Peer pressure is a term that most children have to deal with
as they grow. Although it can bring both positive and negative effects
to the growing child, it is the latter that causes worry. Many studies
show that teens who abuse alcohol and drugs started by succumbing to
peer pressure. As parents, helping children to resist the pressure from
his/her friends is crucial.
To help you in your efforts, here are 6 things you can do.
1. Boost Your Child's Confidence
Children with high self-esteem do not submit themselves easily to
pressure from peers. By helping your child feel competent, you also
take away the burden to fit it in with others. Encouraging them to
engage in sports or music will help boost their confidence. Whatever
the activity is, it is important not to praise incessantly. As strange
as it may seem, this teaches a child to get outside approval (which
makes them vulnerable to peer pressure). Children who have an internal
sense of worth resist peer pressure much more effectively. Of course,
this is not to say that you should not praise your children; just do it
in moderation and in a way that helps them internalize the good
feelings. Try asking them how it feels to have done such a good job.
Young children are eager to share and ask for their parents'
opinions. Thus, as early as possible, establish a time for dialogue
with your child. Ask about their day in school, their difficulties in
their studies, or their classmates. Asking children their opinions
makes them feel at ease to speak up their minds. It also prevents them
from being easily swayed by pressure from their friends.
3. Know their Friends
Open your house for a weekend hangout. Treat your child and friends
with pizza. By doing this, you not only know who your child associates
with, you also make yourself aware of the possible influences peers
bring (whether they're negative or positive). In line with this, it
will also help if you get to know the parents of your child's friends
(especially if your child will spend time at their houses).
4. Set Rules
Let your child explore (i.e. play in the rain, sleepover) but know
where to set limitations. Make your child aware of what is allowed and
not allowed. By setting rules, you let your child see a bigger picture
of reality; there is no absolute freedom.
5. Teach How to Say "No"
Many children feel that refusing their friends' requests is one of
the hardest things to do. Parents can teach children them to politely
but firmly say "no". Do exercises or activities in your home where the
child would say "no". Be proactive by giving your child situations
where they would need to refuse and assert themselves. Teach them that
saying "no" is their first boundary of defense; they do not need to
offer explanations to defend this choice (otherwise this opens the door
to "convincing arguments").
6. Encourage Child to Join Groups
Scouting and other youth groups help reverse negative peer pressure.
By encouraging your children to take part in student, religious or
civic minded clubs, their time is occupied and they will be less likely
to entertain negative pursuits.
The 6 hints above can be summarized in one word: Guidance.
Since peer pressure is an inevitable thing, your role as a parent is to guide them and equip them with the knowledge and skills to deal with the pressure from the people that surround them. More than this, it is important that children feel unconditionally loved; i.e. even when they make mistakes. If they feel this, they will not be afraid to come for guidance and will not be too ashamed to seek your help. Instead, they will learn that mistakes are feedback that can be used for making better choices in the future.