By Dolores Smyth, Crosswalk.com
Raising teenagers requires constant guidance and a healthy dose of patience. Parents of teenagers often fret over their children’s choices as they watch their teens navigate the multifaceted years between childhood and adulthood. While each parent worries about something different depending on their child’s personality and circumstances, one worry that all parents of teens have in common is the fear that their child will be led astray by peer pressure.
Simply put, peer pressure is pressure people feel from their friends or peers to behave a certain way. Teens can feel peer pressure when their friends use suggestions, dares, or putdowns to get the teen to do or not do something. Teens can also feel peer pressure more implicitly, such as when they feel pressure to make choices that everyone else in their social circle is making.
Peer pressure can affect many aspects of a teenager’s daily life, ranging from diet, choice of clothing, and level of physical activity to attitudes about school, drugs, and sex. Peer pressure to engage in negative activities can be challenging for teenagers to withstand because teens are already dealing with a fluctuating sense of self, hormones, and the stresses of increased responsibilities.
Scripture warns us of the perils of peer pressure in cautioning that “bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Luckily, Scripture also tells us what to do to handle the bad company that might corrupt good character by giving us a roadmap we can use to help our teens overcome the pitfalls of peer pressure. In particular, we should encourage our teens to “arm” themselves against peer pressure by putting on the“full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:10-17).
What is the Full Armor of God?
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:14-17).
We can encourage our teens to “suit up” for battle against peer pressure by teaching them about the purpose behind each piece of God’s armor. Namely:
1. The Belt of Truth
(Ephesians 6:14). We know as Christians that God’s Word is Truth. Truth has the power to sanctify (John 17:17), bestow grace (John 1:17), and set us free (John 8:32). While social norms come and go, we rest our faith on the promise that “the word of the Lord endures forever” (1 Peter 1:25).
There will be times when our teens worry that they’re not following the latest trend or imitating a choice made by a peer. During these times of insecurity, we can remind our children that “what people value highly is detestable in God’s sight” (Luke 16:15). We can tell our teenagers that instead of working to win the fleeting praises of the masses, they can choose to embrace the lessons of Scripture and store up lasting treasures for themselves in heaven (Matthew 6:19-20).
2. The Breastplate of Righteousness
(Ephesians 6:14). If your teen has a negative connotation with the word “righteousness,” it may be because she’s confusing that word with the word “self-righteous.” The word “righteousness” means goodness, integrity, decency, and fairness—all states of being that can lead teenagers away from sin and toward a happy life. In contrast, the word “self-righteous” means egotistical and hypocritical—behavior that teens know will eventually lead to misery and loneliness.
When explained in this way, the importance of living a righteous life becomes clear. Our teens can go about living righteously by aligning their actions with God’s instructions in the Bible, especially the Golden Rule to “do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12).
3.The Gospel of Peace
(Ephesians 6:15). Scripture tells us to fit or cover our feet in the gospel of peace. When we motivate our teens to cover their feet with the gospel of peace, we’re encouraging them to let Scripture be a lamp for their steps and a light on their path (Psalm 119:105). We can help our children walk in peace by teaching them through our God-centered words and actions how to get along with those around them and how to calmly and justly deal with discord.
4. The Shield of Faith
(Ephesians 6:16). When we envision a soldier holding up a shield in battle, we envision the soldier fending off his enemy’s strikes. A shield guards the body.
In a similar way, when we encourage our teens to take up the shield of faith, we’re urging them to guard their spirits by upholding their faith when people and circumstances tempt them to do wrong. Teens will come to understand that, as long as they’re upholding their faith as a shield during life’s spiritual battles, they’ll be able to deflect the doubts and fears that would otherwise puncture their beliefs.
5. The Helmet of Salvation
(Ephesians 6:17). For our teenagers’ generation, it’s commonplace to see people wearing helmets, whether those people are riding bikes, playing sports, or working with heavy materials overhead. Our children know that helmets save lives by protecting the head from fatal injuries.
Parents can use that analogy to teach their teens the importance of wearing the helmet of salvation to protect young minds from believing thoughts that can lead to spiritual death.
Throughout their lives, our children will endure many moments of disappointment that will test their faith. Also, our children may encounter misguided peers who will attempt to sway them from their beliefs. If we teach our teens to be vigilant and keep thoughts of their salvation through Christ always on their mind, then not even the devil who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” will be able to overcome our teen’s steadfast faith (1 Peter 5:8).
6. The Sword of the Spirit
(Ephesians 6:17). The sword of the Spirit is the last piece of God’s armor and is also a “weapon” that can be used both defensively and offensively. The Bible tells us that the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God, and we must learn to wield that sword well in spiritual battle.
Before we can teach our teens to wield the sword that is God’s Word, we must do our part to “sharpen” that sword by familiarizing our children with Scripture. It is our responsibility, after all, to “[s]tart children off on the way they should go” so that “even when they are old they will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
Arming our teens with the knowledge of God’s Word enables them to use the sword of the Spirit defensively to strike down any arguments their peers may use to undermine our children’s faith. Knowledge of Scripture also lets our teens wield this sword of the Spirit offensively, declaring the Bible’s truth to strengthen and encourage believers to remain true to the faith (Acts 14:22).
Dolores Smyth writes on faith and parenting. Her work has appeared in numerous print and online publications. You can follow her work on Twitter @LolaWordSmyth.
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