Help Your Child Deal with Peer Pressure

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2 1/2 months since my last post!. Wow. Its amazing how you get off the hook if you don’t continue writing. To be honest I dint really feel like writing because not much came to me to write about until last week when I was having a conversation with a colleague and we got to the topic of Peer Pressure. If you are a parent, you probably discuss this every time you meet another parent, with teachers, with your friends and with anyone who has a kid. Peer pressure is one of the most common reasons which is attributed to children picking up habits which parents don’t approve of. Why do we think that peer pressure is so overpowering, that we as parents, often feel helpless to do anything about helping our children. Can we really help children deal effectively with peer pressure? What can we do to help children face up to the challenges of peer pressure?

First thing we must understand and accept is that our children will be faced with peer pressure. Historically peer pressure was attributed to some kind of substance abuse and was more seen with young adults. More recently with the increase in wealth and technology advancements, peer pressure has made its way into younger kids with kids wanting things because they see their friends having access to things which they like or doing things which they want to try out too. Some kids give in to peer pressure because they want to be liked, to fit in, or because they worry that other kids might make fun of them if they don’t go along with the group. Others go along because they are curious to try something new that others are doing. It is tough to be the only one who says “no” to peer pressure, but its possible. Inner strength and self-confidence can help your children stand firm, walk away, and resist doing something when they know better.

Peer pressure is mostly about how much you let others (a.k.a your peers) influence you. If you asked people if they get influenced by others, most people would deny it. However the reality is that all of us do get influenced by other peoples opinions and views. The degree varies as you age, but young adults find it difficult to cope with the battle inside them.

The key to helping our children deal with peer pressure is to strengthen their self respect, self esteem and self confidence.

Here are a few things you can do as parents to help your children.

Listen

I know you have heard this before and are probably saying to yourself that of course I listen to my children. Do you? Really?Next time your son or daughter comes to you to share their  feelings or comes to your for an opinion, pay close attention to the inner voice inside your head. While we are listening to our children, we are most often already preparing our responses. While this is true with adults too, with children it is more visible because our egos tend to tell us that after all our children are small, what would they know about life. One thing which I heard a lot when I was a kid was that “I’ve seen more of life” . The underlying message being that this person had more experience with life than me, so he knew what was right for me. WRONG!. He knew what was right based on his experience not mine. When you listen to your children (or for that matter anyone), make a sincere effort to understand. There is very often a deeper reason why your child is feeling peer pressure. Giving your child the time and a patient hearing will very often reveal some underlying reasons why they are feeling the pressure from their peers. Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts while you Listen

  • Do listen
  • Do try and understand
  • Do acknowledge their emotions and feelings
  • Don’t be in a hurry to give advice
  • Don’t jump to conclusions
  • Don’t undermine their problem (i.e it may seem a small issue for you but for them it may the most important thing for them)
  • Don’t judge

[tooltip icon=”yes” color=”dark,light” tip=”this is the tip! “] [/tooltip]Tip: Make time every day to have a 10 to 20 minute conversation with your children to find out about their day. It helps if you start this practice early on. Even if you haven’t done this yet, try and spend conversation time with your children. Its sure to pay off.

Heal First Deal Later

Most parents I know blow up the moment they find out that their child has done something which they don’t like/approve of. This does more damage to the child’s self esteem and self confidence than you can imagine. We must remember what is our objective behind scolding a child. In most cases we want the child not to repeat what they have done in the future. When we lose our cool and shout, we are instilling fear in the child. The fear of being reprimanded when he commits a mistake. My point here is not that you should not try and discipline your children. Rather the important thing is about the timing. Suppose a child has broken something accidentally, at first we need to get the child out of any fear and guilt he may have of the mistake. Once they are out of it, we can then decide on the appropriate punishment. This helps the child understand the consequences of an action better. Heal First. Deal Later!

[tooltip icon=”yes” color=”dark,light” tip=”this is the tip! “] [/tooltip]Tip : The next time you find your son or daughter having done something wrong (according to you), try a completely opposite reaction to your normal response and notice the difference. Do it a few times and you will soon win your child over.

Build Trust

 Research suggests that many of the addictions and substance abuse by young children could have been avoided if the parents had build an  environment of trust and respect with their children. As your kids grow you, will have less control over what they do, who they spend time  with and in general how they spend their time. You can walk down the traditional path and lay down rules for the house (no night outs beyond  12:00, No indecent dressing, etc). However you have to ask yourself if these have really yielded the results you wanted. Lets be clear about  one thing. As parents our intention is always to protect our children. Its just that the means we have used in the past have not always given  the results we desired. So does this mean we let our children loose and let them decide what they want to do. Absolutely not!. The thing with  peer pressure is that its a direct challenge on an individuals self esteem. Children with low self esteem are looking for a boost to their self  esteem and by succumbing to do something which is considered to be “fitting in” with the group, provides them the boost they are looking  for. This is where we as parents need to build an environment of trust with our children where they feel comfortable talking to us about their  challenges in life. For example if my son wanted to try smoking one day, I would want him to feel comfortable to walk up to me and tell me that he wants to try it. This is the age old medicine of “prevention is better than cure”.

Accept even if you don’t agree

Whatever a child does, at that time they are right from their perspective. The parents may not agree with the child but need to accept that the child has a reason for what he is are doing. This gives the child acceptance and respect.  If the parent always feels that the child is wrong, then that sends a feeling of rejection. At the same time there are friends who accept and that is why the child drifts towards peer pressure. The child then forces himself to do even that what he does not want to do, so that he does not lose the acceptance of friends. As such it is critical to make sure that your children understand that they will always be “accepted” at home. Acceptance does not mean you have to “agree” to what they are saying. It just means that you accept how the child feels at that moment and want to help. Acceptance means you acknowledge that your child thinks differently and your job at that point is to just guide them without making them feel wrong.

Give In Sometimes

We need to be able to give-in sometimes to our childrens demands or wishes. Now, I can’t tell you which ones you should agree to. The point however is that you have to build your children’s self confidence by acknowledging that they are capable of making some decisions themselves. Make sure you communicate this to your children so that they understand that you respect that they are mature enough to make some of these decisions. Dont be over protective with your kids. As parents our job is not to control our children but to guide and facilitate their life journey. Let them fall so that they learn from their own experiences. For all you know they may do well at something which you did not do too well!.Do not impose decisions on children; guide them to take their decisions. Let the decision be theirs, so that they take personal responsibility of the decision and its consequences. Let’s not decide the journey for them. Let us empower them to walk the path, and strengthen them to cross any obstacles that come on the way.

Give them plenty of love

This goes without saying. I also know what you are thinking. I love my children. Of course you do!. Just keep it flowing is all I’m saying. A lot of children are unable to deal with peer pressure because they cant find love at home. They feel unloved at home and go out in search of anyone who shows the slightest of love towards them. This is often seen in the cases where children get into relationships because their friends are in a relationship. Not having a boy friend or girl friend is portrayed as a sign of some form of deficiency in the child. The child could interpret this that they are not good looking enough or not attractive to the opposite sex. This eventually leads them to get into relationships. The underlying reason often in these cases is that the child feels unloved by people who are closest to her and wants to fill that gap with someone else so that she can be seen as one of the group. Needless to say these are serious issues which a parent has to deal with and the easiest solution is to give your children plenty of care and love to help build their self esteem and self confidence.

Peer pressure is not easy to deal with. But it’s something we as parents must help our children with. While putting rules and restrictions on the child’s activities may help in the short term, what is more important in the long term is to keep working on building their self esteem, self confidence and self respect. This will go a long way is laying the foundations for a strong personality and pave way for the creation of a man/woman of character who can face the world. Now thats when you can be proud as parents.

Its not what you leave FOR your Children that will matter. Its what you leave IN them which will define their lives

Do you have any other ideas to help our children deal with peer pressure? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo Credit : FreeDigitalPhotos

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