March 24, 2014
As I look back over my childhood, I recall my mother paying close attention to those I selected as friends. If she saw me making friends with someone she thought was not a healthy relationship, she would clearly warn me that a bad apple spoils the whole batch, and that we are who we hang out with. A friend shared with me his mother’s time tested law: God would always provide a great, new friend for every not-so-good-friend that I lost. But I’m not sure where to find that verse in the Bible.
Today’s scripture makes it clear that our choice of friends plays a vital role in our lives. This is especially true during the teen years and the early twenties. They are no longer little children, but they’re not yet adults in judgment either. To fit in, feel valued, develop their “own” identity separate from their parents, or to figure out who they are, teens tend to pick up or adopt many of the behaviors, values, and characteristics of the people they observe and hang around.
This is a difficult age for teens. They don’t understand their limitations. They underestimate or fail to recognize many dangers. Parents allow them to make many more independent decisions than in the past, but must still enforce some boundaries when activities or relationships may cause their teens harm.
We often think peer pressure is silly and cowardly. But just think how many times you let other’s opinions or even fear of rejection influence your thoughts or actions. A recent TV show, “What Would You Do?” features somebody doing something wrong in public; I am amazed that so few adults speak up. Please recognize the peer pressure that impacts your teen, and offer alternative answers to their dilemmas. Do not “put down” your child’s friends, but rather encourage godly relationships as you help them achieve their inner psychological, relational, and spiritual goals.
Church attendance is very important and should not be optional. Church youth groups can be invaluable sources of godly friends and activities. But they can also be cliquey as well. Encourage your teen to try. Strongly encourage involvement in extra-curricular activities. Sports, band, specialty clubs, dance or music lessons are all possibilities for healthy involvement. Ask questions and take an interest in their activities, and help them process the roles the activity, and the peers or mentors play.
It can be hard to wrap your mind around why our kids crumble and do such stupid things, and are easily influenced by their peers. But just look at how many adults cave to societal or peer pressure: keeping up with the Joneses, playing games and politics in the workplace, gossiping, influencing others to engage in inappropriate work practices, having affairs at work. We adults also struggle to discern friends from fools and we often don’t model what we preach. Unfortunately, our missteps influence the next generation in major ways.
Today, focus on being involved as a family in godly activities with godly people who have kids the same age as your teenager. Examine the friendships and the relationships that influence your behavior. Are you proud of what you are doing? Don’t let your relationships adversely influence you … your teen will notice the hypocrisy. Who influences you is your decision, so choose well … because people, especially your kids, are watching.
My dear heavenly Father, parenting is so hard. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions! Such pain when they are traveling on a dangerous road. Please lead my children, regardless of their ages, into relationships that will influence them in a positive way. Give me wisdom to guide them and courage to protect them. Give me energy to make regular efforts to connect with them, even when I am not interested in their activities. Help me love the friends of whom I do not approve, and remember to pray for them, also. I pray this in the name our perfect friend, Jesus Christ; and all God’s children say – AMEN!
Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces. Proverbs 13:20
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. 1 John 2:9,10