This question was recently given to the 7th grade students at the school where my wife is a teacher. A summary of the essay question they had to answer was this: “If you had to choose, whom do you trust more: your parents, or your friends? Give an example from your life about a time you chose to seek advice or support from one over the other.”
My wife was surprised and impressed by the overwhelming response favoring “Parents.” She estimates that out of the 135 students, about 90% of them said that they would choose their parents over their friends if they had to choose. Most students said that there are definitely times they would talk to their friends about issues they wouldn’t talk to their parents about; but when push comes to shove, they trust their parents more.
As a Youth Pastor, I regularly encourage parents by telling them, “YOU are the most important influence in your son/daughter’s life.” I’m not sure how many believe me. Our culture frequently tells us that peers are more influential than parental influence.
It’s also important to realize that parental influence, for some, can be a very negative influence. If parents are unloving and distant, it can drive that child to act out in destructive ways to get attention or to seek acceptance by the wrong crowd.
Please realize that this does not mean: Good Parents = Good Kid or Bad Kid = Bad Parents. There’s no scientific formula for parenting and raising healthy and mature children. There are other influences that are powerful, and those should not be ignored or diminished – but the most important of those influences is (and always will be) Parents!
Parents – be encouraged, be involved, be loving. Ask good questions to your teenagers… and LISTEN to their responses (and listen to what they’re not saying, too). Discipline your children when they’re young (but be loving and consistent – otherwise they may think your discipline is unmerited).
Pray for your children & Pray with them. The cliché saying is true: “Families that pray together stay together.” And families that pray and live out their faith among one another are even stronger still…