We’re Teaching This:
When was the last time you had to make a tough call? Was it when deciding what to eat for lunch? To drink Coke or Pepsi? Go to the gym or skip it? The truth is, we make judgment calls all day long, from what we watch on TV or who we hang out with to more complicated decisions like whether to attend a party or stick with a tough friendship. And, in every decision, we’re forced to ask the question, “Which option is better?” The problem is, our natural tendency to judge leaks into places it shouldn’t—like our relationships. We start thinking of people as options and deciding which ones are better or worse. Many of us are even tempted to make those judgments about ourselves. Unfortunately, most of the time, we make decisions about people without all the facts. We don’t know someone’s whole story, their whole situation, or their whole potential. We miss the big picture. Maybe that’s why, in the Bible, God makes it super clear: Judgment is His call. Not ours.
Think About This:
A quick internet search reveals the worries many parents feel when it comes to their teen’s friends. “How to spot a bully”. “How to spot a bad influence”. “How to spot the wrong crowd”. There is plenty to worry about when it comes to your student’s friends. And while we all want our students to show good judgment when it comes to friends, our tendency as parents may be to judge too quickly. One friend has too low of a GPA. Another has too many extracurricular activities. One talks too much and another is too quiet. It’s hard to know which qualities our students should accept in their friends and which ones should put that friend on the proverbial no-fly list.
But what if, as parents, we spent less time figuring out who our students should be friends with and more time figuring out how to influence the friends they’ve already chosen? What if you were able to not only help your teen choose friends, but to directly influence the life choices those friends make?
More and more studies say you can.
A study published in the archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine suggests that teens with friends who have strict parents are less likely to binge drink and make other poor life choices (http://fowler.ucsd.edu/parental_influence_on_substance_use.pdf ).
Think about that. The students in this study were most influenced by their friends’ parents, not just their friends. In fact, you probably don’t need a lot of research to know this. Have you ever heard someone say, “She is like a second mother to me”? Probably so. Many of us grew up with at least one set of friend’s parents who influenced us. Part of maturing is beginning to listen to multiple voices, multiple adult influences. As parents we have an incredible opportunity to speak into our own children’s lives by using our influence to guide their friends.
When it comes to friends, influence > judgment.
Having influence on your child’s friends doesn’t mean you have to be the “cool one”. It doesn’t mean you have to host or allow parties, throw caution to the wind, and be their best buddy. It also doesn’t mean you have to legally adopt them or have them over every night of the week. Having influence can be as simple as taking one step toward including a friend in your normal family plans.
Invite them in.
Invite your teen’s friends to spend time at your house. You don’t have to do anything special or make a five star dinner. For a lot of students, the concept of a normal (even boring) family dinner is almost unimaginable. Simply being in a home with someone other than their own parents can offer students a different perspective on things like marriage, work, family, and decision-making. So don’t feel the need to put on a show or have the most fun house on the block. Just allow someone else to be a part of your family once in a while. You may have more impact than you think.
Everyone wants their teen to be an accepting and friendly person. And one of the best ways to teach that skill is to model it. Think about the friends your teen already spends time around. How intentional are you about investing time in those people? Are you using your influence to help that person in any way?
This week, try investing time in one of your teen’s closest friends.
Invite them to come hang out for dinner or be part of a family outing. While you’re together, ask questions about their family and their interests. It’s not a time to give advice—just get to know them and show you care. In doing so, you may be taking the first step toward more influence in the life of your own student.