By Jim Burns, Ph.D.
With school comes a whole boatload of challenges. There’s no denying it. One of the most difficult for parents is the frightening reality of peer pressure. No student is exempt from it, regardless of age. In dealing with this, the first thing I would say is that not all peer pressure negative. Positive peer pressure can be just as powerful as negative peer pressure. The issue becomes whether or not kids will take the initiative to set the bar for positive attitudes and behaviors, leading others to follow–or whether they will themselves be followers, conforming to the attitudes and behaviors of those around them.
Your kids’ choice of friends makes all the difference. It’s not likely that even the most talented young leader will be able to sway friends who don’t share similar values. So, how can you help your kids make the most out of positive peer pressure? Remember this: Remind them that they are uniquely special in God’s eyes. Help your kids understand that God loves them for who they are, not for how they look or what they do. A healthy self-image goes a long way in protecting kids from the negative effects of peer pressure. A person who understands that he or she is loved by God will not be as motivated to conform to peer pressure and is much more likely to be a positive influence on others. Remember to be proactive in this important role.
Getting kids connected with the wisdom in Proverbs is one of the great legacies parents can provide. When dealing with the issues of peer pressure, these verses will give you a good head start: Proverbs 22:24-25; Proverbs 27:17.