Are you like thousands of other parents in today’s society who has a certain amount of worry about “peer pressure?”
Quite often, peer pressure is a positive thing that can lead to involvement in sports, religious activities and academic excellence. However, peer pressure can also be a negative. This is more often the case for a teen that lacks self-confidence and self-esteem, yet is anxious to be accepted by others. Negative peer pressure can result in children trying to be part of a group rebelling against those things (such as school) about which the teen feels less confident.
As a parent, you can help your child overcome such negative peer pressure and we have some simple things you as parents can do to assist them.
Listen compassionately, not judgmentally. When your child comes to you upset because he/she was picked on or rejected by other children, it’s hard not to jump in and intervene.
However, you can’t always protect your child from hurt feelings. By nature, kids are fickle. They’re insecure about who they are and whom to admire. The child who is “in” today may be “out” tomorrow merely because of what he wore or said or for no reason at all.
These rejections can be painful for any child, and they seem even crueler when our children are the recipients.
Example: Your child always gets picked last for the team in games.
What to do: Avoid making derogatory comments about other kids or telling your child it is not worth getting upset about. Listen to his complaints, and act as a supportive sounding board. You can’t make the pain disappear, but you can make it safe for him to vent his feelings.
Don’t back down from your values. Parents worry that peer pressure will undo all of their efforts to teach positive values. As they get older, your children are going to test your values. They may hear the message from their peers that it’s cool to smoke or that it’s wimpy to be respectful to adults. Your kids will try on behaviors and attitudes that are contrary to your values.
Important: Your children will still look to you for moral guidance, and you must constantly reinforce your values, not just by what you say but, more important, by what you do. However, your efforts can backfire when your children think you’re being “preachy.”
Example: You overhear your 13-year-old daughter and her girlfriend making disparaging, mocking remarks about a new classmate. Your daughter says, “What a weirdo. That outfit she wore today looks like it came from a second hand shop.” You’re distressed to hear your thoughtful daughter speaking this way. Yet it would be a mistake to attack her in front of her friend by saying, “What’s gotten in to you? You used to be such a nice girl.”
Better: Calmly mention the incident when the two of you are alone. You might say, “I was surprised to overhear you speaking so unkindly about the new girl. You’re usually so compassionate. It must be hard for her to come to a new school where she doesn’t know anybody.”
Teach children to stand up for themselves. When your child is facing a problem with a peer, the best thing you can do is help him figure out how to handle the problem on his own. Sometimes you have to get involved directly if your child can’t handle the situation on his own or is in any danger. Ideally, however, helping your child develop his protective responses will enable him to become more self-sufficient.
Example: Your 10-year-old complains that a classmate picks on him every day. Instead of expressing outrage, help him work out a solution by role-playing. Suggest that you’ll play the classmate and he can try out responses, such as making a joke, ignoring the classmate or standing up to him.
If the problem persists, it’s often best to meet with the teacher. Children have to feel safe and protected in school.
Encourage your child’s self-esteem. The compulsion to compare and compete happens early with kids. That’s why they brag so much. The pressure to be as cool as the coolest kid is intense. Your child may be convinced that he simply can’t survive without the latest expensive trainers, or that she must dress exactly like everyone else or that she’ll die if she isn’t part of the “in” crowd.
In fact, most children don’t want to be unique. They want to be just like everyone else and be liked by everyone else.
How can you help your child develop self-esteem when all that matters to him is being accepted by peers? What happens if your child is rejected by a clique?
Key: Acknowledge your child’s hurt feelings, and let him know you understand how bad it can feel to be rejected. Then help him evaluate the situation beyond his feelings. You might say, “It must be hard not to be in that group. But are those people whom you really admire? Do you think you could trust them to be good friends when the going gets tough? These are things for you to consider.”
Praise your child for doing the right thing. Recognize that the hardest thing is when your child takes an independent position because he believes it is the thing to do. The child who learns to limit the influence of peers is the true leader with a steady moral compass.
Example: Your daughter stands up for an overweight kid who is being picked on. Don’t take her response for granted or say, “Well, I expect you to do the right thing, no matter what your friends are doing.” Instead, express your admiration. Tell her, “Going against the others took guts. I’m proud of you for sticking up for her when everyone else was being weak.”
Article courtesy of bottomlinesecrets.com