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(Give out a few pieces of candy. Have those with candy try to persuade someone else to take the candy. Victim is to resist the temptation, if possible. Everyone else listen for the technique of the "giver" and how the other person responds.)

We teach children to stay away from strangers. You never know what the stranger's motives are for approaching a child. With all the evil in the world today, we just don't want our children exposed to potential danger. So we teach them to stay away from strangers, don't take anything from a stranger, and to yell, scream, kick, etc., if a stranger tries to get them into a vehicle.

However, you probably remember from your childhood that strangers aren't the only bearer of evil. More than likely, sometime in your earlier years, someone (a friend) tried to get you to drink an alcoholic beverage or smoke a cigarette. Statistics show that most teens begin these destructive behavior patterns because another teen talks them into doing it. They do not want to be labeled as "uncool," so they give in to the peer pressure and try the substance. Or they may be susceptible to pressure to toilet-paper someone's yard or other acts of vandalism, help get physical revenge on an "enemy," or "make out" (parking) - and go further than they intend. Teenagers are very susceptible to these situations, because they are experiencing new freedoms - often without adult supervision. Being young, they haven't had enough experiences in life to always know how to deal with real peer pressure. In their quest to be liked and accepted, they are vulnerable to suggestions and pressures that teens put on each other.

These experiences are not limited to just the teenage years. It can start earlier these days. And some adults have problems with resisting their friends. We don't want to offend anyone. We want to keep our friends, so we may be susceptible to peer pressure also.

Did any of our victims today shout, "No, go away and leave me alone"? You may be tempted to do that to a sales person on the phone, but we try not to do that with our peers in our presence.

Samson had a similar problem. He didn't want to risk losing Delilah's friendship and companionship. Surely he wasn't so naive to believe she was just curious. He probably was in denial that she had ulterior motives, or he believed he was "man enough" to handle the temptation without God's help or anyone else's help.

Our school counselors are all trained to teach parenting classes. A few years ago I took one called "Preparing for the Drug Free Years." It is a good course. Unfortunately, most counselors find that it is our good, morally-sound parents who usually take these courses. The parents who really need it rarely sign up for these courses. This particular course has a chapter called "Avoiding Trouble" that teaches parents how to teach their child to resist temptations from their peers. It is presented to teach your child the skills they need to refuse pressure. Just as kindergartners are all taught to "stop, drop and roll" in case they find themselves on fire, this is step-by-step refusal skills.

Talk to your child about troubles they have or think they may encounter - smoking, shoplifting, cheating on a test, spray-painting a wall or car, etc. You'll need this list when you actually start teaching these refusal skills. Explain that the goals are to keep the friends, have fun, and stay out of trouble.

This is not a technique to replace "Just Say No." If your child feels strong enough to use that technique no matter how much they want that particular person to like them, then by all means tell them to "just say 'no' and walk away." However, when children are with friends they really like or with someone they really want to impress and win as a friend, that response will just fly out the window. They will end up hem-hawing and trying politely to get out of the situation. It usually doesn't work. Either they will feel really uncomfortable, look like a geek to their the friend and lose all respect for themselves - or they will give in. But if they have these five steps memorized and practiced, they will keep the friend, have fun, stay out of trouble and "be a Christian light" to the friend.

You will need to model these steps for the child. Have them try to tempt you with something you like. Use the five steps. Then explain the five steps. Then you be the tempter and let them be the victim and have them practice the five steps. Eventually they should be as familiar to the child as "Stop, drop and roll." Cause, just like fire, these temptations will not be pre-announced. They will come up unexpectedly out of the blue.


Say: "What, why?"

    Ask questions to find out if there's going to be trouble.

    • Troublemaker: "Let's go over to my house after school.
    • Child: "What are we going to do there?"
    • Troublemaker: "Well, my folks aren't gonna be home."
    • Child: "So?"
    • Troublemaker: "So, I thought we'd break out a few beers."
    Now you can stop asking questions, because you know there is trouble.

    Another example:

    • Troublemaker: "Boy, I really want that candy!"
    • Child: "Do you have any money?"
    • Troublemaker: "No, but if you will keep the guy at the counter busy, I'll swipe the candy."
    Now, again, you stop asking questions because you know the trouble.

    Here, you and your child brainstorm similar trouble situations.
    When you have several, teach the rest of the skills.


Say "That's ..."

    Tell the child that he or she should name the trouble as soon as they know what it is. If the trouble has a legal name, use it - it sounds more threatening. (Vandalism, shoplifting, DUI.) Other troubles might be family troubles (against family rules, curfew), school troubles (cheating), inner trouble (breaking a promise), God trouble (spreading rumors is not pleasing to God), etc.


Say: "If I did that..."

    Explain that there are many consequences for getting into trouble:

    • Legal consequences - juvenile court, jail, fines
    • Family consequences - loss of privileges and trust, grounded
    • School consequences - detention, suspension, lowered grades
    • Health consequences - addiction, lose of control of mind and body
    • God consequences - shame, guilt, hurt the Father

    Have your child talk about consequences of different acts:
    "If I did that..."

    • "If I threw a rock through my neighbor's window, I'd ..."
      "get grounded," "have to pay for its replacement," etc.
    • "If I helped you swipe the candy, I ..."
      "could go to jail," "pay a fine," "be grounded for life," etc.

    All acts have consequences. And by identifying the consequences beforehand, it may make them think again about the act. Practice these first three steps with your child as troublemaker and victim.


Say: "Instead, why don't we... ?"

    When a child suggests something else to do, they are telling the friend that they are saying "no" to the trouble, but not to the friend. Make a list of alternatives your child could use. Parents, be ready to back the child up in this. You may have to take time out of your schedule to take your child and friend to the park or movie, or be willing to spend $3 at Blockbuster. But be ready to back your child up on this as much as you can. Hopefully, their list of alternatives will include plenty of favorite games to play or other nonexpensive activities.


Say: "If you change your mind..."

    Explain that your child might have to really sell the alternative activity. Even if the friend doesn't agree, the door is still open for later interaction, but the ground rules have been set. The ground rules are: "I won't be persuaded to do anything against my conscience." Tell your child if the alternative is not accepted, then they should leave the presence of the tempter, leaving the message of "If you change your mind, call me, let me know."

    If they are at a party or a friend's house or the mall and they need to get away from that person, you need to be available to help them get away. If they are at a party, your child is not likely to call and say, "Come get me; they are serving alcohol over here" - if they think they might be overheard. Your family may be familiar with a "code word" that is used in times of trouble. (Use the code word when you need to send a different person to pick them up from school. - We used "Tortellini.") This code word can also be used by the child as a signal to you that they want out of that particular situation ASAP. You, as a responsible parent, will drop everything and rescue the child from whatever is making them uncomfortable.

If Samson had been taught these refusal skills, his story might read a little differently today. When Delilah asked him for the secret of his strength, instead of hem-hawing and making up answers, he should have said, "Why do you need to know? What will you do with that information if I give it to you?" Delilah may have lied to him if he had asked that, but at least the ball is back in her field, instead of in his. As soon as he ascertained that she was up to no good, he should have said, "No, that would be disobeying God. If I told you, I would lose my self-respect, probably lose my strength and no longer be of service to God. Instead, why don't we go get a pizza?" If she said she is not hungry for pizza, he should have said, "OK. If you change your mind, I'll be down at the gym pumping iron."

If you are like me, I hesitate to raise my children by "techniques," especially if they are not biblically based. I looked up the temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4. He didn't use these skills. (Well, partially. He did name the trouble.) He had no need to ask questions first - He knew the source and the intent of the tempter. He used the "just say no, quote scripture" technique.

That is fine if you don't need or want the troublemaker as a friend. Children, however, usually do want to keep friends if doing so does not jeopardize their beliefs, and they are not always wise enough to recognize evil and intent without asking. By using these steps, the child has left the door open for the friendship to continue on their terms. And possibly, a seed may be planted into fertile soil that may one day be ready for harvest.

Jeannie Cole

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Ladies Bible Class, Spring 1994

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