Peer Pressure

One of the things parents should be concerned about is preparing their kids to handle peer pressure. We want kids who will do the right thing, regardless of pressure from friends to do something other than the right thing. So how do we teach them to do this?

I would suggest that we teach them by learning it ourselves. We parents are not immune to peer pressure. Think about it. How many times do we feel an urge to do something, or buy something, because are friends are doing it? Our friends are traveling to Europe. We should go to Europe. Our friends are building a new house. We should build a new house. Our friends are taking up golf. We should take up golf, etc. Now these are all neutral issues. It’s a free country. Golf if you want to!

But some issues are more important. What if you feel pressure from peers to homeschool or to enroll your kids in a Christian school? Both of those choices may be good choices; neither is wicked or evil.  But if you make a weighty choice like that, a choice that will affect your kids long term, without understanding why you are doing it and what it means, you are simply following the crowd and responding to peer pressure.

Other issues may include what I would call “cultural” choices. You may feel peer pressure to adopt a certain lifestyle based on peer pressure. This could include the kind of foods you will or will not eat, the kinds of grocery stores you will or won’t shop in, the kind of car you will or won’t drive, the way you celebrate or don’t celebrate Christmas, the kind of diapers you will or will not use. All of these choices involve decisions that must be made. But why are you making them? Is it because you want a certain group of adults to admire you, welcome you into their select group, and think you’re one of the cool ones?

You see, we adults can still be affected by peer pressure, so we had better be able to spot it when it is applied to us, and we had better learn to make wise choices that are not simply the result of wanting to please certain people.

Our children need to be taught how to do this, so we need to show them how. That means we are teaching our kids how we made the choices we did and why. We don’t just send them to a Christian school or homeschool them; we teach them how we came to that decision. We want to be thinking Christians and we want our children to be thinking Christians. We want to make principled decisions and show them how we got there.

Now of course, some peer pressure is good pressure. If the pressure is coming from the right kind of people steering us in a good direction, then we ought to be grateful. We may have made a decision because of peer pressure that turns out to be a great blessing for us down the road when we finally understand the wisdom of it. God is good.

If one of our kids is being unkind at school to a classmate, we want their peers to exert pressure on him or her to put it right. A godly peer pressure is a good thing, not a bad thing. But even here, the goal is to get our children (and ourselves) to do good things for the right reasons.

Imitation is how we learn. We are to imitate Paul as he imitates Christ. We want our kids to have good role models in us, so they can imitate us. We don’t want them imitating the wrong kind of people, not because imitation is bad, but because the world is always eager to press them into its mold. In the same way, we want them to imitate us as they see us imitating the right kind of people. This is how wisdom is passed on from one generation to the next.

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6 thoughts on “Peer Pressure

  1. I think that peer pressure is greatly the result of father hunger (and mother hunger). Desperate for guidance and approval, we glom on to anyone who seems to have his act together. So another way to inoculate your kids against peer pressure is to make sure that they have an abundance of you — your guidance, your approval, your time, your encouragement, your affection. Then they will want you for a role model — not only a model of the specific choices you make, but a model of the wisdom and discernment needed to make those choices (including other role models).

  2. So true since becoming a mother I’ve noticed already how keen I am to “fit in” anything from buying the latest trendy teething toy (guilty) to how I choose to wean my baby.

    I’ve also noticed how defensive other mothers at the same stage are if I make any comment about what I am doing with my baby eg when I mentioned I was weaning at 5 1/2mths one friend immediately started into a justification of her choice to wean at 4mths. Any diffence of parenting style is taken as implict criticism of how they are doing (I’m sure I’m doing the same thing but always easier to see the splinter!)

    I think it’s worse at the minute as I feel and am sure they feel at sea with the whole new baby thing and so much pressure is put on parents by society at large with all these studies about the best way to raise a child so it can be difficult to work out what is wheat and what is chaff.

    This is where church culture makes such a difference I am blessed to have a very supportive church family full of older ladies who are happy to talk me through my dilemmas and suggest solutions and not leap to judgement. The mother and baby group at church is run by grandmothers rather than young mothers-and the perspective they bring is invaluable. When I was single I thought the group looked awful now I realise how helpful it is to have older ladies who’ve been there and come through and can help me discern. But great reminder that I’m not immune to peer pressure and will need to think this through so I can raise my baby to resist too. Thank you

  3. Love this! I’m by nature a dilettante and interested in lots of things (for at least 5 minutes at a time), so it’s very easy for me to see something like sailing or crocheting or beer making or ultralight backpacking and want to jump in (with a handy batch of new hobby gear) and start splashing about. There’s nothing wrong with any of it, but I’ve had to learn to slow down and be wary of committing when I know that my interests can vary wildly.

    Valerie, I hear you. It’s not something I’ve ever put into words like that, but I think you’re probably right.

  4. This is great. When you look at “mother guilt” situations as just the temptation to give in to peer pressure, it’s so freeing.
    And Nancy, I am still very grateful for the positive peer pressure I had from you at one time!
    Emma–I love the idea of a baby playgroup run by grandmothers! What a blessing!

  5. Fantastic insight!

    I am reminded, too, of the article/chapter section or something.. called “Principles & Methods” which appeared in The Fruit Of Her Hands. Good one.

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