If you dig deeply enough, you will find that many of the problems in the world today are caused by adults who have given into what they perceive as peer pressure. Even Christian adults are not immune to peer pressure, often with the same negative results teens and kids get when succumbing to it. Your kids will be more likely to obey God if they can learn to ignore peer pressure while they are still young.
Insulating your kids from peer pressure takes work. Kids and teens are wired to want to fit in with their peers. Spending most of their days together in school and activities only increases the pressure to conform. Some peer pressure can be positive, but often it encourages negative and even sinful choices. It is the rare young person who can stand up to peer pressure without any previous coaching from parents.
Coaching your kids is easier if you start when they are young. Small children often spend less time with peers and are more likely to still believe their parents are the people they most want to please. Helping older kids conquer peer pressure is tougher, but not impossible.
Here are some of the concepts your kids need to embrace to be able to stand up to peer pressure.
- Pleasing God is more important than pleasing peers. This is perhaps the toughest one, because it involves attitudes, mind sets and hearts. Work with your kids on having hearts that want to please God. Encourage them to have their top goal be going to Heaven and taking others with them. Teach them their true worth is in God’s eyes, not with peers who may or may not have their best interests in mind. A child who puts God first and knows what God wants for his or her life will be much less susceptible to peer pressure that would lead to disobeying God.
- Christians will never truly fit into the world around them. If Christians look exactly like everyone else in the world, there is something wrong. Your kids have to understand and embrace the fact that they should never want to be just like everyone else they know. While some Christians are well liked and even well loved because of the loving ways they treat others, they will still be excluded from situations because of how others perceive Christians. Or they will need to exclude themselves from participating in sinful activities. Popularity in the way most young people mean it should never be the ultimate goal.
- Make decisions early. Often peer pressure works because young people aren’t given enough time to really think about what they are being asked to do by their peers. Having discussions about specific situations before they happen can help. Teach your kids how to make good choices about certain topics before their peers can tempt them to do those things. If they have previously decided something is a bad choice, it will be much easier for them to say no than if they are trying to process the options in real time.
- Practice responses. Remember the temptation of Jesus? Jesus knew exactly what to say to reject Satan’s temptations. Help your kids develop a toolbox of helpful responses when faced with negative peer pressure. Don’t forget to also have them practice what to do if the pressure continues.
- Develop escape routes. The Bible tells us God always provides an escape route when the temptation to sin gets to be too much to bare. Unfortunately, most kids and teens don’t know what to look for to escape peer pressure when it gets to to be too much. Teaching them options like walking away or talking to you or another trusted adult can help them find those escape routes God provides when they need them.
- Memorize Bible verses. Teach them Bible verses they can repeat to themselves in their minds either to remind them of what God wants them to do or to remind them God will help them deal with the situation. If they practice them enough, those Bible verses will be in their minds for the rest of their lives.
- Find a few good friends. Popularity generally encourages lots of shallow friendships over a handful of meaningful ones. Teach your kids how to find a true, godly friend. They only need one or two. Teach them to seek friends who will encourage them to obey God. Often these people are Christians themselves, but not always depending upon where you live. If your kids can’t find Christian friends, teach them to look for people who want to support them in their principles and morals even if they themselves don’t always follow those same standards for strictly spiritual reasons.
- Have other options ready. Often peer pressure is to participate in a default activity when young people are bored. They’ve not been taught to think of fun things to do that don’t involve making poor choices. Teach your kids how to find other fun, more interesting things to do and present them as alternatives. It won’t always work, but it works more times than people realize. If the ideas are rejected, encourage your kids to go ahead and do something else that is fun, but a good choice. Saying no to peer pressure does not require one to sit at home alone, bored and sad. Teach them they can have fun doing what is right…even if they are doing something by themselves.
Avoiding peer pressure is tough. Otherwise it wouldn’t involve the word pressure. Working with your kids to be strong in the face of peer pressure will take time and effort, but it can help them avoid making poor choices for the rest of their lives.