Who Is Influencing Your Kids?
Joey and Carla Link
July 10, 2019
Who has the most influence on your kids? Every parent thinks they are the biggest influence in their kids’ lives and that is certainly true with young children. But as they grow older, that can change. Have you considered how much time you actually spend with your kids versus how much time others spend with them and influence them? It’s one thing to love them unconditionally, spend money on them, take them places and even attend every one of their events, but who are they listening to? Who is speaking loudest into their lives?
When we first took the Growing Kids God’s Way parenting class some 30 years ago, one of the many things that made us take a closer look at our parenting was this very question. Who was spending the most time with our 3 kids? The week’s homework had us answer the following:
- Excluding yourself and your spouse, list all the people who spend at least one hour with your children during the course of a week.
- Next to their names, write the total hours per week they spend with your child.
- Count the number of people you have listed who have standards and values which differ from yours.
- Count the number of hours they spend with your child weekly.
Did the answers to these questions tell you something you have never thought about? It was frightening for us to see how many hours our son was spending with people who didn’t have the same values as ours. Those hours were in structured activities such as school and sports and music, but they still added up. It told us exactly where a lot of the attitude we were dealing with was coming from as well.
Whether its peers, cousins, siblings, teachers, coaches, day care workers/nannies or other adults, they all have an influence on your kids from terms and phrases they use to the kind of clothes they wear to how they do their hair. They can also influence all kinds of things from what they think about different things to the music they listen to and what they do to entertain themselves.
The influence of others on our kids can have a powerful impact on them that can take weeks, months and even years to try and counter once a child has bought into it. The Bible says it clearly in 1 Corinthians 15:33 (NIV):
“Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”
Carla’s Mom wrote this verse on 3×5 cards and taped it to doors and mirrors throughout their house.
So what can a parent do?
Until your kids are mature enough, meaning they can be around bad influences and not be affected by them, teach them to walk away! Yes it can be embarrassing to them and even seem like they will be looked down on for slipping away, but Solomon’s wisdom says “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” (Proverbs 13:20)
- Parents need to encourage their kids regarding who to hang out with. This is part of training kids on what to look for in friends.
- Plan times with families with like-minded values and similar ages of kids.
- For a family night make a family list of qualities to look for in friends and those to avoid. One night a month get the list out and have kids name friends with good qualities on the list and have them share why. Have them share the names of kids who were so obnoxious they needed to be avoided at all costs and why, and the names of kids who didn’t have similar values they had to be in close contact with like sitting next to in school, band, choir, etc. Ask them what they could do to show them what Godly values looked like.
- When in public and you see a kid misbehaving or begging their parent to buy them something, take your kids for ice cream and ask them what was wrong with their behavior and why and what the kids should have done differently.
- Teach them that any friendship can erode into a bad influence depending on who the friend is spending time with. Help them see when this is happening and work with them to come up with a way to confront the friend or pull away from the friendship.
- Help your kids learn how to be a good influence with kids with unwise values they have to spend time with. When one of our daughters rode the bus to band events, we encouraged her to take a deck of Uno cards to play on the bus. She asked some girls with values similar to ours to sit together with her and they played the game. Other kids on the bus wanted to play too, even the loudmouth obnoxious ones. Amy told them it was a clean game so they could play if they kept their language clean. They did and cards became a thing to do on band trips.
Parents are often too busy to really know who their kids are hanging with or what they are talking about with each other. Have you thought about who your kids are spending their time with when they are on a school bus for music or athletic events? They spend hours in practice with these same kids. Have you thought about the language they hear when something doesn’t go a kid’s way? Not knowing this can erode good parental training through bad associations.
Over the years, especially when I (Joey) was in youth ministry we have heard many a sad parent say:
- “I wish I had learned more about who my kids were hanging out with.
- “I didn’t know what my kids were really doing with that group of kids.”
- “I didn’t know what my kids were listening to and the language they were picking up on.”
- “I didn’t know my kids were looking at that on the internet with them.”
We are not encouraging you to be helicopter parents who micro-manage your kids. It is up to you to teach them how to be mature enough to live in the world and not be a part of it. Today with technology as a primary means of communication for kids, it’s easier than ever for parents to be informed about what their kids are doing, looking at and who they are communicating with on their phones. They may have never met who they consider to be close friends; much less you have met them! We would encourage you to be wise stewards of your most prized possessions, your kids and not let your investment into their lives be stolen by unwise fools but to teach your kids how to be influencers versus being influenced by “bad associations.”