Every parent’s fear; every child’s dilemma. As a typical Nigerian mother raising teenagers, I, like other typical Nigerian mothers used to be VERY STRICT (like in very, very strict) with my children few years back. But then as they grew older, I realized that anytime I asked them questions about school, I will get a monosyllabic response. Like…..how was school?…..Good. So what happened in school today?……Nothing. I saw that the stricter I was, the quieter they became when relating with me. I knew this was not right, I had to change something. I know that teenagers could be very secretive. So, for me to get to be close to them when they get to their teenage years, I had to change my ways. As usual, I went fishing for information. I found out that what I was practising was not positive parenting. I also discovered that one does not have to be excessively strict for a child to abide by rules. We tend to think being strict is the key. What I have learned and I’M STILL LEARNING is that loving in a regulated godly environment is key to solving a lot teenage related issues like peer pressure, puberty etc. We need to learn to gain their trust. (Look out for this topic in June- How to gain your child’s trust). Gaining their trust is essential when you have to deal with teenage issues like peer pressure.
My understanding of what Peer Pressure is…..
Dictionary.com defines it as “social pressure by members of one’s peer group to take certain action, adopt certain values, or otherwise conform in order to be accepted”.
As children grow older, they tend to spend more time with their friends in school and at extra-curricular activities. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry states “Peers play a large role in the social and emotional development of children and adolescents. Their influence begins at an early age and increases through the teenage years. It is natural, healthy and important for children to have and rely on friends as they grow and mature.” Children tend to be rational and responsible when they are by themselves but as soon as they are in a group and have to make a decision, they cave in and in an attempt to fit in, they bend their rules and succumb to peer pressure.
Peer pressure could either be negative or positive depending on what the issues are
Differentiating the Good from the Bad– Peer pressure can be positive and supportive when the child is influenced by his/her friends to act in a progressive manner like learn new sport, good manners, good study habit etc. It becomes a problem when a child feels pressured to engage in self-destructive actions like cutting class, smoking, etc.
Resisting and Dealing with peer pressure as a parent- My Recipe
Teach your child the value of God- Train them to trust in God. I try to teach them not to do anything that does not glorify God. As a Christian, I try to bring it back to scriptural values. My slogan is “If it does not glorify God or the Dairo family, then don’t do it”.
Communication and awareness- Initiate discussion on this as early as 4 years. Create an awareness. As they grow older, peer pressure increases. It reaches its peak between 10-15years. I learned that parents should let children speak in terms of “I’. “I don’t like when…… I am upset about”. This tend to make them speak more. Talk to them about parties, sex, alcohol etc.
Influence their choice of friends- This is one of the things I always try to do. When I meet couples who have almost the same values as we do in my family and they have children who are of the same age group as my children, I try to get close to them so that our children can become friends. I try to steer them towards healthy friendship.
Develop a close relationship with your child- A relationship where your child feels comfortable and safe to discuss anything with you. You should be so close to your child that when your child experiences anything anywhere, you should be the first person he or she wants to share it with.
Encourage them to invite their friends over for a play day- Especially the ones they have in school. Try to get to know the children and their parents. Your aim is to study them. This way, you can either encourage or discourage the relationship. If you have to discourage a relationship, you will have to explain to your child. I have learned that as my children grow older, I can’t just tell them to do or not do some things anymore. I have to give my rationale behind it. When explaining focus on behaviors/values not the person.
Build their self-esteem- Lack of confidence can make a child fall prey to peer pressure. Learn how to build your child’s confidence here. Teach them to trust their instincts. Never to second guess themselves. Help them to have good grades.
Help your child find a cool way to impress other kids– If they have better ways to impress their peers, they won’t feel less of a person or succumb to other “supposedly impressive acts”.
Teach your child bail-out plans- Practical ways to deal with peer pressure
- If they are told to do something inappropriate, like alcohol, cigarettes, sex, guns, watch pornography, they should say NO and stay firm. This saves the trouble of being asked again.
- They can make a joke out of it. This style helps the child not to feel ostracized from friends example; you want me to smoke so I can get lung cancer, no way or my grandmother died of lung cancer so sorry, I’ll pass on this one.
- They can change the subject of discussion. Like ask questions about a movie, class etc.
- Make an excuse to leave- Apologize and leave. Tell friends you have to excuse yourself to do something
- If faced with a difficult situation the child can feign abdominal pain, headache etc. Child should excuse herself/himself from the environment and quickly make a phone call to parents so they can child up. Child should tell parents about it situation.
- Avoid situations/environments that can breed peer pressure- like a party with no adult supervision.
On your parenting journey, has your child experienced peer pressure. How did you deal with it? Please kindly share with us. I will love to hear from you? Please leave your comments in the comments section below.
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Thanks to these websites: The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; Family Life; Parent Further; Remedies Health communities; WikiHow to do anything