Peer pressure is one of those things we unfortunately all face. Not just kids—adults are just as likely to find themselves feeling pressure to do things coworkers, friends or other families do, just as our kids are of feeling pressure from their peers.
The difference is we’ve matured (hopefully) and presumably have more self-esteem and self-control to do what’s right and not give in to peer pressure. Kids often lack that ability. Even at a young age, they begin to gauge their self-worth by what their friends do or don’t do.
One thing I’ve always tried to impress upon my three kids (twin boys, 10, and a daughter, 8) is that their own unique abilities and differences are what make them interesting human beings. I encourage them to foster and celebrate those differences. In other words, always encourage your kids to cut their own path. And try, at every opportunity, to help them develop their own internal gauge of what’s right and wrong, good and bad. The stronger their own internal compass is, the less likely they will need approval from their peers and be swayed by negative influences from other kids.
Part of accomplishing that involves letting them learn from their own mistakes. I think too often we, as parents, try to do everything not to let our kids suffer setbacks, disappointments and failure. But those are the very things that help kids learn. And better to let them experience failure or even bad decisions when they’re young and the stakes are low, than when they’re older and the stakes are high. I think kids who have a strong sense of self-worth are much more resistant to peer pressure.
I also believe as parents, we have to keep a very close eye on who our kids associate with. We can’t be with them every second, but we can certainly encourage healthy friend choices. The saying “there’s strength in numbers” applies to our kids and their friends. If a son or daughter even have one close friend who shares their values, their sense of right and wrong, it makes standing up to peer pressure that much easier.
Preparing our kids to deal with peer pressure really starts at a very early age. We should praise our children when they do the right thing and gently give them guidance toward making better choices. Giving them hypothetical situations or moral dilemmas is a great way to cultivate critical thinking. Our children have to know that they are valued and their family is a safe harbor where lines of communication are always open. If we can talk to our kids, peer into their heart and character, we may be able to be a sounding board or give guidance at a critical juncture before a bad decision is made.
I tell my kids this quote: “Character is what you do when no one is looking.” This defines a child who has a strong sense of self, and right from wrong. A child less likely to be influenced by peer pressure.
By// John Hook