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.