Resisting Peer Pressure
We all long to be loved and accepted. We all long to belong. We are “relational” creatures and as such, need relationship. But the problem comes in when my sense of worth and identity is determined by your acceptance of me. If I “need” you to accept and affirm me, then I give you incredible control over my life and my value.
They Own You
I used to run a youth group across the street from a local high school. Often at lunch hour, students would come and hang out in my office and chat. One day a girl came over and was lamenting that she was insulted by another student and how that really upset her day. After listening to her bemoan this for a while, being the incredibly sympathetic person that I am, I commented,
“That other girl, she owns you!”
“What, she doesn’t own me!”
“Oh, she owns you!”
“Because you have handed over to her your worth as a person. She now controls what you even think of yourself. She can make you feel good about yourself by accepting you, or she can destroy your day by rejecting you. Your entire day is controlled and manipulated by her. She owns you. How you feel about yourself and life will now depend on whether she wakes up in the morning in a good mood or bad mood. Are you comfortable with that?”
It may sound ridiculous when talking to a teenage girl, but we all do that very same thing all the time. We just do it subtler as we get older. If we develop this perspective of our worth as a child, it will continue to manipulate us in our adult years, bringing with it many fears and insecurities.
When our lives are manipulated by seeking the acceptance and affirmation of others, we will never be free to fully be ourselves. We will need to keep putting up masks to hide our true selves, presenting a false image of what we think will make the other person like us.
It is this desperate longing for acceptance that will cause children to go against the values they have been taught and succumb to peer pressure. Peer pressure is incredibly powerful and every parent fears how other children might have a negative influence on their child.
Value Apart from Opinions
As parents, we can play a role to help our children understand their value apart from what others think of them and as a result be less susceptible to manipulation. If our children can simply learn to be themselves, then the relationships they form will also be more authentic and longer lasting.
One of the keys to a child having a strong sense of worth that can withstand peer pressure, is a solid relationship with you as parents. Now when I say solid, I don’t simply mean that they know that you love them, but that you actually “enjoy” them.
Side Note: Don’t take for granted your kids know you love them. They need to hear you say it. In a recent parenting seminar, I asked the attendees how many had never heard their father say he loved them. One quarter of the group raised their hands. Father’s play a key role in helping children find their relational security and identity. Father’s need to speak those words often to their children, yet strangely, it is the one thing many fathers find hard to say.
I Like You Too!
I didn’t want my kids to just think I loved them, I wanted them to know that I liked them. For a season, every night when I tucked them into bed, I would say to them, “I love you! And I like you too!” That conveyed I appreciated who they were, that I enjoyed spending time with them, that they were special to me. Most kids know parents are “supposed” to love them, but often we get so busy with the challenges of life, we don’t actually convey to our children we like and appreciate them.
Here are a few tips to help with that.
Tip 1 Have fun with your kids
This may sound obvious, but I have seen so many parents that are incredibly busy with kid events, sports/dance/music, routines of life, but they don’t actually have fun “with” their kids. They relentlessly drive their kids to fun – but don’t have fun themselves. It’s like taking kids to the playground and watching them play, versus playing with them. I can’t count how many times my wife and I played “grounders” with our kids at any playground we discovered.
Life can get overly busy, so I made my day off a family day. We would strategically get outside of the city and go exploring for vistas, waterfalls, caves etc.. We had so may adventures together and lots of laughs.
We used our vacation time and money for adventures. We even told our kids, you’ll have to pay your own way through college because we are spending that money on family together times. Even now that they are actually paying their own way through college – they still affirm that was a wise use of our money.
Laughter is key. Our kids once wrote what they appreciated about their mom was that she would wrestle with them – which always ended in laughter. Laughter conveys, “I like you. I have fun with you. I like being with you.” If we don’t convey that type of joyful acceptance with our kids, they will look for it elsewhere. That doesn’t mean you have to wrestle, but you need to have times of silly laughter. If they have this joy at a deep level in the home, they will have less driven need to crumble to peer pressure to get an illusion of it from their friends.
Tip 2 Nighttime conversations
Ever notice the one time your child wants to talk is when you’re ready for them to go to sleep so you can have some quiet time to yourself. This is where loving sacrifice comes in. Children are most open and vulnerable to share when they are lovingly tucked into their beds. Sometimes resist the urge to shut down the conversation. Just lay there and listen to them, or start to ask some deeper questions about how they felt about certain things through the day. Some of our most meaningful conversations happened because we stayed there and listened instead of running off to watch a TV show.
As our kids got into their teen years, we started going to bed before them. But guess what would happen? Because they valued those night time connects – they would come and jump on our bed and talk, even though we wanted to go to sleep. Then we would get into a big wrestling match as I tried to kick or throw them off the bed. Lots of laughter, lots of good, bonding times that gave them the courage to stand firm when many friends veered off into unhealthy directions.
Interestingly, even though they have moved away – their friends still enjoy connecting with us, because they were often part of those times of laughter too.
Tip 3 Healthy community of diverse ages
Our kids have always been a part of groups of diverse ages. Being part of a church community really helped with this. If children are always just playing with only their peers, they will simply learn to act like their peers. If children are consistently exposed to people of various ages, they develop a much better grasp of what maturity looks like at those different stages. Our kids, at a very early age, became quite adept at speaking with adults, and in a respectful manner. It was always simply a part of their life.
They learned to sit quietly in sessions that would be boring for them, they learned to listen, they learned valuable life principles. They also learned to “serve” along side of adults. They were constantly mentored from an early age because they always served with adults. As we started a new church and had to do set up and take down every week, adults ended up coming to them in their teen years, to ask how to do things. Eventually through this, they developed confident leadership skills.
When a child is affirmed and encouraged by many adults, the critical voice of other children carries less weight.
Think through how you’re approaching life “with” your children. You can’t change the past, but you can start building a strong relational basis in their life now, no matter what age they are. The more you build into their life, the more they will understand they are loveable and respectable.
French physicist and mathematician, Blaise Pascal said, “There is a God-sized vacuum in each of us.”
We were created to experience relational oneness with God and to carry out a God-designed purpose for our lives. But because we broke that relationship with God, there is now this God-sized vacuum in our lives that longs to be filled.
No person, no spouse/child, no career, no success can fill that void. Yet, because those are the only things we “think” can fill the void, we keep chasing after them, only to find that once we get them, the emptiness still naggingly persists.
But what if God could re-fill that void?
What if he could restore our relationship with him and restore us to our created purpose?
What if we never had to manipulate, chase, defend or prove anything ever again?
How would that change your life? How would it change your children’s’ lives?
Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV)
The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”
Zechariah 1:3 (NIV)
Therefore tell the people: This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the LORD Almighty.
These are quotes God speaks to Israel at a point when they had rebelled against him in the worst way. And yet, he longed for them to be restored to him. They’re the same words he says to us today.
God wants us to be restored to him so that we can have the fullness of life he created us to experience.
Jesus said ,
John 10:10 (NIV)
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Once we understand that our identity, our acceptance, our significance can really only come from God alone, we can start preparing a stronger foundation for our kids.
If you’re curious about how to have this type of relationship with God, that can radically change your very perspective of self and life – that’s why Explore Church exists. Get in contact with us and we would love to do coffee and chat about God and the difference he is making in lives.
All Posts in this Series
Developing Your Child’s Sense of Worth: Defeating the Performance Lie
Tip 1: Don’t Make the Grade be the Goal
Tip 2: Celebrate Failure…sometimes
Tip 3: Discipline Out of Love…Not Anger
Developing Your Child’s Sense of Worth: Resisting Peer Pressure