My oldest son and I got into quite a lengthy and somewhat heated discussion on the way to church one Wednesday night. It started right before we jumped into the van. I saw that he didn’t have his Bible in his hands, so I said, “Hey, don’t forget to bring your Bible.” He acted like he heard me; but, then proceeded out the door and got into the van empty handed.
I followed him to the van and said, “Hey, you need your Bible.” He was very unhappy about it but he did go back and grab it.
The 20-minute ride to church was then filled with a strange and upsetting conversation of me trying to convince my son that he needs to bring his Bible to church. My husband had to work late that night so it was just the boys and I in the van.
My son said that they had Bibles in the classrooms that everyone used so it wasn’t necessary for him to bring his… that everyone just used those. He said that the leaders didn’t tell them they HAD to bring their Bibles so they didn’t really care whether he did or not. He said lots of things that didn’t make any sense to me.
Ouch! There it was… He was protesting because he wanted to fit in with the other guys his age. And apparently, the other guys his age in youth group don’t bring their Bibles to church anymore.
You might think that your son is safe from peer pressure because you homeschool; but, chances are, he probably attends some activity or other where he is experiencing the pressure to “fit in.”
We all want to feel like we are part of the group. We all want to be liked. We all want to have friends and feel that we have somewhere we belong.
Even us homeschool moms have probably felt that pressure along the way. We compare ourselves to other homeschool moms all the time – even when we’re trying not to. We feel pressured to be using the right curriculum, to do enough extra-curricular activities, to make food and cleaning products from scratch… or whatever else other homeschool moms around us are doing. And you’ve probably felt that nagging feeling at church or other places that you don’t quite fit in with everyone else because you’ve bucked the system and are homeschooling your children.
Pressure to conform is hard to resist!
Fortunately, as homeschoolers we do have a lot more control over who our kids spend time with… so we can minimize the negative peer pressure to which they are exposed. Unless we’re going to keep them at home for the rest of their lives, however, our kids will experience peer pressure.
Here are 5 Ways to Help Our Kids Handle Peer Pressure:
- Stand firm – We need to teach our kids to do what God would want them to do rather than what man would want them to do. This is a hard one because no one wants to stand out negatively in their peers’ eyes. Practice various situations they might encounter so that they have some idea of how to respond when they are in these situations.
- Be the bad guy – Give your child permission to blame you for their behavior. Sometimes it’s easier to say that they can’t do something because their parents won’t let them versus the fact that they personally don’t want to do something. Be their “out.”
- Give them permission – If your child finds themselves in a situation they don’t feel like they can handle, tell them to call you and you will pick them up no questions asked. Some families have code words so that kids can let their parents know what’s going on without having to say something embarrassing in front of their friends.
- Get out of there! – If bullying is taking place, you might want to evaluate whether or not your family should continue participating in the group. The emotional damage which takes place when being bullied can be hard to overcome. No activity is worth your child becoming depressed or despondent.
- Advise them – don’t always give orders – At some point, we need to let our kids know what we think they should do and then back up and give them room to make their own mistakes. If our kids are never allowed to decide anything while they live with us, they will be more likely to make some life-alteringly bad mistakes once they’re on their own. Mistakes are how our kids learn! (My husband has to remind me of this one all the time.)
In my son’s case, I did end up letting him keep his Bible in the van and walk into church empty-handed. Going to church without his Bible wasn’t a sin issue – and I didn’t want him to have another reason to feel like he doesn’t fit in.
That night, when I was tucking my son into bed, he said he was sorry that he had talked to me the way he had. He also said he will start bringing his Bible to church. But he did ask if he could get a new, smaller Bible that looked more grown up than the one he has been carrying for years. We were happy to take him to the Christian bookstore to get him a new Bible.
Peer pressure is tough! Simply by homeschooling them, we are making our kids feel like they don’t fit in with quite a few groups in life. Unfortunately, this is even true in many of our churches. Homeschooling our kids is a good thing – but it doesn’t always feel that way to them when they’re around their publicly schooled friends. Be sure you spend lots of time talking with your son to find out what struggles he is having and what pressures he is facing. Standing up to peer pressure is hard – even as an adult.
We need to do everything we can to give our kids the tools they need to learn how to stand firm under the pressure and do what’s right no matter what! But we also need to remember that it’s a process. Our sons aren’t necessarily going to stand up well under the pressure until they’ve developed the self-confidence they need to do so. Being a teen is hard!
Question – Has your son experienced peer pressure? How did you handle it? Do you have any advice you can share which helped him learn how to do what was right no matter what? Please leave a comment below!