirs alone. “My son had to listen to his heart and make the right decisions in the end, even if it went against his friends,” Heather says. “It's a very hard lesson for a 6-year-old to grasp, but he's getting better at being an independent thinker.”
Remember the best thing you can do to help your child with peer pressure is to be a good role model. Feeling pressured by your peers? Stand up to the pressure, and I guarantee your children will notice.
Tricia Goyer is an acclaimed writer, publishing hundreds of magazine articles while authoring more than 25 fiction and nonfiction books combined. Among those are 3:16 Teen Edition with Max Lucado and the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Book of the Year Award winners Night Song and Dawn of a Thousand Nights. She lives with her husband and four children in Arkansas.