Inside: Peer Pressure: How To Help Your Child.
I was around the age of 12 and it was the week before Halloween. My group of friends were planning for our annual shaving cream battle with another neighborhood. To get the maximum distance out of your shaving cream can you needed to replace the standard top with an aerosol cap, like the ones you find on hairspray. Now ideally you’d just take one from the house but when mom discovered that all her aerosol caps were missing there would be a huge problem at home. So the next logical choice was to go to a local store and take the caps off the hairspray cans on the shelf. In other words, steal them.
I knew this was against the law but when you’re a 12-year-old boy on a mission, surrounded by your friends, you aren’t thinking clearly. You’re trying to fit in with your crew and not be a buzzkill. I will neither confirm nor deny my success in this event though I am fairly certain that the statute of limitations has run out on any pending incarceration.
When you’re young your friends are usually determined by your parents. Either a playdate is arranged so moms and dads can get out of the house and have some adult conversation or you become friends with your parents friends children. Your child is forced to meet, play and hopefully get along with a complete “stranger child”. “Don’t talk to strangers-unless we tell you to.”
As children get older they choose their friends. Other children they meet in class or at after school activities become their chosen “pack”. Some of those relationships they form are positive while others aren’t. Who your children pick to associate with is an important decision as often the company they keep defines who they are. Your children’s pack of friends will be making many decisions together and some of these decisions could impact their life greatly.
Peer pressure is the influence to be “like the others” or “do what the other’s are doing”. Peer pressure can often be referred to as peer influence. Though often thought of as negative, not all peer pressure or peer influence is bad. It’s not always about your child being influenced into a life of crime. Maybe his/her friends are pushing your child to join the school play or a sports team because they see potential that your child doesn’t.
Peer pressure can be a hard thing to resist for a child. Cheating in class, shoplifting, tagging, drugs, alcohol, and sex are just a few of the struggles they are up against. Children want to fit in with their friends and be accepted. Heck adults want to be accepted too. So how, as parents, do we help our children navigate the traps of peer pressure?
The initial reaction when you start to hear stories of the antics of your children’s friends is to get upset. Some of the stuff we read on our daughters’ friend’s social media accounts is alarming, to say the least. Whatever you think may be going on with school-age children most likely is. The language on the bus, the parties, drinking, drugs, sex, all of it is happening.
If your child is taking the time to tell you about these issues and you begin to overreact or lecture them, these conversations will end and your child will never come to you again. The key is to remain as calm as possible. No yelling, screaming, cursing, throwing objects, etc.
Use this as a teaching moment. Talk to your children about the consequences of their actions and where behavior such as this can lead them. “How would you feel having a child at 16 years old?” “Would you be prepared to care for a child at this point in life?”
Know your child’s friends
My wife and I make it a point to know who our children are speaking and socializing with. We also make it a point to follow our children on all their social media accounts and see what other children are posting either on their timelines or about them. Also, have your child invite friends over to your house. Seeing them interact is a great way to find out if the other children are good influences or not. You may notice some form of peer pressure while they are in your home and realize that this behavior must be happening outside the home as well.
Take a minute to also speak to the other children when they’re at your home. Learn a bit about them and see how comfortable they are talking with you. Do they have siblings, do their parents work, etc.? It might be beneficial to know if their parents work or not. Especially if your child starts asking to spend time at their house after school and you know they will most likely be unsupervised.
Create a special word
Talk to your children about using a special word that they can use with you at ANY TIME if they need to get out of a situation where they are experiencing peer pressure and not comfortable. They use the word with you when they need help but their friends won’t know they are asking for it.
We told our girls early on that if they are at a party and people are drinking and you aren’t comfortable that you can call us at any hour and we will pick you up. They can tell us that their “stomach hurts” and we will come to get them without their friends knowing they are uncomfortable.
Use parents as an excuse
As a parent, I will always be the fall guy for my children when it comes to them staying safe or losing “face” with their friends. My children can always refuse to do something and blame it on me with no retribution. “If I get caught doing that I will be grounded for a month”. As a parent I don’t care that everyone is doing it – I am not everyone’s parent – I am your parent.
Teach them to say no
Roleplay saying no with your children. When the time is upon them to resist peer pressure it can be hard. Especially if they are in a situation that is risky and everyone is about to “do it too”. Discuss different scenarios and brainstorm ways to respond before your kids find themselves in a difficult peer pressure situation.
Teach your children to be respectful and to always consider good manners when handling these situations.
Peer pressure can be a difficult obstacle to navigate in a child’s life. The goal as a parent is to provide them the tools and skills necessary to make important decisions that could put them in jeopardy and danger when you’re not around.
Do you offer your children any tips when dealing with peer pressure? Let me know below in the comment section.
These are great tips for parents. As a teacher, I see kids fall in with the “wrong crowd” all the time. None of these kids are inherently bad; they are just making decisions that could affect their lives in negative ways as they attempt to be one of the “cool” kids. Keeping the lines of communication open and reserving judgment is essential. Kids will make mistakes–that’s how they learn and grow.
Making mistakes is an important part of growing.
These pointers are really helpful. In particular, I have found that not passing judgement and getting into lecturing, keeps you in their circle. You are far better equipped to influence from within the circle than to try to second guess and provide directions from outside it. Displaying an attitude of non-judgement and being laid back around their friends is another great way of knowing what is going on. If you are not seen as any kind of threat, there is not such an effort to cover up and keep secrets, which places you in a far better position to be able to offer help and advise without being seen to be meddling.
I try to blend in if possible with my kids’ friends and definitely not be judgemental.
I believe every child is part of peer pressure and it is best for parents to be aware of who they let the children hang around. I love your tip about saying no and we all need to say it more. Great post.
Sometimes it’s hard to say no
Great tips. Being actively involved in a child’s life is a huge step forward in supporting them in situations like this. It will allow you to get to know their friends while also remaining readily accessible in the event that your child ever wants to reach out for support and comfort. Thank you for highlighting this important topic.
Thanks for the comment Britt
I like the idea of using a special word, that’s a new one for me.
My mom always let me use them as an excuse, too, and that really helped. “Sorry, my mom/ dad won’t let me” is a great excuse and takes the pressure off the child.
A special word is key for helping kids out of a difficult situation.
Good points. But, the topic is very deep and has to be viewed in a complex of overall raising a child. Trust has to be established between parents and children at an early age and never lost. Only then, children will turn to their parents for help when peer pressure occurs. Otherwise, kids may only get irritated if parents try to supervise too much.
To keep this trust as children get older, parents must be true friends to their children, yet never get down to their kids’ level – be older kind and wise friends and mentors to their children. My mother was able to do that when I was growing up. She has always been my best friend. She would never overreact, never force me to do anything, but always advise and encourage me to think… helping me in each situation to see the outcomes of different solutions I come up with, leading me to the right choice rather than imposing it on me.
Only when such trust exists on both ends, then all your tips should work very well. I loved the idea of having that special code – a word that would be a call for help without friends knowing.
Thank you for the wise advice for parents and children.
Thanks for the comment Julia. Parenting certainly doesn’t come with an instruction manual!
My favorite tip here is the special word. That is so important, and I honestly think everyone should have this. Something that signals things are not ok. We joke about these things as adults, like fat people are harder to kidnap so eat cake. Or if I’m saying no to wine, I’ve clearly been kidnapped, send help. But it is actually important, and especially for kids. Because at that age, opinions of their friends are a make or break kind of thing. All great tips, but that one is the best.
I love this! I’m in the process of writing a piece on parenting (you’ll soon see it, so I won’t spoil it) and I may ask if I can use the part about having a safe word and realizing the reality of what is going on. Superb post!
Of course. Link me up.