Helping Children Overcome Peer Pressure
By: P.D. Buford
Children are a gift from God, and it is our responsibility as parents to provide for their every need. Although John was speaking of his children in the gospel, his words apply as well to Christian parents’ desires for their natural children: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (111 John 4).
Paul instructed that “the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children” (11 Corinthians 12:14). This involves more than a monetary inheritance. It also includes preparing the child for the problems and situations of life that are to come. Even though the parent may not know the future, he can know the One who holds the future.
Peer Pressure – Bad or Good?
It is important that the Christian parent be aware of the types of pressure that his child faces. Not all peer pressure is bad. Sometimes positive peer pressure is a help, an assistance to the concerned parent.
The Hebrew boys, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, exerted positive peer pressure upon each other that made standing for right easier. Their common goal of godliness made the attaining of the goal that much more within their reach. Positive peer pressure in action! However, not all peer pressure is positive; some is negative. This peer pressure is a drag, a detriment, and a liability. Not every child is the leader in his social group. Some are followers, and if the crowd goes wrong, so does the follower.
Sources of Peer Pressure
Peer pressure, be it good or bad, comes from the social group of which an individual is a part. The social group or peer group is made up of people about the same age, status, and rank in a society, forming a sociological group with a uniform system of values.
One exception to this definition is the peer group of the family unit. In that case the child may not share the same age as the other members of the family, but the other common factors, such as environment, training, heritage, and relationships serve to make the family unit a peer group.
While a child can be a part of several peer groups, generally the values of one group will dominate the other groups influence over the child. This occurs when one group is viewed as “more fun,” or it meets immediate needs in a desirable manner.
Another peer group that exists in our world today, which is not often considered, is the “invisible” peer group. All the regular listeners of a radio talk show become a peer group. They have only one thing in common, perhaps, but they still function as a peer group. All the readers of a particular author become a peer group. On children’s level, all the children who watch a particular cartoon show become a peer group. The group is invisible in that the members are not seen together in a group setting yet they are very much a group having some things in common.
What Can a Parent Do?
Parents can do many things to help their children overcome negative peer pressure. Here are five recommendations.
1. Recognize bad and good peer pressures when they are present.
“Walking with our eyes open” is more than a cute saying. When it comes to our children, we need to be aware of their surroundings, influences, and their peers at all times. Realizing that our children are subject to negative peer pressure in a certain social setting is the start of a solution.
2. Present desirable values in an attractive manner. There are values that are desirable to the Christian parent. These values, based on the Holy Scripture, are important to our children, but they must be presented in an attractive manner. Paul encouraged Titus to exhort believers to “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things” (Titus 2:10). When we adorn and enhance the doctrine, we do not add to it or take away from it. We are not endeavoring to change it, but rather we are endeavoring to make it attractive. After all, “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, in a most delightful way!”
When Christian parents continually hold God’s ways up as a better, more profitable way by consistent teaching as well as personal example, the contrasting values of the child’s various peer groups will not seem as desirable in the eyes of the child.
3. Involve the children in positive peer settings. A most important job of parents is to “train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). By choosing the peer groups for the child, we better control the type of peer pressure that comes against him.
With all that lies in our power we must endeavor to involve our children in as many positive peer settings as possible. A good church is high on the priority list. The fellowship of a good church with other God-fearing parents can help to establish peer groups of which the parents have excellent oversight.
4. Reduce the “commercials” that sell the child unneeded and unwanted lifestyles and items. We can help the child by reducing the amounts of “commercials” that pump the child full of desire for the forbidden. Many television commercials as well as the programs themselves feed the very things that concerned Christian parents are trying to starve – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. When we reduce and even cancel exposure to the media exploitation of a child’s carnal desires, we have done the child a great service and helped him to resist the persistent pull of negative peer pressure.
5. Encourage healthy multi-generational relationships. There is something healthy about a godly grandparent spending time with the grandchild, an honorable aunt and uncle influencing the niece toward righteousness. When this is not possible, a godly scout leader, family friend, or Sunday school teacher can serve the kingdom of God well by spending time and effort interacting with the child in a proper Christian manner.
For the Child’s Sake
Helping children overcome the negative peer pressures that they face is an honorable goal of every Christian parent. Your interest in this subject shows a noble desire in your heart to follow scriptural direction. Out of all the things you “have”, your children are the only “things” you can take with you to heaven. We only have one chance to raise our children in the fear of God. You are taking a most important first step. For the child’s sake, do not stop now!
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED IN A TRACT BY THE UPCI, @1995, BY P.D. BUFORD. THIS MATERIAL MAY BE USED FOR STUDY AND RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.