Putting Peer Pressure in Perspective

How do you assist your child in being strong to not be swayed by friends re. their values, importance of school work and their goals they’ve established for themselves?

This question makes me a little uneasy. Are you sure you’re talking about your child’s values, rather than your own? We parents are sometimes so desperately concerned about our children’s turning out all right that we place very strong emotional pressures on them to have the same values as us, and the result is that sometimes they have our values rather than their own. They become “good” children who need to be liked and approved of, and this is their downfall. When they’re with us, they say what we want to hear, and sincerely believe that those are their own values. But then when they’re with the peer group they become confused because they haven’t actually thought through their values. The “good,” obedient child at 12 is often the one who gives in to peer pressure at 13 because he has not learned to think for himself. If you want a child who will not succumb to peer pressure, you actually need to raise a child who will develop his own values and take responsibility of his own life. This often means your child will openly question you and what you believe to be important. Some parents don’t like this, but it pays off in the long run!

How do you raise such a child? Firstly, let your child make decisions appropriate to his age, and allow him to experience the natural consequences of his actions. For example, if he doesn’t make his lunch, let him go to school without his lunch. If he doesn’t do his homework by bedtime, let him either stay up late doing it (and be tired the next day) or get a poor grade for not doing his work. If he seems to be leaving for school late, let him be late and experience the consequences of that; don’t pressure him to hurry up or bail him out by driving him. If he spends all his allowance (and he should have an allowance) and then can’t afford something he needs, don’t give him more money. If he’s over 11, and wants to stay up late, let him, and ignore him; let him be overtired but don’t listen to his whining; he’ll learn to go to bed on time. This way your child will learn that he, and he alone, is responsible for his actions and their consequences. So often we parents are anxious about our children’s success or failure, so we take away from them the experience of knowing that their choices do have consequences in the real world. We nag and nag, trying to prevent them from making mistakes, then rescue them from the consequences of their mistakes. We need to let our children make mistakes while they’re young, and learn from them. That’s how they become responsible. If your child’s homework or school attendance or getting to bed becomes your problem, it’s no longer his problem; don’t take it over.

Secondly, be available to listen to your child. Let him talk about what’s bothering him, when it’s bothering him. “Tell me about your day, dear” won’t get you very far, but being in your child’s presence and available to listen, without judging or giving unwanted advice, will give your child a sounding-board for his decisions. It’s very important not to jump in to tell your child what he should do, or what he should have done; just let him talk, and figure it out with your suppport. Hopefully he’ll also talk about the peer pressure.

Finally, watch “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” with you child (if he’s 11 or over), to refresh your memory about what values are truly important!

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