How to Help Your Children Deal with Peer Pressure
Where to even begin with peer pressure?
As our children become adolescents, they enter the most fragile period of life. Kids learn who they are as an individuals (separate from their parents), become independent, and begin to form and solidify a sense of self. And because this sense of self is still so unformed and malleable, adolescents are left vulnerable to influence from others.
The question becomes: whose influence is more important, and therefore persuades the adolescent decision making?
I’d like to posit that the best way to combat peer pressure with your child is to have a more solid parental influence that wins out.
My son was out with friends not too long ago, goofing around on a neighbor’s golf cart. We trust him, and have therefore allowed him freedoms that his younger siblings have not yet earned. We weren’t expecting him home so early on a Friday night, and so when he walked walking through the door, we were sort of surprised. We asked him why he was home earlier than he’d initially told us, he said, “Eh, my friends had alcohol and were messing around. I knew I had to get out of there.”
The best way to combat peer pressure with your child is to have a more solid parental influence that wins out.
We are not super strict parents. We have set clear house rules (Read: 6 Steps to Creating House Rules That Your Children Will Follow), and even clearer consequences for breaking those rules. From the time our children were young, we have remained consistent in this.
Our kids earn the things that they love (Read: Improve Your Child's Behavior With a Points System) and understand what happens if they make the choice to do something they know is against our wishes. We have had open and honest discussions with them about things like drugs, alcohol, sex, fighting, etc.
So, when our son was in a situation like the one with the golf cart, we already had numerous conversations with him about alcohol and the consequences for choosing to do something, like drink, with his friends. We’ve also tried really hard to help our son establish his own internal motivations to avoid the things that are going to harm him (Read: How to Raise a Good Kid to Become a Good Adult).
Kids are going to face peer pressure in their adolescence; it’s just the essence of that period of life. Our job as parents is to make sure that we create an environment of trust where our influence over our children overcomes the pressure that our kids’ friends are going to create, so that they may make the right choices.
They will slip up and make mistakes.
Let’s not crucify them for their mistakes, but let’s also have meaningful consequences so that the next time they are in a similar situation, they are more inclined to make the right choice.
And when they do make the right choice (like our son did), REINFORCE the heck out of it!