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The Deadly Traps of Adolescence
Day 2 of 10
Guest: Dennis and Barbara Rainey
From the series: Peer Pressure
Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition. It's Tuesday, July 10th, and we thought we'd do something a little different today – we're broadcasting from outdoors here on the Montana prairie.
Dennis: It's beautiful out here, isn't it?
Bob: It is beautiful.
Dennis: Big Sky Country – man, the grass is so green and fresh, wow.
Bob: The wind is kind of warm.
Dennis: What's that? What is that, Bob? Did you hear that?
Bob: I do hear that.
Dennis: Bob, the ground's shaking.
Bob: There's a little bit of a …
Dennis: … feel it?
Bob: Uh-huh, it's coming. Look over on the – on the horizon!
Dennis: Bob, it's a bunch of them.
Bob: It's …
Both: The herd!
Dennis: That was kind of fun – we survived the buffalo stampede here.
Bob: I'm not sure we'll survive the teenage stampede.
Dennis: Oh, man.
Barbara: It lasts a little longer.
Dennis: It sure does.
Bob: We are talking this week on the broadcast about some of the traps that are laid for teenagers, some of the deadlier traps that are laid for young people as they go through the teenage years, and one of the traps that they face is the trap of the herd, it's the trap of peer pressure, Dennis.
Dennis: You know, Jeremiah, chapter 5, verse 26 says, "Among my people are wicked men who lie in wait like men who snare birds and those who set traps to catch men." That's peers – evil peer pressure can snare our children and can ruin their lives.
Bob: You know, Barbara, everywhere you look and listen and read and watch, you hear about peer pressure and its influence, and yet it's almost like we've heard so much about it that we've forgotten that it's real, and we're not sure how to define it or what to do with it. From a mom's standpoint, practically, what are the issues around peer pressure that are real issues for our families?
Barbara: To me the big issue for peer pressure is for mom and dad to stay involved. You need to know who the kids are that your child is hanging out with, who their friends are, and you need to be watching how those friends of your child are beginning to change, because all of our kids, as they move from elementary school in those early years of when they still like Mom and Dad.
But they move into junior high, all of our kids are going to change in some way or another, and we can't assume, as parents, that the kids that our children have been friends with since kindergarten, first grade, second grade, are still going to be the same kind of influence, the same kind of child, in junior high and high school that our child is going to be.
We can't assume that they're going to have the same value system, the same convictions, the same beliefs. We've seen it with all of our kids that some of the children that they've grown up with have taken a different fork in the road in junior high and that friendship changes, and if parents assume that those kids are going to just be the same kids, then we get blindsided.
Dennis: You know, in that passage I read in Jeremiah, chapter 5, it says "among my people are evil men." The most dangerous form of peer pressure will not come from the non-Christian audience. It will come from the youth group, from children who have been on the right path until they hit 13 or 15 and, all of a sudden, they steer down the wrong path, and they begin to take a group with them.
In fact, there is a larger group in most youth groups heading down that path than there is down the path to righteousness and following Jesus Christ and, as parents, Barbara and I have spent a great deal of time being very careful analyzing who are our children hanging out with? What's their spiritual condition? Where are they headed – constantly monitoring who our children's friends are.
Bob: The bad kids are kind of obvious, even to our teenagers. It's the good kids who are starting to dabble in some bad things that can be the ones who pull our kids off into the ditch with them.
Dennis: Exactly, and it's important for our children to know when it's okay to run with the herd and what kind of herd they can run with and when it's time for them to graze alone. Paul warned in 1 Corinthians, chapter 15, verse 33, he said, "Don't be deceived. Bad company corrupts good morals." All of our children have memorized that verse prior to going into adolescence, because they have to understand that peers are going to influence them, either for good or for evil.
Bob: You illustrate this principle in a really powerful way with your sixth grade Sunday school class that you taught for many years. How did you do it?
Dennis: Well, I brought a shiny apple into class, and I said that this apple is about to fall under peer pressure, and I let it spend some time with a couple of buddies, and these two buddies were bad apples, and they had bruises on them, and to make sure that the experiment worked, I'd actually bounced them off the floor a couple of times, so these were truly bad apples, okay?
And I actually hid the bruises from my sixth grade Sunday school class to make the point of saying you can't always trust what you see is true, and I held up a side that didn't have the bruise, and I said, "These two are really bad apples," and then I slowly turned them around, and the children then could see that they really did have a rotten spot on then, and I said, "We're going to let this good apple spend some time with these two bad buddies, and we're going to see what happens as the good apple falls under the influence of these two bad apples," and we put them in a plastic baggie that sealed and put them in a paper sack and left them in a closet for about six months.
Bob: They hibernated, right?
Dennis: They did, in fact, over the following months the sixth grade class would be saying, "How are our buddies doing?" I'd say, "Well, I've been checking on them. They're spending time, and you need to know it's not pretty, it really isn't pretty," and then on one of the final class days I would invite one of the sixth graders to come up front, he would reach into the paper sack and pull out this plastic baggie that contained this form of rotten, putrid, apple soup, and there weren't three apples in there.
There was nothing distinguishable that you would recognize as an apple and, of course, my point to those children is that Paul's admonition in 1 Corinthians 15:33
– "You are either going to influence people or you are going to be influenced for evil," and if you spend time with the wrong person, you're going to become like those that you make your friendships with.
Bob: Barbara, as Dennis was talking about the apples that look good from one side but have some hidden bruises, I was reminded of Eddie Haskell – you remember him on "Leave It To Beaver?" He was the young man who would always come over and say, "Hello, Mrs. Cleaver, how nice you look today."
Then when he'd get up to Wally's room, it was always a different story, and he'd start talking slang, and he was rude and disrespectful. Parents have got to be alert to what's going on with these kids. We've got to look all around the apple and see as much as we can, don't we?
Barbara: Yeah, because some kids are really smart, and they know how to do that. They know how to look good when they have to look good, but when they're off on their own, they will do what they want to do, and I think there are a couple of things that parents need to be aware of as you evaluate the kids that your child is spending time with, and one of them is sometimes these peers will ridicule what your standards are. They will make fun of them, or they will belittle them, or they will arrogantly tear down what you're trying to do with your child.
Dennis: Yeah, and I've got to underscore this one, because I think a parent needs to be very careful of assuming too much about the peers that your children run around with. Don't assume that they stand for the same standards that you represent in your family. In fact, Barbara and I have probably come to the point where we don't assume that about any of the children until we get to know them. After we get to know them, we get to know their families, where they come from, and who they are. At that point, we'll begin to give them the benefit of the doubt.
It's almost like any parent of a teenager ought to begin with a basic – this is going to sound horrible, Bob – but a basic mistrust of peers. Why? Because they will arrogantly and flagrantly ridicule the standards and values that you're attempting to teach your child at home – just what Barbara said.
They'll do it frontally, they'll do it subtly, they'll come at your child in different ways, tempting him to step to the left or to the right, but most children, even Christian kids, are not going to step in alongside your teenager and say, "You know, it's really wise that your parents grounded you from going out on dates, because of that mistake you made last week."
Barbara: That's never happened.
Dennis: That has never happened, but we have had great Christian kids – I mean – from great Christian homes come in and say, "Your parents have grounded you from going to youth group? Your parents have grounded you from God? Man, your parents are – I don't know about them, about their values." Now, Bob, these are from kids of great Christian homes. They don't understand what a parent is up to and what a parent is trying to do in providing those boundaries and convictions around that child.
Bob: Barbara, they may also encourage our children to do things that Mom and Dad will never find out about, right?
Barbara: Yeah, and that's historically true with peers, and that's been going on for centuries, but the classic line that our kids have heard over and over again is – "Your parents will never find out." And our kids have all had friends tell them that over different things.
Like, Rebecca came home and was talking about our high school baseball team and their first opening game that she was wanting to go to, and we had looked at her whole week and together we had decided that she didn't need to do that, because we had so many other things going on that week, and she could maybe go to a game the following week.
And at school she was telling some of the guys on the team, "Well, I'm not going to go." And they said, "Well, why aren't you going to go?" "Well, my parents and I decided it wouldn't be a good idea," and they said, "Well, they'll never know – just go – nothing's going to hurt, just go to the game anyway, do it anyway." I mean, over and over and over again .
Dennis: And when that happens, the caution lights go on between Mom and Dad, and we begin to closely monitor those friendships and, at the same time, begin to guard our children from spending too much time from other teenagers who would encourage our son or daughter to disobey us. Now, think about that. That sounds like a no-brainer, but some parents would watch that happen and would not think that they have the right to step into that child's life to begin to curb the amount of time that teenager spends with that child.
Bob: Which is one of the convictions that you talk about in your book. You say that parents have a legitimate right to exercise influence and control even over who your kids are spending time with.
Dennis: Yeah, I want to read something from our book right here – "You are the parent. Realize that maintaining control of those who influence your children is within the bounds of your authority as a parent." Did you hear that? It's your responsibility, you're in charge, nobody else, but there's some kind of complex equation that takes place in the chemistry of a teenager and a parent of a teenager, where a parent begins to abdicate their responsibility and, I might add, their authority, and they give it over to the child, and then they wonder years later why the child went off in the wrong direction.
Bob: Well, here's what happens Barbara – a teenager comes, and there's some discussion, and finally the teenager says, "Well, don't I have the right to choose who my own friends are going to be? Don't I even have the right to decide who I can hang around with?" And, as a parent, you say no?
Barbara: Yeah, and you sound horrible saying no.
Dennis: You've got to sound strong saying no. You can't go "No?" Your own voice can't change like a teenager's. You've got to go "That's right." Call their bluff – and inside you may be going, "Oh, I'm not sure about this. I'm going to lose them. They're going to run away. They're going to become a prodigal. They're out of here. They're going to" …
Barbara: But the whole goal is shaping, though, their ability to choose friends wisely. It's not so much that you're coming down heavy-handed and going, "No, you have no right to make your own friends, your mom and dad are going to do that for you." That's not the issue. The issue is that you're training them, you're guiding them, you're helping them understand how to choose a good friend and how to be a good friend, and that takes a lot of time.
Bob: And the context for that is one of the other convictions you talk about in the book – the relationship that must be in place, because without the relationship, if you start saying, "No, you can't choose your own friends," they check out from you, and they'll just sneak around and do it whether you like it or not.
Dennis: Yeah, that's right. The quality of the relationship that you have with your child will be a determining factor of how significant peer pressure is on your child's life. Did you hear that? It doesn't mean you'll prevent it. I'm just saying if you've got a quality relationship, if your heart is connected to your child, you're going to know what's going on. Your child will know that you know what's going on. You'll be in it together.
There may be times when they slip away, and they've done something, but you can go get that child through that relationship. If that relationship is not in place, you don't have any ability to go get that child and pull them away from peer pressure.
What your ability – to preach? Even with those relationships in place they don't want to hear those sermons. But you know what? With the relationship in place, it makes the possibility of them hearing that sermon a reality.
Bob: You know, as we talk about peer pressure, we talk about it almost exclusively in its negative sense – those folks who yank our kids in the wrong direction – one of the great things that you all talk about is the power of positive peer pressure. This is where parents can really turn peer pressure and make it their ally instead of their enemy.
Barbara: Yeah, and I think a lot of parents aren't aware that that's a possibility, because what happens is when they're not involved, then the kids are going to gravitate toward negative peer pressure, and that's just going to be the human nature of the situation. They're just going to go that way.
But if you're involved, and you're teaching your child how to develop good friendships, how to be a good friend, and then you steer him or her toward kids that you know are going to be good kids, kids that are going to be a good influence, and you sort of help cultivate that relationship, make time for it, and have those kids over to your house and help develop that and teach your child how to keep that going, then you can use that for good in your child's life. So it doesn't have to be negative. It can be positive if parents are proactive about it.
Dennis: When Ashley was 13 or 14, she came home from school one day, and she described what she was feeling like as a young person. She said, "Mom, Dad, it's as though I'm standing on a wall, and my friends are all at the base of the wall, and they picked up stones to throw at me to try to knock me off the wall."
Dennis: And I think what you need to do with your teenager is to help them find some friends to get up on the wall with her or with him, and it's interesting – our oldest three went through junior high and high school alone. They were terribly alone on that wall …
Barbara: But they did have each other, and I do think that made a difference, because even though they were alone without peer relationships from other kids, they were pretty much in school together, and they knew that they had somebody else that was there with them.
Bob: They also had Mom and Dad cheering them on in the background saying, "Way to go."
Barbara: Right, exactly.
Bob: So that when they took courageous stands, at least home was a place they could come to where they knew they were going to get some positive reinforcement.
Barbara: Right, right.
Dennis: Exactly, and when Ashley told that story of how she felt, we just cheered her – I mean – "Way to go, Ashley. Don't let them knock you off. Stand strong." One of our other teenagers has told us repeatedly, "You know, I just feel like such a failure as a teenager."
And when it comes to peers, and being a teenager, our teens make a lot of dumb choices, you know, they choose some wrong things, and it's easy, as a parent, to constantly be on them for the mistakes they're making and not appropriately be for them and the right choices they're making and cheering them on to the objective.
Bob: Barbara, one of the very practical things that you've done with your children to help prepare them for maybe standing alone, is the "decide in advance" game. Tell me how that's played.
Barbara: Well, it can be used in lots of different situations, but for peer pressure, for instance, it would be a situation where – I've done this with all of our kids as they have exited sixth grade and entered into junior high, and I've said to all of them, "Now, you know, as you go through these next couple of years, some of the kids that you've been friends with since second grade and third grade are going to begin to change, and they will choose some wrong paths; some things that our family doesn't stand for, and I want you to be watching for that so that when it happens you'll be not caught off guard by it, and you'll see it coming, and you won't get sucked into making those wrong choices, too."
So it's the idea of thinking through some situations in advance and helping them know that there are going to be some problems ahead, and what are you going to do about it when it happens? And taking it a step further, it could be what are you going to do if you're over at a friend's house, and they put a movie in that you don't think we would approve of. How are you going to handle that?
Or what if you're at the mall, and you see some kids that are thinking about shoplifting? You can tell just by the way they're talking and what they're doing that they're thinking about that. How are you going to handle that? What are you going to do?
There are just multiple things like that that kids are going to face in greater numbers in junior high and high school than they ever faced before, and helping them decide in advance what they're going to do about it is a great step in preparing them to handle it right.
Dennis: It really is, and it comes from Daniel, chapter 1, where it talks about how Daniel made up his mind in advance not to defile himself by eating the king's food.
In other words, he walked into the banquet having already decided what he was going to do in advance of the choice, and I think, personally, this whole idea of parents having their own convictions and then implanting those convictions in their children, helping that child decide what he or she will do before they face the situation, I believe, Bob, is one of the absolute keys in helping our children survive adolescence.
Bob: Well, and that's why you and Barbara have invested as much time as you did in this book, "Parenting Today's Adolescent," because you want parents to think through these issues – and I appreciate the fact that what you really want parents to do is develop their own convictions. In some cases, it's clear what the biblical mandate is on some of these issues, but in other cases, we have to decide what do we think is the wise way to approach this? And what kind of standards are we going to have for our family?
A husband and wife need to come to an agreement on those issues and be ready proactively to address them as their children begin the journey through adolescence.
We've got copies of the book, "Parenting Today's Adolescent" in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and I know many of our listeners already have a copy. If you have children who are in the late elementary years, that's the perfect time for you to get a copy of this book and start reading through it.
You could read through a different chapter each week on a date night together and begin, as a husband and wife, to interact over these issues and say, "What are our standards? What are our convictions?"
Again, the book is called "Parenting Today's Adolescent." You can request a copy from us here at FamilyLife Today by go online at FamilyLife.com, click the red "Go" button that you see in the middle of the screen, and that will take you right to an area of the website where there is more information about this book, and you can order it online, if you'd like.
Again, the website is FamilyLife.com. Click the red button that says "Go," and that will take you to the area of the site where you can get more information about the book, "Parenting Today's Adolescent."
You can also call 1-800-FLTODAY to request a copy of this book or to ask any questions you have – 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we've got folks who are available to try and help you with any questions you face or to get a copy of the book sent out to you.
You know, there's an additional resource we'd like to send to you this month. It's a book that Dennis has just written called "Interviewing Your Daughter's Date" – a great book for dads or for a single-parent mom as well to talk about how you can protect your daughter as she begins to be pursued by young men, and how you can engage those young men in a meaningful, helpful conversation that will have an impact on their lives as well.
We are sending out this book this month as a thank you gift to those of you who are able to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount. Because we are listener-supported, those donations are critical for the ongoing ministry of FamilyLife Today and in the summer months, particularly, we need to hear from our listeners.
Oftentimes, support drops off in the summer, and that's the case this year as well. If you can help with a donation of any amount to the ministry of FamilyLife Today, you can request a copy of the book, "Interviewing Your Daughter's Date." You can donate online at FamilyLife.com, and if you do that, when year-old come to the key code box on the donation form, type the word "date" in there, and we'll know to send you a copy of that book.
Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, make your donation over the phone and mention that you'd like a copy of Dennis's new book, "Interviewing Your Daughter's Date." Again, we're happy to send it out to you as our way of saying thanks for your financial support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
You know, Dennis, as we talked today about peer pressure, you used the illustration of the rotten apple in the bag, and I remember you telling me that years after your sixth grade Sunday school class, one of those students who had been in the class returned and told you about the power that that particular illustration had had in her life.
Dennis: Yeah, Sarah was 16 or 17 and evidently was facing some pretty challenging days of peer pressure, and one afternoon when the power was out because of a thunderstorm that had rolled through, this young teenage girl and her mom were lying on the bed just talking to each other. The mom relayed this story to me later that Sarah turned to her and said, "You know, Mom, there's all kinds of pressure on me right now by peers, but all I can think about are apples – Mr. Rainey's apples – and what happened to those apples when they gave in to the bad buddies."
That little object lesson was used by the spirit of God in that girl's mind to remind her to do what was right and to talk to her mom about that during a crucial period where she was having to decide either to do what's right or to move in the direction of peer pressure. It helped her do what was right and, Bob, I think that's our role as parents.
We need to step in there and illustrate these principles, call our children to the right choices, and then keep calling them back to those choices. It's not a one-time lesson where you teach it once, and then you back off. It's over and over and over again.
The repetitive side of parenting is the exhaustive side of parenting, but it's where the real gains are made, and I just want to come alongside that mom and dad right now, single parent, maybe even a grandparent who is helping to raise a child and just say to you – hang in there. Don't give in to your child's peer pressure yourself. You've got to stand strong so you can help your child through some dangerous territory that has traps that will seek to ensnare your child and take them toward destruction.
Bob: FamilyLife Today is a listener-supported production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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