I’m sure all of us can remember a myriad of catchphrases we overheard our parents chastise us with over and over again as we were growing up, but perhaps none more than “If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?”
Perhaps it sounded a little different in your family. Maybe something like:
- If your friends said a bad word, would you?
- If your friends stole, would you?
- If your friends drank alcohol, would you?
- If your friend lied, would you cover up for them?
Really, there are infinite possibilities that we could fill the blank with, but it all revolves around the timeless dilemma of peer pressure.
And if we’re being really honest with ourselves, that trend doesn’t get much easier with age.
Even as adults, it’s easy to fall prey to “keeping up with the Joneses” and having everything look good on the outside even if we are falling apart on the inside.
I recently had a talk around this subject with my preteen and had to face the fact that my words were falling on fairly deaf ears. As I swallowed my pride, I stepped back to realize I needed a new source of wisdom to convey my thoughts to my child. In that moment, three words popped in my head:
Don’t. Fit. In.
The simplicity of the statement seemed almost absurd. After all, don’t most of us live our entire lives trying to fit in?
That may be the worldly standard, but Psalm 139:14 reminds us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” and ultimately called to a higher standard.
In an instant, I reflected back to my own junior high years. Even then, though I desperately wanted to be liked, something in me caused me to stand out from the crowd. I didn’t want to follow the trends, whether it was wearing parachute pants or the double Velcro Reebok hightop sneakers (Don’t get me wrong, I still have plenty of big hair pictures from the 80’s that prove I wasn’t a complete original!).
The point is this: as parents, we need to constantly reinforce with our children the importance of being unique, in both our thoughts and our actions. Standing out from the crowd isn’t always easy, especially in Junior High and High School, but the reward when we do is worthwhile.
For Mother’s Day this year, my daughter gave me a gift that I treasure more than any other: a drawing with words that describe me in her mind. Among them were words like, “Different” & “Unique”. The fact that she not only notices those characteristics but also values them brings me immense joy.
Still, I recognize the fact that my words and actions are not solely responsible for influencing my kids. Exposing them to other adults I respect, good friends, daily Bible readings and yes, even quality books and videos that drive home this message are equally important to me.
Over the summer I find it even easier to get my kids to read more and try new series. I’m especially excited about Dreamtreaders, the first book in a new fantasy trilogy from bestselling author, Wayne Thomas Batson. Dreams have been powerful ingredients of God’s plan as revealed through Scripture and Dreamtreaders explores this concept in a captivating way. This new novel references biblical truth while still appealing to the teenage dilemma of becoming all God has called you to be while distancing yourself from peer pressure.
Regardless of how you talk to your teens and pre-teens about the topic of standing out from the crowd, the important thing is that you actually take the time to talk about it.
How do you encourage your children to deny peer pressure and stand out from the crowd?