I Can’t Stand the Pressure

There’s just something about the sound of shattering glass that instantly freezes your body in place. Except for your head, which snaps sharply in the direction of the sound.

One day glass shattered, my head snapped, and there stood Kelli in the front yard, her 8-year-old face paralyzed with guilt, her BFF Kristen standing beside her, the remains of a floodlight scattered at their feet.

I launched an interrogation: who? what? why?

The answers: Kelli. Threw it on the ground. Because Kristen told her to.

(Let me pause right here to exonerate Kristen. Kelli later confessed she acted alone in her crime. But for the sake of my story…let’s stick with the “Kristen-told-me-to” version.)

(Let me pause again…because before you read on, you should know I NEVER overreact.)

Kristen told me to. Kristen told me to. Kristen told me to. The words tumbled over and over in my head as I looked at my bright young child, my disciplined daughter, and imagined her future flushing right down the commode. 

I grabbed Kelli’s hand and marched her into the kitchen. Then I lifted her to the counter where she could sit and look me eye-to-eye. Teachable moment. Teachable moment. Teachable moment. I tried to control my brain, my words, my tone…because I knew this was a significant event in the life of my 8-year-old. It could mean the difference between the life I dreamed of for my little girl…and a life full of lies, deceit, petty crime.

Kelli’s eyes were big. I’m sure mine were wild.

“Peer pressure, Kelli. Remember when you asked me last week what peer pressure is? THAT–what you just did–is peer pressure.”

Kelli’s eyes got bigger.

“Did you know breaking the floodlight was wrong?”

Nod.

“But you did it anyway?”

Nod.

“Because Kristen told you to?”

Nod.

“That! Is! Peer pressure! You don’t do something you know is wrong just because someone tells you to!”

I waited for the metaphorical light bulb to come on, for something to click, for any sign that she “got it.” She gave me nothing…just those big ol’ eyes staring at me like I was a crazed momma. I tried a new approach.

“Kelli, if you can’t say no to something as simple as breaking a floodlight, which you know is wrong, how are you going to face peer pressure when you are older–and say no to the big things?”

She shrugged.

I panicked.

Could she not see the severity of this? She was only a 2nd grader but–I decided–it was time she faced the real world that was waiting for her.

“What are you going to do when you’re in high school, Kelli, and maybe you’re at a birthday party? And all of a sudden, someone shows up with some beer? What are you going to do then, huh? And what if someone hands you a beer? Then what are you going to do?”

I’ll never forget the look her face…my daughter the pleaser, desperately searching for the right answer to my question so she wouldn’t disappoint her momma again, those big blue eyes looking at me with hope, uncertainty in her voice.

“I…I…I’d…drink the beer?”

“NO, Kelli! You DO NOT DRINK THE BEER!”

I’ll spare you the rest of the conversation. But I assure no one went to bed that night until I was certain Kelli understood the dangers of peer pressure well enough to travel the nation as a motivational speaker, explaining to kids why peer pressure freaks moms out.

Peer pressure–it’s nothing new, right? We know our kids face it, fall victim to it, and if we’re honest, sometimes they may be on the wrong side of it as the “pressurer.” 

And the pressure doesn’t start when our kids are tweens or teens. Send a kindergartener to school with her favorite Hello Kitty backback, and the first time someone says “Hello Kitty is for babies,” all of a sudden your baby despises her backpack.

While peer pressure may not be new…the brand of pressure our kids face today is ENTIRELY different than the pressure we faced fifteen or twenty years ago (or thirty). 

We weren’t bombarded by social media images and posts and selfies, or tempted by too much of the wrong kind of information online TWENTY-FOUR SEVEN. We can’t even understand some of the pressures our kiddos are fighting against because we didn’t have to fight the kinds of battles they face. What scares me even more is…we may not even know some of the pressures that exist today…because as informed as we’d like to think we are…we do not live in their world! So how do we equip our children for those battles?

Talking to our kids is important. Those commercials on TV tell us our kids will listen if we talk to them. Church is a vital ally…a solid rock foundation for them to stand on, with us beside them. But neither of those makes our children immune to peer pressure…because psychology tells us at this stage of their lives, our children’s biggest influence is not us. It’s their peers. 

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn said this, and I believe it. Our kids are greatly influenced by the people who get most of the hours in their day.

Let’s see…I spend about one hour in the morning and maybe a few good hours some evenings with my girls–and less with Kelli when she is at college. Compare that to seven hours a day at school plus occasional afternoons or evenings hanging with friends, at practice, at work. Chances are Mom may be one of those five people…but she is only ONE.

Who are the other four? What actions, words, attitudes do we see in our children that reflect other influences–good or bad? Who is shaping our kids?

I know what you’re thinking right now. You’re taking inventory of your kid’s circle of friends, aren’t you? And there’s that one that…well…if only he or she weren’t part of the circle, right? But what do you do about that friend?

When our children are younger, it’s a little easier to discourage unhealthy friendships because we have more control over where and how our kids spend their time. But what about our older kids who have more independence and maybe a driver’s license? If we forbid, or even discourage, a toxic friendship, somehow it magically makes that one friend seem more necessary to our teenager, and suddenly we become the adversary. Then we engage in a battle that probably no one is going to win really…or escape without scars.

So we keep loving and praying and guiding and hoping as we walk that fine line between loving parent and sworn enemy. And we don’t give in to the pressure.

Because we know peer pressure is stupid. After all, we’re older and wiser and more mature, so we ourselves have the antidote to peer pressure. Right?

Wrong.

Remember what Jim Rohn said? “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

He isn’t talking about kids actually. He’s talking about us, the adults. I wonder what we’d discover if we took inventory of our own circle of friends. I wonder how our Top Five influence our decisions, our reactions, our outlook.

Do you have a friend who is negative, always complaining about her husband, her kids, her life? When you’re around her, do you find yourself complaining, too? And do you feel the heaviness sink deep into your soul and suck out all your joy? When you’re around this friend, you can just feel it, can’t you? And you don’t feel like “you” at all.

Or maybe you have the friend who is the exact opposite. She has all the joy and it’s contagious! If you’re down, she douses you with encouragement and dreams your dreams, and she makes your heart feel like so many butterflies fluttering their delicate wings high into the blue, summer sky. When you’re around this friend, you can just feel it, too. And she makes you feel like the best you.

The best brings out the best in us. The worst drags us down–even though we tell ourselves we can resist the pressure…from our peers…because we’re all grown up.

Do the math. Who is bringing down your average?

Peer pressure. We fought it. Our kids fight it. And we will continue to fight it…with our kids, for our kids, and for ourselves.

Because we don’t like the sound of shattering glass…or the look of brokenness scattered at our feet. 

***

How do you help your kids deal with peer pressure? What strategies have been successful in your family? The rest of us want to know! Share in the comments below.

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5 Comments

  1. NT says:

    I don’t have a strategy, but I need one! I just had this conversation with my little last week when a friend dared her to do something at school and she took the bait.

    One long lecture later that mayor may not have included the whole “what if your friend asked you to jump off of a bridge” talk, and I’m 99% sure we have gotten nowhere!

    • Karen says:

      Isn’t it just the worst to know that there is an element that really isn’t in your control? But I know you’re a good momma…and I bet she heard more than you realize!

  2. Sandy Slusher says:

    Wonderful subject. Walking through these things are not easy. Pray that God gives you the wisdom to say and do the right things. Also that he gives your kids the wisdom to make the right choices. These days we need to rely on God to guide us through this difficult world we are living in.

  3. Susie Hill says:

    This is SO true even at my age…. Thanks, Karen!!!

  4. Barb says:

    Isn’t it amazing how topics are the same over the years. I remember my Momma talking to me about the same subject. I remember having the same talks with my kids. Karen, another wonderful post that reminds us and encourages as well. Thanks for sharing your God given writing talent and reminding us that parenting is instructing in teachable moments daily.

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