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Dealing with Peer Pressure

Many Christian parents ignore their conscious and give into the secular expectations others have. Learn how to avoid this mistake by using every opportunity to witness the faith.
by Yvonne Barzil | Source: Schoenstatt Press

A young mother was fretting whether she should let her 4-year old son play with the next door neighbor.  She had already heard foul language, bathroom humor and seen a number of other disconcerting behaviors in the neighbor child.  She was also uncomfortable and had an uneasy feeling about the father.  “But he needs friends, and I don’t want him to be a geek. He’s going to be confronted with other values at some point. He might as well learn now.”  

I tried to keep a cool exterior as I listened to her debate with herself.  Inwardly I was shaking my head.  Like so many people she had mostly right instincts but was second-guessing herself based on what she thought society expected of her.  And how often had I watched and listened to well-intentioned parents defer to the voice of society and ignore their better instincts for a lack of clarity, often with dire consequences afterwards.

This young mother was grappling with the question of socialization, a question that plagues an astonishing number of parents.  Peer pressure doesn’t end at 18 or 30 for that matter. We are all affected by it. The question of education & the question of socialization are inseparable.

To avoid the trap of turning our backs to God in order to please others, first of all, we need to make a self-assessment to identify if our hearts are open to our Lord. Answering the questions below will help you form a clearer picture of how well you have put your professed faith in practice:

• What do I consider the highest good in my life? Where did that value come from?
• Where do I spend the most time, effort and money? Going deep down within myself, below the immediate spontaneous answer – why?
• What are my mores? What do I consider acceptable or appropriate to watch, wear, say? What is not acceptable or appropriate? Have my children assimilated those mores as their own? Why or why not?
• What are my habits?- satisfying my needs – eating, drinking sleeping , relaxation, looking for a thrill, playing, intellectual pursuits, prayer, service?
• How would I describe my own process of “socialization” – not how I am raising my children, but how I was socialized? Describe it. Assess it. What was good? What have I had to struggle with throughout my life due to my “socialization”?
• Every time we read the biography of a great person, the focusing question is: what forces shaped this personality?   What forces have shaped my personality thus far? And my children’s personalities?  What about the families in my nearest proximity?

Father Joseph Kentenich, founder of the Schoenstatt Movement, taught:
“God desires a certain harmony between work and prayer.  If this harmony is disturbed, there results a great catastrophe in the whole world, also in the world of educators and education."

If we keep and hold this truth steadfastly before our eyes, then we understand very quickly where the great distress of today’s times comes from, or at least we have a little notion of it.   That we live in a dreadful chaos - we sense.  That also the world of education has chaotic circumstances before it  (in front of it?)– yes, must stand in the midst of these circumstances – that we know from our most personal experience. Where does the chaos come from?  Evidently, the relationship between prayer and work, including educational work, is violently disturbed.

So we also understand why the Savior placed so much importance on prayer in his life. Whenever he had an important event before him, particularly redemptive activity, he withdrew to the mountaintop to pray….Do we not also have the longing for strong educators? And don’t we want to form and educate our youth so that later they are capable of standing the storms of life? (Pedagogical Workshop, 1950, p. 17)

It seems that western culture sooner or later become more predominant worldwide. We need only look at what the young everywhere- and not so young - are wearing, what music and movies they look for, and what ideologies they aspire to. This phenomena makes the question of socialization global.

So, to the question of socialization.  First of all what is it, and secondly are there perhaps other deeper lying unvoiced questions about socialization that rumble around in our subconscious?

The definition itself gives us a lot to think about. Socialization is the process whereby we learn how to act within a particular culture.  It includes our values, beliefs – religious, moral, social…. It includes language, attitudes, customs, dress, habits, manners and social roles.  Needless to say, in a pluralistic society, the spectrum is vast.  We sing & dance at church & home to celebrate.  We dance only in the pub. We wear shoes; we don’t. We embrace as a greeting; we nod & bow. What is acceptable physical distance? Twenty centimeters or 2 meters?

It tells us what is important in life: Becoming rich? Famous? Successful and influential? Or intellectually distinguished, powerful? Is it physical prowess or good looks that is most important? Or comfort? A nice car, nice house, and lots of clothes? Or serving God and his kingdom, alleviating poverty and injustice? – May be holiness and humility are the more important?

We are socialized by our parents & family, by culture, by the society we belong to.  School and the media strong socialization tools.  In fact, Father Kentenich refers to the media “secret co-educators” of our children. What happens when parents with strong religious and moral values are no longer the primary agents of socialization? When media or government becomes the primary agent of socialization?

The McKenzie Education Report 2007 offers some fascinating finds – fascinating because “didn’t we know it all along?”  The study looked at student performance across the globe and includes data over a period of 25 years.  Twenty-five of the world’s school systems were visited, including 10 of the top performing nations in the world. What did they find? After decades of pouring more money into better technology, smaller classes, structuring and restructuring, the foremost conclusion – after 25 years is: “The quality of the educational system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers.”

In 1950, Fr. Kentenich says, “What is our goal? Do we want to educate our followers only here and there to have a little urbanity in life? Or do we want to educate children of God who are capable and ready to autonomously and out of themselves master their life out of the great idea of childship before God! That is the goal of education….the ideal of education: great, heroic, Catholic personalities.”

The quality of the educator!
Hence, how our world needs great, heroic Catholic parents, Catholic educators who unabashedly and with firm conviction realize that they are the atmosphere for their children. If we are anchored, grounded in God and dead sure of our faith, we will be able to answer the practical questions in everyday life.

Should I allow my 4 year old to play at the neighbor’s house when I have misgivings about the atmosphere in the home? Will I take my young child to the video store? Will I allow them to watch everything on cartoon network? Will I allow Hannah Montana and Britney Spears to socialize my girls so that they will be “normal”? Should my son emulate Ben 10, Robotboy or Samurai Jack? Is, that the man I want him to become? What is it that I want to shape and form their beautiful pure and delicate consciences? 

A 4 year old belongs to a Schoenstatt family and plays with other “Schoenstatt children”. During the papal visit to the United States, the families and their children followed closely and enthusiastically in the papal fever.  However, that wasn’t quite enough for this little one. Amidst all the clamor & joy, she adamantly inquires, “But when is Fr. Kentenich coming?!”  With all of her 4 years she had heard and prayed to him enough to articulate that besides the pope here was a man whom she really wanted to meet.

In another family, a child sat on her mother’s lap in the big comfy easy chair in the family living room. It was a quiet moment between the two, the little one caressing her mother’s hair and face. The family home shrine had long been in the living room and at the center of the family home. Glancing at the picture of the Blessed Mother and back to her mother, the little one snuggled up and declared, “Mommy, you are my Blessed Mother!”

How many parents enjoy those tender & treasured moments with their children.  How infrequently do we realize just how much indeed we are socializing and forming their hearts for God and for others? How important every aspect of their development is particularly grounded in God?

Practical Tips:
Read a story about the saints with your children.  The family could act out the different characters or simply unpack the story with the child by asking questions that apply to the child’s life. Some families have gotten together and put on plays about Saint Bernadette or Joseph Engling or acted out scripture stories.
If you have not already done so, take some time to speak with your spouse about what you as a family ought to allow and disallow.  What good things will you substitute with? If we listen to music, what music? What shows do we watch together? What religious shows are there that we could watch? What books do we read out loud together?

Resources for further reading/research where interested:
Education and the Challenge of the Times, Fr. Joseph Kentenich
Man & Woman He Made Them by Jean Vanier (though a book about sexuality of the handicapped, much applies to every person and bears many similarities with Fr. Kentenich’s understandings)

For discussion with other educators, friends or family:
 “The statistics are startling. The average North American girl will watch 5,000 hours of television, including 80,000 ads, before she starts kindergarten. In the United States, Saturday morning cartoons alone come with 33 commercials per hour” (Source:

Excerpt from Education & the Challenge of our Times by Fr. Joseph Kentenich (p. 36 & 37 from the German version). One could substitute the word “milieu” with the word “atmosphere”.

“Whoever sees his task as deeply as the Lord God has foreseen and prescribed for us, must naturally and constantly experience the concerns and worries of an educator.

The same holds true for the subject of education, for the bearer of education, whether we think of official educators or of “secret co-educators”, of the streets and alleyways, of the milieu; or whether we think of the dreadful seducer who gives us the most trouble, the devil, of the underworld, of the diabolical influences.

Educators who see and view their task in the spirit of God, educators who do not tire of being lovers, who never cease loving, sense the dreadful concern which these secret co-educators constantly cause.

We talk about the milieu as the secret co-educator. Isn’t it true, we have always known that the human will isn’t absolutely coerced by the milieu; it remains free.  But it does experience a dreadful distress. As we will see later on, in our modern times the milieu has often grown to a dreadful coercion, so much so, that in individual cases it is difficult to discern whether the human will in this oppressive milieu has retained true freedom.

And what must we do? Immunize the person inwardly and educate him so that on the battleground of the milieu, her remains the victor in the fight against the secret co-educators.

We all are familiar with the dreadful tragedy of the laws of inheritance.  Today, we are becoming more and more familiar with the tragedy of the milieu.  Again, we as educators have to spearhead and lead the battle against all these powers.  While we are at it, we may not forget the strong breaches in human nature that in today’s time are used and abused by the one of whom scripture says, “He goes about as a roaring Lion,… (1 Peter 5:8)

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Date: 2010-08-08 21:53:08
Again, we as educators have to spearhead and lead the battle against all these powers.

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