Simply put, peer pressure is; the ability of people from the same social rank or age to influence another person’s decision making process. Although peer pressure is usually associated with teens, this type of influence is not confined to teenagers. Mature adults, teens, young adults, children, and even infants can be seen doing things in order to feel as though they are accepted by their peers.
Because the term peer pressure is most commonly used when referring to teenage children doing things that they would not normally do, it is often viewed as a negative influence. For example, when parents think about peer pressure, they frequently envision the boy from the “wrong side of the tracks” persuading their daughter to give up her virginity; or the local gang banger handing their innocent son his first joint. Although these stereotypical scenarios do happen, there are also forms of peer pressure; some even provide teenagers with constructive positive influences during their search for independence.
Positive Peer Pressure
Teens involved in sports, student politics, or even the chess club, are also being influenced by peer pressure. The desire to remain or become a part of any group will cause a teenager to strive to fit in, whether it means running the fastest mile, winning the spelling bee, or being the loudest cheerleader. The key to making peer pressure work in your favor as a parent is to stay involved in your child’s life. Know their friends, know where they go, and know what they do when they are gone. Don’t assume because your children are involved in positive religious or school groups that they are always doing the right thing.
Negative Peer Pressure
Teens are now, and have always been, under extreme pressure to “fit in” with a group that gives them much needed identity at this time in their lives. They have also become notorious for pulling a Jekyll and Hyde act on their parents. Many parents don’t even know that their football star is out slamming beers with the team on weekends or that their peppy cheerleader is binging and purging everyday to stay as slim and the other girls. Parents need to stay alert to all kinds of peer pressures, not just the obvious or stereotypical signs. Yes your child’s beginning to dress all in black, wearing crazy make-up and having wild colored hair is a cause for concern; but so is getting caught cheating on a test or lying about a friend to make themselves look better. These are all warning signs that your child’s self-identity so caught up in being a part of a certain group that they willing to give up common morals and values.
Controlling Peer Pressure
The best thing parents can do to control the influence of peer pressures on their teens is to be participants in their child’s life, everyday. Watch for slight changes in their dress, personality, or friends. Be vigilant in keeping in touch with teachers, they are more likely to notice changes in your child’s behavior or attitudes that may not be seen at home. Invite your children’s friends over to your house often. If they won’t come over, find out why. Meet their friend’s parents; chances are if you don’t like the parents, you won’t like their children.
If your child has a friend that drinks or is doing drugs, then your child is probably drinking or using drugs too. If you think your daughter’s friends dress too sexy and flirts with older men too often, take a good look in her closet. Chances are you will find a whole secret wardrobe that you would never let her wear.
Lay down the ground rules and enforce them. If you don’t enforce them you will send your children mixed messages. Once they know there is a chance they can get away with breaking the rules, it becomes worth the risk. For some easy to use Parent – Teen Behavior Contracts we recommend: www.parentcontracts.com.
Always remember that children look to their parents first for their identity. If you smoke and drink, expect your children to think that those behaviors are acceptable for them as well. Spend the time to discuss these issues with them, explain why you don’t want them doing as you do. Then enforce the rule! It will be harder because you will have to deal with the “you do it” remarks, but in the long run it will be worth the fight.
Finally, encourage a relationship with your child that focuses communication. Ask about what’s going on in their life. You may not always like the answers, but you will be in a position to help to make better choices.