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How Do I Teach My Kids to Handle Peer Pressure?

Dennis and Barbara Rainey, parenting, ages and stages, teens

By Dennis and Barbara Rainey

Outside the guidance we continue to have at home, nothing will influence our children as much as the choice of their friends. The Bible speaks pointedly about the power of the people we spend time. Paul wrote: “Do not be deceived: Bad company corrupts good morals'” (1 Corinthians 15:33, NASB).

The opposite is also true: Good company guards against the development of bad habits. Many parents are so afraid of peer pressure they seldom use “good” peer pressure to their advantage.

For years I taught a sixth-grade Sunday school class, and one of the highlights was the “bad apples” demonstration. Surprisingly, most youth today have not heard the old saying, “One bad apple can spoil the whole barrel.”

On a Sunday morning early in the nine-month class, I would bring some apples. I called them my “buddies.” I usually had one beautiful, shiny red apple and a couple others that looked nice but had at least one bruise.

“These two apples with the bruises represent a couple of buddies you should not spend time with in junior high,” I would say. “They have a dark side to them, a compromised area of their lives. This good apple represents you, a good Christian teenager. The good apple sees no problem with the bruised apples. He says to himself, ‘These are my buddies. They wouldn’t do anything to hurt me. They’re not that bad.’”

A few months later

Then I’d put the apples together in a plastic bag and say, “These three apples are going to become close buddies for a few months. I’ll put them in a closet, and we’ll check on them in a few months at the end of the class and see what happens to the good apple.”

In the last class of the year, I would read 1 Corinthians 15:33 and then invite a member of the class to come up and pull the plastic bag out of a paper sack.

It never failed—the two bad buddies had really made an impact on the good apple. The bag now contained discolored, mushy apple soup. This lesson demonstrated how bad company can corrupt and even consume the best young Christian.

Do not expect your child to have the discernment to choose good friends and withstand peer pressure without your help. Training is needed.

Here are eight suggestions for helping your child deal with peer pressure:

1. Encourage your children to trust in God.

Our most important responsibility as parents is to teach our children to believe God, trust Him, base their convictions upon His Word, and obey Him with their entire heart. For many children, peer pressure is an important test of faith. When they are encouraged by friends to do something contrary to God’s Word, they need to remember the words of 1 Corinthians 10:31, which tells us to “do all to the glory of God.”

It is God’s Spirit who gives them the strength to say no to friends and yes to God. As Proverbs 29:25 tells us, “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.”

2. Make sure your home is a harbor in the storm.

The world is often a hostile environment for children. The family must be that safe haven that always welcomes your teen back. No matter what the world says to them, they know they can find love there. We often tell our children, “Nothing you can do will make me love you any more and nothing you can do will make me love you less.”

Children need to be needed at home. They long for approval, sense of belonging, significance, order, and security. If they do not receive these things at home, they will seek them elsewhere and from other people.

3. Don’t relinquish your right to influence and even control your children’s relationships.

You are the parent. Realize that maintaining control of those who influence your children is within the bounds of your authority and responsibility before God.

As friendships take shape, steer your children in the direction of positive peer pressure and away from negative influences. We made it difficult for our children to spend time with friends who do not provide the kind of influence we desire. In certain cases, we even declared certain friends off limits.

Here are some pointers:

Encourage your children to invite their friends over. Make your home the place to be. We particularly encouraged our children to invite those friends that we know are good influences.