It is amazing how early in a child’s life that peer pressure can affect a child. It can be seen in the classroom, on the playground, at lunch, anywhere that children interact. It is safe to say that children are guided by their feelings. Moreover, when these feelings go in a direction that a child does not like, the result is usually something not pretty. For example, take a group of children playing at recess. One of them feels that another child is not playing with them as much as that child is playing with others. So that child runs to the staff and complains that “so-and-so” is being mean. Upon investigating this, the staff member tells the child to go and play with others. The child responds by saying “no…I want to play with _.” Do you get the picture?
Now let’s move this on a few years. A teenager is upset because she hears that a “friend” has a low opinion of her. She hears that a few times. Soon, she sees her self-worth as being determined by opinions that, in the long view, really do not matter. Add to that the flood of social media and this teen can soon reach a very low point.
One of the challenges that children face is that they need to figure out who they are as a person in the spotlight of others. They are surrounded all day by teachers who grade them, by some students that mistreat them, and by parents that are charged with shaping them. All of these pressures together can cause stress that, if not put into the right light, can hinder a child’s social interactions, grades, and confidence.
It is important to remind children that they are created by God in His image. That He has a purpose for their life. That the journey in fulfilling that purpose will include hearing negative opinions from others. By engaging children in this way, these peer pressure experiences will not catch them off guard. They will be prepared for them when they occur. Seeing themselves as God’s creation will go a long way in readying them for the exciting and, often times, scary life journey they will face.
We all strive to be the best person we can be. Make sure your child is prepared for this and embraces both their talents and their flaws. Be sure not to rattle them with non-sense euphemisms such as, “What would the neighbors say?”, or “You are embarrassing me.” Sure, we want children to make good impressions and develop healthy relationships. However, if in doing so, they encounter those who find and focus on the negative, then what those people think does not matter. Ultimately, what should matter is whether or not what your child is doing lines up with what their Creator wants of them.