We’re surrounded by peer pressure every day in a variety of different ways, from the unknown forces of the media to our friends and family. Although a parent can’t erase peer pressure from her child’s life, she can give her the tools she needs to stay strong in the face of it and make decisions based on what’s best for her. Here are a few tools to help you teach your child about peer pressure.
Talk to your child about the influences of the media. Every time you turn on the TV, pick up a magazine, read a billboard, go on Facebook or Twitter, or surf the web there are people trying to get you to take the action they want you to take or think the way they want you to think. Many people don’t recognize these forces as peer pressure because they’ve become such an engrained part of our lives; however, the media greatly influences our ideas and choices. Talking with children about these influences can help kids see things with a critical mind and allow them to make smarter, more objective decisions.
Be a good role model. If your child sees you rush out to buy the latest fashion, stand in line for hours to land the latest gadget, or try the latest fad diet because everyone else on the block is singing its praises, she’s much more likely to fall prey to the same peer influences. Let your child see you making decisions based on what’s best for you and the situation, even when it’s not necessarily the popular choice.
Talk to your child about the people and things that influence him. Conversation is one of the most powerful tools you have in helping your child withstand peer pressure. Talk with your child about what choices his friends are making, the choices he’s facing, the factors that influence him, and how he makes decisions about what to do and what not to do. Giving him a safe place to explore his thoughts and feelings will help him make well thought out decisions. It will also allow him to make up his mind about what to do in a tough situation before he’s actually in the tough situation. Working through his choices ahead of time gives him the confidence to act in accordance with his beliefs and values.
Involve your child in a community that supports your values. Although you can’t insulate your child from peer pressure, you can stack the deck in your favor by surrounding your child with people that can help her make good choices. Your local church, Boys and Girls Club, Boy and Girl Scouts, and community programs are all great places to find like-minded families. Your child will still be pressured to do things that are not in her best interest, but it’s a lot easier to say no when others are saying no alongside you.
Help your child develop a strong sense of self. Children with high self-esteem and a positive self-image have a much easier time resisting peer pressure. Those things don’t develop overnight, so plant the seeds of self-esteem and self-image when your child is young and cultivate them as your child grows.
Help your child avoid troublesome situations. Sometimes peer pressure can be avoided simply by avoiding a certain person or taking control of a situation. If your child’s classmate is known for rallying friends to pick on younger kids, stop meeting him and his mom at the local park. Instead, foster a friendship between your child and a kinder classmate. If your child’s new neighbor friend spends hours watching R rated movies while he’s home alone afterschool, insist they play at your house where you can monitor their TV choices. If you’re worried about your daughter being out late with her older boyfriend, impose an early curfew but allow the boyfriend to stay and visit.
Be supportive. Making good choices in the face of peer pressure is tough. It can be a very emotional struggle for many kids. Be the person your child can confide in, can count on, and can ask for advice.
Don’t expect perfection. Your child will make mistakes. She will hang out with the wrong people. She will make bad choices. How you react when those things happen will have a big impact on how she handles similar situations in the future. Your goal is to help her learn from her mistakes, help her learn how to make a better choice next time, and help her correct her course when she realizes that she’s going in the wrong direction.
A parent can’t protect her child from peer pressure, but she can help her make decisions based on what’s best for her and not simply on what everyone else is doing.