Author Quentin Crisp said, “The young always have the same problem—how to rebel and conform at the same time. They have now solved this by defying their parents and copying one another.” How true. As a parent, your biggest enemy by far is negative peer pressure.
Notice the word “negative.” Positive peer pressure exists, too—when good friends talk your child out of doing something stupid. But negative peer pressure can destroy what you’ve worked hard for. Here are 10 ways to battle peer pressure.
1. Study your child.
Consistently observe your child’s habits and behavior. Know your kid better than your kid knows him or herself. Abrupt changes in dress or attitude could signal trouble. Pay attention if your son starts dressing differently or your daughter uses more disrespectful language or has a negative attitude. Newly-formed friendships can be at the root of the change. Children, of course, go through phases. No need to overreact at every turn. However, always have hawk-like eyes and be on top of trouble the minute it shows up.
2. Meet the crew.
Your daughter’s friends are important to her. So they should be important to you as well. That means taking a vested interest. Make her friends feel welcome in your home. Talk to them when possible. Feeding them is a good way to make that happen. Everybody talks when meals or snacks are served. Offer to drive them where they want to go. The car is another good place to start conversations. The more they talk, the more you learn.
3. Meet the parents.
Following that same theory, make an effort to get to know your child’s friends’ parents as well. Throw a backyard party. Invite all the children and their parents. Do they share your same values, beliefs, and convictions? Establish open communication. If problems arise, you will then feel more comfortable bringing them up.
4. Prepare for sleepovers.
All kids enjoy sleepovers. Generally, they have a whole lot of fun. Awesome. But what else is going on? If your kid is sleeping over at a friend’s house, how much do you really know? Are they watching movies you would not approve of? Talking about things that are new and beyond your kid’s young ears? Before allowing a sleepover, make sure you know the child and his or her parents. Peer pressure thrives in this environment.
5. Be the parent.When parents strive to be their child’s friend, they give up their authority and influence.
You are not your child’s friend. You are his or her parent. There is a major difference. When parents strive to be their child’s friend, they give up their authority and influence. Of course, you want a fun and loving relationship—as long as it doesn’t impede your ability to have the final say. Many great parents have heard the words “I hate you” as a child storms up a staircase. It’s hurtful and hard to take. However, the reply is always, “You will thank me later.”
6. Instill family virtues.
“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” Your family should have a set of standards to live by. Choose five to 10 virtues you consider vital. Instruct your children in them and be sure to lead by example. Make it a matter of family pride. “It doesn’t matter how the family down the street does it; this is how we do it.”
7. Find opportunities to teach.
Our world today provides more than enough chances to point out good and bad behavior. We have televisions, high-speed internet, and mobile phones. We are never without instant access to any type of news, sports, or entertainment. That is a whole lot of influence on everyone in the family. If you are watching a show with your son that portrays a desirable quality, point it out. If you are listening to a song with your daughter that has lyrics glorifying bad behavior, point it out. Counteract the bad influence with discussion and other options.
8. Share the big picture.
People have a tendency to believe their own behavior does not affect others. We feel small in a giant world. Completely untrue. Try teaching your children to see the bigger picture. Pose questions to them such as, “What if everyone shoplifted like your classmate Dave?” “What if everybody cheated on their tests?” “How would these things affect society?” Give your kids the ability to understand how they affect the world and not just themselves. It builds wisdom and character.
9. Teach concern for others.
Children certainly can and will be cruel. Teach empathy to your child—a concern for the feelings and well-being of others. A child who has these qualities is much less likely to follow the pack at any cost. He or she will understand the damage being done and stand against it. Society needs leaders who bring out the good in others and stand for justice. This starts by teaching empathy.
10. Build their identity.
Most children who fall victim to destructive peer pressure have lower self-esteem. It’s normal to feel lost as a teenager. A group that shows acceptance and understanding is attractive. Gangs recruit kids based solely on this knowledge. Do not let this be your child. Help your children know how much they are loved and their true identity. A child with self-confidence and moral strength is difficult to corrupt when guided with love and care.
Sound off: What kinds of negative peer pressure do you see your kids facing?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “In what ways do you feel pressure to fit in?”