Whenever peer pressure is discussed, we typically have a picture in our minds of a nasty kid handing your innocent baby a beer, a cigarette or joint and saying something along the lines of, “Come on, just try it once”. But there remains the fact that peer pressure can at times be felt without a single word being spoken – like when a group rolls their eyes when an ‘uncool’ (in their opinion) kid walks by, or when a certain kid is ignored by a group for no apparent reason at all.
With the passage of time, peer pressure can get in the way of how well your child does in school. This is because by the time your child turns seven, he will start caring more and more about what other kids think of him. With that, he will also progress to care less about what his parents or siblings think of him. In order to get approval from their peers and to gain fame, kids at times indulge in risky behavior. This includes:
All of these initiatives can send them on a downward spiral and stop them from focusing on what’s most important – their education. However, standing up to peer pressure doesn’t come easy and is filled with challenges. To help your child deal with peer pressure, here are a few tips that will definitely help you out:
It is fairly normal for a child to go along with his peers, but it is also just as normal for parents to take their child’s challenging behavior rather personally. If this is the sort of situation you are going through, remind yourself that your kid may probably not be rejecting you – he may only be trying to establish his own identity, his own personality.
You need to keep reminding yourself that irrespective of whether your child is the most popular kid in school, or just has a few select friends, there is always the chance that peer pressure may drive him to do things that are generally ‘unhealthy’ and immoral. Children, even when they become adolescents, need their parents’ help to make good decisions – even if they act like they don’t give a damn about what you have to say. There are certain things that you need to teach your child to help him become the person you want him to become – a strong-willed, confident individual. To begin with, you need to teach your child to say ‘no’. With other kids indulging in risky behavior, resisting the pressure to engage can be very hard. Help your child learn how to respond when someone tries to get him to do something risky.
Talk to him about values
What’s most important to you? Do you want your child to stay away from alcohol, tobacco and drugs and refrain from having sex at an early age? Do you want him to be a caring and helpful individual who succeeds at school? Talk to your child about these values and set them clear – your child will resist negative peer pressure when he knows what is expected from him and the difference between right and wrong.
It is extremely important for your child to develop self-confidence so that he doesn’t become a prey to negative peer pressure. The fact of the matter is that if your child feels good about himself, he will always find it easy to avoid falling into the trap of peer pressure. As long as your little one is confident about his abilities, he will not get swayed by blind peer pressure easily. For this reason you, as a parent, should focus on building your child’s self-confidence and courage. Remember, children who are confident tend to think about their abilities and make judgments accordingly.
While building your child’s confidence, there are certain things that you must explain to him. To begin with, it is necessary for your child to know why listening blindly to others is bad for him. He needs to know why it is vital for him to develop independent thinking so that he doesn’t get pressurized into indulging in unhealthy and immoral activities. Also, as a parent, you should tell him how some children at school can be negative, and may even try to force him to listen to their opinions and to get him involved in bad activities. This will basically serve as a warning for your child so he may know what to expect. You should also explain about the negative effects that peer pressure can have on your child’s personality.
It is highly recommended for you to model individuality and independence so your child can learn about the importance of these concepts. Trust me; this is going to teach your child how important it is for him to resist peer pressure.
You should not overreact if your child shows an interest in doing something you don’t agree with. As an adolescent, your kid may come home wanting to dye his hair green or suddenly want to wear sloppy clothes – things you may take as a sign of his rebellion. Before responding, take the time to compare his behavior with how he is doing in school, how maturely he usually behaves and who he is friends with. If he is going well in these areas, do not get upset at his current demands – do not judge your child or start lecturing him about it.
You should also pay attention to the substances that are typically used in the current times by kids his age, the way they dress, and how technologies like cell phones and social media are used by them. The more you know about the people of his age, the better you will be able to protect him – the better you will be able to help him make the right decisions in life. Apart from that, it is also highly recommended for you to play an active role in your child’s life. Keep talking to him about his accomplishments, interests, his friends, the music he listens to and the things that bother him. Tell him how much you care about his well-being and make it clear that you expect him to keep up with certain rules and restrictions.
A few other tips
You should encourage your child to become friends with ‘positive’ people and get him to join activities or groups that involve interacting with positive role models. Also, make sure that you know who your child is friends with and get to learn as much as possible about their parents to see if they are a positive influence.
The fact of the matter is that the world presents a rather hostile environment for kids at times. Many adolescents experience a fair deal of alienation at some point or the other. Although some youngsters become extremely popular during adolescence, the majority of them truly struggle with feelings of exclusion and alienation – and this is where you step in to fill the gap.
Yes, as his family, you must become the harbor in the storm your child is going through. You need to give him that bit of safe haven where he would always feel welcome. Your child needs to know that irrespective of what the world says to him or about him, he will find all the love he wants in his family. Make it a point to tell your child every now and then that, “Nothing you can do will make me love you less, and nothing you can do will make me love you more”. Also, you have to work towards making your child feel needed at home. Give him that approval, that order, security and sense of belonging that your child wants so he doesn’t seek them elsewhere.
Help him learn special code words
Formulate special words that your child can use whenever he wants your help, but doesn’t want his friends to know he’s asking you for it. Also, teach him that if he ever faces peer pressure that he is unsure how to resist, refuse it by placing all the blame on you – “If I do that, my parents are going to ground me for a month”.
Get closer to your child by telling him that you understand how hard it can be for him to do things that make him stand out. Tell him that even though his peers may not express it, there is a good chance that most of them respect his decision of not joining them in an activity – heck, some may even admire his courage in resisting something that they gave in to. Work on helping him understand that a friend who forces him to do something that may turn out to be harmful is not a loyal friend – he’s someone that your child should stay away from. Eventually just encourage your child the best you can to not to let others manipulate him or force him into taking rash or harmful decisions.
At times, your child may tell you things that will literally make your jaw drop. However, you need to refrain from overreacting in such a situation. If you overreact, you will basically discourage him from talking with you about these issues – you need to stay calm and listen to what he has to say. However, make sure that you take times like these to introduce certain cautions to him without lecturing or moralizing. Your child will hear you even if it seems as if he is dismissing what you are saying.
Be careful in choosing your battles
Refrain from making issues out of minor things such as your child wanting to adopt a trendy hairstyle or wearing the same clothes as his friends. Make your stand, instead, on high-risk peer behavior. If you keep battling your child over minor issues, you will just drive him towards peers who are similarly alienated from their parents. This will also help you take a stronger stand against him on more challenging issues.
You are your child’s parents. You need to realize that it comes within the bounds of your authority as a parent to maintain control of those who influence your child. As your child’s friendships continue to take shape, you need to use this authority of yours to steer him in the direction of positive peer pressure and away from negative influences. Make it as difficult as possible for your child to spend time with friends who do not provide the sort of influence that you desire. If need be, you should also declare certain friends off-limits. Yes, this may not sound right, perhaps even cruel, at times, but the fact is that you are his parents and you need to guide him no matter what.
Trust me, there’s nothing wrong with making it difficult for your child to get together with and spend time with friends who look like ‘bad apples’. Put in every effort possible to carefully choose the orchard where you want your child to do his picking. Give your child all the encouragement he needs to invite his friends over as it will make your home ‘the place to be’ for him and his friends. Focus on inviting friends who you believe are good influences so that your child gets to spend more and more time with them.
Other benefits of inviting your child’s friends at home
When all the kids are hanging out at your place, you can easily check how they are influencing your child. You will be able to learn a lot about them when they spend the night at your place – observe how they behave, what they talk about and the kind of language they use.
Your child is one of the keenest observers you will ever have as he observes everything you do – and he will learn from what he hears and sees. If he sees you constantly trying to keep up with other parents, he is going to end up doing the same with his peers. If he sees you drinking and smoking, he will not put in much of an effort in resisting these behaviors. But if you smoke or drink and then give it up, you can rest-assured that it will make a rather vivid impression on him.
The next thing that you need to do is to help your child develop responses to peers. Basically, help him figure out what to say to peers who are pressuring him to take part in high-risk behaviors and activities. Suggest responses to him, but make sure that they are short and simple so that he can say them comfortably. If your child appears receptive, take the time to role-play with him or just get him to practice in front of a mirror. Also, teach him a few phrases that would work for different situations. These include phrases like, “I’m not comfortable with that”, “I need to think about that” etc. – these phrases will basically help him set boundaries without triggering a stern reaction.
Foster his decision-making skills
Last but not the least; you need to teach your child to trust his own instincts when making decisions. This is going to make it less likely that he will let others make decisions for him. Encourage him to think through the possible consequences of the decision he is about to make – and make sure he knows that giving in to pressure now may make life harder for him in the long run.