The stuffed animals were tossed carelessly on the floor in a pile -- all of them. My 9-year-old lay in her bed alone. "Why are all the animals on the floor?" I asked.
"I'm not sleeping with them," she said.
"Why not?" I asked.
"Everyone says only babies sleep with stuffed animals," she replied.
"Do you want to sleep with your animals?"
She nods as tears pool in her eyes. "But the kids at school all say stuffed animals are for babies."
"Don't let others make your decisions for you," I said. "If you don't want to sleep with your stuffed animals, that's fine. But don't make the decision simply because of what someone else thinks."
My heart tore as she struggled to decide what to do. Eventually, the animals were returned to their rightful place in her bed and all was right with the world again.
But I learned something. I discovered that even the strongest-willed child can be swayed by the opinions of others.
I want my kids to make their own decisions. I want them to stand up for what they believe in. I want them to choose their own path. I don't want them to simply follow the crowd.
Yet, too often, I'm complicit in showing them how to do just that. How often am I swayed by what others think? I stand in front of the mirror and compare myself to the beauty standards of movie stars and models. I choose clothes based on the fashion whims of designers an ocean away. I decide what movies to see, what books to read and what cars to buy based on the reviews of others.
And sometimes, I choose my friends based on what others think. I make decisions in my marriage based on worldly standards. I define my success as a mother by how my kids behave compared to other kids. I feel successful in my job based on the praise of others.
Even though Romans 12:2 says "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind," I conform instead of letting myself be transformed.
How can I expect my children to make decisions based on their own principles when I fail to do that so often? How do I let them know it's OK to make an unpopular decision because it's the right thing to do when I sometimes choose not to?
None of us makes the right decision all the time. All of us can be swayed by the opinions of others. When I do stand up for what's right, I'm rarely standing on my own. I'm standing on God's strength. I'm looking for His opinion, not the opinion of others.
And that's what I want to teach my kids. I don't want to teach them to stand on their own. I want to teach them to stand with God. I want them to rely on His strength and wisdom when making their decisions. I want them to know they're not standing alone against the world. I want them to know they are standing next to God, and He will never let them down.
So, the next time I'm letting the world sway my opinion, the next time I have a choice to make about where I'm going to stand, I want to choose to stand with God. Because that's how my kids will learn to stand there, too.