There were four little boys gathered together and the larger boy, stepped out from the pack and growled, quite loudly, “Get away, we don’t want to play with you!”

I followed the verbose child’s line of view, and though it appeared he was yelling at a large tree trunk, there hiding behind the tree was another little boy, whose head was down. That little boy was directly in my line of site from the parking lot.

You see, I had arrived early to pick my son up from preschool–well, not actually the preschool he was attending, but the preschool we had been testing out that week as we considered where he might attend so that he could make some new friends.

We had just moved to a new community and felt it wise for him to spend a couple of hours a couple of days a week at a preschool to meet other children and learn to navigate relationships.

Hiding behind a tree, with his head down was not part of that plan – yes, the sweet little boy I saw, head down, behind the tree was my own. I went to the administrator and explained what I had just witnessed and was told, “Boys will be boys.” I bid her farewell and did not revisit her or her preschool.

As I went to pick up my son he beamed when he saw me, eagerly accepted my outstretched hand and we walked quietly to the car. He climbed into his car seat, as I was buckling him in, he looked at me wide eyed and said, “The boys there were mean to me” and huge tears fell from his soft green eyes and stained his little boy shirt.

That was not the last time I have heard a similar statement come from those lips. And sadly, I have also heard it come from my daughter’s rosebud lips as well. The world is a harsh place.

That memory of my son behind a tree is ingrained in my mind. No matter how big and tough my son (and his sister) appears to be, their natural desire is to want to be embraced by the world around them. Accepted.

As parents we must teach our children that it is not necessary for them to be embraced by the world around them, because often they will not be.

Because they are strangers in this world and when they do not go along with the crowd they may very well be shunned, and we must teach them to be OK with that. The words of Jesus will ring true.

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.

1 Peter 2:11

Let’s face it, teenagers are confronted by more fleshly lusts than we ever were and the assault seems to increase. Teaching them to walk away, even if it costs them some “popularity points” is important. Help your children understand that being “popular” is not their goal in life, their goal is to love God and love others, at the cost of self and popularity.

Popularity is defined as “the state or condition of being liked, admired, or supported by many people.” Clearly, not the goal our children should aspire to achieve. Affirm in your children the practice of pleasing God, not man. Remind your children it is wise to walk away and listen to their gut when something does not seem right and remind them consistently that “people” are not who they should choose to please. Audience of One as I always say!

And remember, as parents, we must be their soft place, we must be a welcomed sanctuary when the “big boys” of this world yell at them, make fun of them and ostracize them.

Mom, they trust you, they need you — speak against the pull of the world and remind them Whose they are!

{Editor’s Note: This post first ran in April of 2013, the weight of the issue seems even more important than ever in today’s school environment. May Tracey’s words challenge you to speak this important truth into your children! We welcome your questions on this subject.}