Originally published Wednesday, 09 January 2013.
The other day my four-year old, Kaity, randomly came to me and asked that I take her earrings out. When I asked her why, she responded with, “I don’t want them anymore. I just want the holes.” With a house full of girls, our fashion requests range from wearing skinny jeans with a tucked in shirt to wearing lime green tutus with red tights and purple boots! So a simple request to remove her earrings was easily granted!
About two days later when I picked Kaity up from school, she was dying for me to meet her new friend, Sophie. She went on and on about the various conversations and activities that she and Sophie shared that day. She was thrilled with her new friendship and I was excited for her! Later on that evening, while sitting at the dinner table Kaity said, “Sophie and I are twins. She has a pink coat and I have a pink coat. She has purple boots and I have purple boots. She doesn’t have any earrings just the holes, and I don’t have earrings just the holes."
What I had just heard my four-year old express, very innocently, was that she desired to change something about herself in order to “fit in” with her new friend, and it felt good.
Does this scene sound familiar?
She’s only four! Scary right?
The reality is at one point or another we all have or will experience this same pressure. Not just with our kids but in our own lives. We all like to fit it and feel accepted. It’s how we are wired as people. It hurts to be left out and can be lonely in life when we perceive ourselves as being different. However Romans 12:2, tells us that being different is exactly what Christ has called us to.
Empty ear lobes seem to be the very beginning for my Kaity, but surely not the end. Who our children choose as friends will inevitably impact, reinforce, change or challenge their value systems. As parents our job is to empower them to stand out by giving them something and Someone to stand for.
In lieu of this, and my recent earring-less situation; here are a few steps you can take towards helping your kids resist the urge to be like everyone else:
1. Don’t judge their friends or make them feel bad for wanting to be friends with certain people. Telling them who they can and can’t be friends with, will likely cause resentment. Instead be intentional about getting to know them and their parents. Set up play dates, ask questions and show your children that you are interested in helping them cultivate true friendships.
2. Help to develop their identity in Christ. Show them in the scriptures what God has to say about who they are and why He created them. Having and knowing purpose helps to develop confidence and sustains character. Here are a few scriptures to start with:
Psalm 17:8, Matthew 10:30-31, Ephesians 2:10
3. Broaden your child's perspective and encourage them to have a wide variety of friends. Go as far as challenging them to befriend the new kid or the kid that plays alone at recess. Often we have an idea of who we want our kids to be friends with; the smart kids, the athletic kids, etc. Challenge them to broaden their circle of friends by setting the example. When you attend a school function, don’t venture off into your private mommy click, but find the new mom, the quiet mom, or the mom you’ve never met!
One of my favorite quotes is from the book “Raising Kids For True Greatness” by Dr. Tim Kimmell. It says:
"God has not called us to raise safe kids; He’s called us to raise strong ones. He hasn’t called us to raise popular kids; He’s called us to raise spiritually potent ones.”
Think about your child's life, their friendships and their daily environment. Ask God to show you areas where they may be experiencing pressure to "fit in." What practical things can you and will you do to them help stand?
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