It’s not only children who want more than anything to “fit in” and be liked by the cool crowd; it’s all of us. The Bible calls peer pressure “fear of man,” and we all struggle with it. Each of us has, at different times, given the people around us more power than God intended them to have. We all have people in our lives whose opinions mean more to us than they should or who have the power to control us more than they should. As you seek to help your child, remember we all need help in this area. Thankfully, we have a big God who is able to do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). He wants to help us live for him and not the opinions of others. Here are some truths that will help you and your child turn to God in this struggle.
1. Peer pressure starts with putting our trust in the wrong place.
God says that “fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe” (Proverbs 29:25). Trusting in people (and their opinions of us) will never keep us safe. Instead, it will lead us to do and say things that are wrong and unkind. But trusting in God will lead us through this life and right into eternal life forever with the God who loves us and gave himself for us.
2. Remind your child God is all powerful and full of love for his children.
When we care more about the opinions of those around us than God’s, we have forgotten who the most powerful person in the universe is. Remind your child, “God has said this, and I have heard it over and over: God, you are strong. Lord, you are loving” (Psalm 62:11–12 ICB). God is bigger and infinitely stronger than the people around us. Ask your child to look at the birds, the sky, and the trees, and remember God made everything they can see. He will keep them safe.
3. When the opinions of others control what we think, say, and do, it’s because we have put them in the place of God in our lives.
Sometimes our children are more afraid of what another child would think of him/her than a teacher, parents, and God. That is actually putting the child in the center of their life instead of God. All of us naturally exchange worship and service of the Creator for worship and service of the creation (Romans 1:25). One way we do this is by putting people’s opinions of us in the place of God’s. It feels like their good opinions are what will give our lives comfort, security, and meaning, but real life comes from loving God and putting him at the center of our lives. We all need to turn toward God and ask him to help us worship and love him first.
4. Share with your child your own struggles in this area and how Jesus has helped you.
Since we all struggle with “fear of man,” you should have plenty of stories to tell your child about your own struggles. How did God help you? How is he helping you now? What Bible verses have been meaningful to you when you have been tempted to care more about the opinions of people than God’s opinion of you?
5. When your child has been “trapped” by their fear of people, remind him or her that Jesus is always ready to forgive those who ask (1 John 1:9).
It’s a good thing Jesus is a friend of sinners, because we all need forgiveness every day. Help your children see that putting other people in the place of God is a sin they can ask God to forgive. Because Jesus died for the sins of his people, he is able to save completely those who trust in him (Hebrews 7:25).
6. Encourage your child to find his or her identity in Christ.
Direct your child to where true life and love is to be found—in a relationship with Jesus. Talk with your child about the acceptance and rest found in having our identity grounded in Christ. Caring about the opinions of others is a burden that will weigh your child down. Remind your child that Jesus says:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.”Matthew 11:28
Talk with your child about Jesus’s accepting grace and his faithful love. Jesus is the only friend who will never turn his back, never say anything mean, and will always be there. He shows us his great love for us by giving up his life for us (John 15:13).
7. Doing the right thing is not easy, but Jesus can help.
Children may wonder if Jesus knows how mean another child can be. They fear rejection and wanted to be liked. But a simple prayer of faith can be answered with the courage to be kind. Encourage your child to ask Jesus for help expressing his or her love for God in love for others. Because Jesus gave his life for his friends, we can also be true friends that give our lives for others.
8. Pray with and for your child.
Your children, just like you, need the Spirit of God to change their hearts. God works change through the prayers of his people. Pray for your children’s hearts that they would turn away from worshiping anything except the God who loves them and gave himself for them. Pray the same for your own heart. Pray that you will fear the Lord and be released from your own fears of others.
The above content was adapted from Halle Takes a Stand: When You Want to Fit In.
HALLE TAKES A STAND: WHEN YOU WANT TO FIT IN
Halle Hedgehog has a group of school friends she sits with at lunch and plays with at recess. One day, the whole group excludes another girl and decides to be mean to her. This bothers Halle, but she doesn’t say anything because she doesn’t want to be excluded, too. Halle’s teacher Mr. Owl talks to her about who she really needs to fit in with, and how she can speak out against bullying because Jesus is with her.