It is that time of the year again; school is back in session.  The campuses are filled with excited, and not so excited kids, eager to see their friends from last year, to make new friends, to meet their new teacher(s), and to learn something new.  With all this excitement comes the forgotten danger of peer pressure.  As parents we often throw out the ridiculous argument “If your friends decided to jump off a bridge would you?”  (My father did just that in his youth).  We hope that an extreme example will encourage our children to not be tempted to follow the crowd to do something that they will later regret.  To avoid peer pressure it is going to take more than an extreme example to get them to not do it.  Think back to your childhood; did it deter you?  For many of us, that answer is no.
What is peer pressure?  As I am sure most of us are aware of, peer pressure is not limited to our children, but it is something that greatly affects them.  Peer pressure is brought on by one’s peers.  For whatever reason, we have programmed ourselves and our children to care what people in our own social group think of us.  It is important to us to be liked, to be considered “cool,” and to be popular with the masses.  This need to fit in ultimately leads to the pressures one will face to be liked.  We call it pressure because one is pressed into doing something that is outside their normal range of behavior.  A child might recognize that their parents or teacher or some other authoritative figure does not approve of a certain activity, but is pressed into doing lest that child be ostracized by one’s peers.
What type of pressure will kids face?  It all depends upon the age group your child falls into.  For younger kids, they might be encouraged to pick on the not so popular kids because they cannot afford the nicest shoes or clothes, or because they look different, talk different, or even think differently.  They might be pressured into being a taking something that is not theirs, like someone’s lunch, or perhaps gadget/toy that was brought to school.  Older kids might be pressured into doing drugs, smoking, or drinking alcohol.  As parents we need to be aware of the fact that many kids begin experimenting with these activities at a rather young age.  If your child is a teen-ager or approaching it rather quickly, you need to be aware that it is quite possible that he or she already knows someone that has smoked, or drank alcohol already.  This is not some off static meant to scare parents by children often 1st try alcohol by 13.  Many children that grow up to be big drinkers start before they are driving regularly.  Other pressures your older kids will face is that of sexual immorality.  Even 20 years ago as I started high school I can recall how peer pressure affected my fellow class mates.  Kids that we considered intelligent, straight “A” students were coming up pregnant in their freshman years in high school.  Times are not changing as much as we like.  We now even have TV programs completely devoted to teen age pregnancies, and while I cannot pretend to know the producers intent in such programs, we can see that it has encouraged the behavior more so than discouraging it.  Then there are those pressures that reach all kids.  The pressures of dressing immodestly starts at a younger and younger age.  Just the other day, I saw a little girl wearing clothes that no grown woman should be wearing.  It completely exposed her midriff, her shoulders, and most of her legs.  Her mother and father was standing right beside her.  If parents are encouraging their kids to dress in such ways, then it becomes imperative that we as Christian parents encourage our children to resist the pressure to dress provocatively.  I am sure you can think of countless other pressures that all kids face, but I think you have the point.
So, how can we properly prepare our children how to not succumb to peer pressure.  The easiest way to keep peer pressure at a minimum is to teach your children how to choose close friends.
When choosing friends, we need to remind our children what their immoralities will earn them in the end.  “The wages of sin is death (Rom.6:23).”  When choosing friends, we need to remind them that those outside the body of Christ have little to no reason to uphold the same moral standards by which we live.  As such we need to remember Christ’s words in John 3:20
“For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”  Truly moral people are going to find it difficult for the world to befriend them.  When choosing friends, they ways can and will rub off on us.  “Do not be deceived: Bad company corrupts good morals (I Cor. 15:33).”  The more they are “tolerant” of their friends behavior, the more your child is likely to act like the “bad company” Paul warns of.  When choosing friends, we should remind them that Christians are under an obligation to separate ourselves from them if they are behaving as the world.  “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven… (Rev. 18:4-5).  While encouraging our children to make the right choices, we ought to be showing them how in our own lives.  Can we really expect our children to not succumb to peer pressure if we are constantly failing? -WTK

Grinnell church of Christ
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The Pressures of School

The Light
Volume 3 Issue 40   September 2, 2012