Raising children to cope with peer pressure begins very early in life. More than anything, children who are able to stand up to negative peer pressure are resilient individuals with well defined beliefs and values. Children such as this are not simply the result of good parenting strategies, they are the product of strong families with good communication and clearly visible values. Children become what they see more than what they hear. So as parents we need to make sure the message we are giving our children is consistent with our own lives.
It could be said that parenting is one long conversation with our children. When we consider the influence of the media on social norms we should be ready and willing to converse with our children about what is presented to us on the television, in magazines and books. Strong children know what they believe and why they believe it. Teaching our children about the consequences of actions and decisions is one way to do this. Television advertising is geared towards selling products and our children need to be aware that advertisements for unhealthy foods are attractive and beguiling. That is why they want to eat the products advertised. However, the consequences of doing so over time can be appalling for one’s health. Modern acceptance of promiscuity can be another important topic of conversation. What about tobacco, alcohol and most parents’ worst nightmare – drugs?
Parenting begins early as we teach our children right from wrong. As our little children become more aware and able to understand the larger issues in life, we need to talk to them about the keys to a happy and successful life as well as the risks that exist in the world. It is important to remember that we are raising our children to be adults. Therefore, the values we teach them have to be consistent with what they see and make sense in terms of an integrated world view. If we do this, then our children will not be vulnerable to peer pressure because they will have personal beliefs and values that guide them. Strong values act as a compass through life.
Having said this, when our children are faced with peer pressure we can certainly help them resist it. One way is to help our children learn to say no in safe situations. For example, if a friend wants to see a movie that our child does not want to see they can practice being assertive and saying “No thank you. It’s not my thing.” The more children can be assertive and put in place healthy boundaries, the better able they will be to resist peer pressure. If a child is struggling with a particular peer issue, encourage them to consider all the consequences if they acquiesce to the pressure. The more children can learn to make rational, rather than emotional, decisions in peer situations the better able they will be to resist negative peer pressure.
All children desire to belong to a group and the power of peers can be positive or negative. If we nurture and guide our children from a young age to appreciate the benefit and safety of our family’s values, then we can be confident that (despite the occasional misstep) they will resist bad influences and make good choices.