What Company do the Kids keep?
By Sylvia Cochran – Christian Parenting
Whether it is acting up during recess, passing notes in class, cutting chemistry, or smoking in the bathroom, kids’ egging on one another to do things they know are wrong is as old as school itself. Is it possible to inoculate your children against the influences they will experience from friends and acquaintances alike?
Understanding the Power of the Peer Group
The peers are the people who surround your child. They are usually close in age, frequently come from similar backgrounds, or at least live in the same general neighborhood. Groups – by nature – develop pecking orders. Kids with desirable skills are close to the top of the pecking order. Kids with skills that are not considered desirable by the group rank closer to the bottom. The sum of the kids making up the group decides on the skills considered desirable. If the peer group is made up primarily of athletes, prowess with the ball or on the running track is important. If the group is more geared toward computer gurus, ability with the mouse and program design is desired.
Pecking orders are somewhat fluid. Subgroups within the peer group still jostle for positions, and as kids get older, they do tend to dare one another to do silly, stupid, dangerous, or illegal stunts. This is where behaviors such as shoplifting, cutting class, disrespecting teachers, goofing off, and experimenting with drugs eventually may occur. Since approval from peers gradually supersedes the importance of parental approval, it stands to reason that even highly intelligent, well behaved, spiritual, smart, and otherwise “good” kids get sucked into behavior patterns that – at face value – are completely contrary to their nature. Closely monitoring the company the kids keep is the call of the hour. So what is a mom (and/or dad) to do?
How NOT to deal with negative Influences a Child will experience
Preaching to the child, thumping the Bible, talking at the child, raising your voice, losing your temper, taking away privileges, and withholding affection do not work when the first signs of giving in to the suggestions of negative influencers begin to show. Make a mistake here, and you will cement – not diminish – the influence of the peer group.
Spiritual Methods for dealing with bad Company and negative Influencers (that work for non-Christians, too)
Change the peer landscape: 1 Corinthians 15:33 teaches that bad company corrupts good character. Do not expect your golden-haired child to say no to drugs if you keep him in a school populated by the children who relieve personal boredom with drug abuse. Interestingly enough, this phenomenon does not just occur in the inner cities and so called “poor” neighborhoods, but plagues the schools of the well-to-do areas as well. Do not be afraid to change your child’s school, school district, or take up home schooling.
Minimize the peer influence: Peers stroke a child’s ego where it is most vulnerable. What does your youngster lack? Is he overweight? Does he miss the accolades heaped on those who succeed in athletics? Is she gangly? Does she miss the attention paid to the “popular” girls? Money worries aside, what is that your child would love to do? Is it sports, horseback riding, art, music, chess, or some other activity? Make it happen. Enlist the help of friends, family members, or offer to volunteer at a venue in return for your child’s ability to participate in a highly desired activity at a discounted rate. If the youngster has an after-school activity she loves to do, the power of the peer group diminishes. If it is something that will fulfill – in part – the need for accomplishment or recognition, the peer influence dims further. In addition, by surrounding the child with likeminded kids, there is a good chance that he will soon prefer these friendships to the bad company that keeps getting him in trouble.
Manipulate the formation of an inner circle: Have you ever heard of Solomon Asch? He is famous for conducting the Asch conformity experiments in the 1950s. Science Aid explains that Asch conducted a peer group compliance experiment and noted that only 26 percent of people refused categorically to bow to peer pressure and give a wrong answer. However, if there was at least one dissenting voice, termed the “ally,” compliance with the peer group diminished significantly. Apply this knowledge to protecting your child from bad influences. Identify kids of similar temperament and good character whom your child enjoys spending time with. Do whatever it takes to support these friendships and help them grow.
The Parent’s Role in Friend Selection
By now, you are wondering about this “you” business. I am making it sound as if you are the only person who can minimize, end, or at least diffuse the stranglehold that unwisely chosen friends will have on your child. Well, you are reading it correctly. You cannot rely on the school district, the youth ministry of your church, the school psychologist, the teacher, law enforcement, other parents, friends, or family members to parent your child. They all will exert some influence on the youngster, to be sure, but you are the final authority.
Matthew 10:24-25 recounts Jesus’ teaching that a student is like his teacher. If the head of the household is akin to the devil, how much more so the members of the household? In the more modern vernacular, you might say that the fish rots from the head down. Is your example enough for your kids? Are you practicing what you preach? Do you model poor self-control, strife for immediate gratification, act selfishly, and feed your own addictions to money, sex, recognition, and material things? If this describes you, how can you expect your child to act differently? Moreover, if you are quick to blame others for the misfortunes that befall you and lack the humility needed to ask for help, how can your child hope to take responsibility for his actions and ask for help when he encounters peer influences that are over his young head?
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