By Sharon Scott, LPC, LMFT – Counselor's Corner
If you met me in my professional life as a family counselor and training consultant or if you met me in the grocery store, you will be talking to the “same” person.
I mean that I don’t change who I am to try to get other people to like me. It’s kind of take me or leave me—and I don’t mean that in a sarcastic way, but in a genuine way. I learned many years ago that when you attempt to change who you are to gain acceptance or popularity that it will leave you feeling empty. You are not authentic or being true to self. I see so many clients in my practice—both youth and adults—who worry so much about what other people think about them. One of my clients, age 50, was taught by her mother to always be very conscious of her dress, actions, speech and to never “let the family down” in public. As a result, she’s been chronically anxious her entire life worrying about everything she says and does. Through counseling, she’s just now learning who she is, to be proud of herself and to live a life of joy.
Peer pressure involves pleasing others and going along with them to gain acceptance. Buying certain brands of clothing or cars—often called keeping up with the Jones—is another way many people vie for inclusion. Advertisers spend millions of dollars trying to make us feel uncool if we don’t use their toothpaste, deodorant, etc.
Therefore one of the most important things parents can do for their children is to help them to become authentic—true to themselves! How does a parent provide this wisdom?
- As a parent, avoid talking with envy (or disdain) about what other people have or don’t have.
- Teach your children wise shopping and how smart it is to look for bargains and/or compare prices.
- Don’t label children (she’s shy; he’s the silly one).
- Don’t compare your children to siblings or other children.
- Try to act/be the same in public and at home so that you role-model authenticity.
- Don’t be one of those people who stand in long lines for the latest phone, kid’s toy, etc. Life is not about things—but children can come to believe it is if you feed their “wants.”
- Talk to your children about people of good character—both famous and local.
Being the month of October, you might consider helping your child be other than him or herself—on Halloween! Just make sure to tell them how glad you are to have them back after the costume is off! Happy fall, y’all!
Copyright © 2012, Sharon Scott. No reproduction without written permission from author.
P.S. Please read my other column “SmileNotes.”
The guide for parents/educators on how to peer-proof children and teens is Peer Pressure Reversal: An Adult Guide to Developing a Responsible Child, 2nd Ed.
Her popular book for teens, How to Say No and Keep Your Friends, 2nd Ed., empowers kids to stand out,not just fit in!
A follow-up book for teens, When to Say Yes! And Make More Friends, shows adolescents how to select and meet quality friends and, in general, feel good for doing and being good.
Sharon also has a charming series of five books for elementary-age children each teaching an important living skill and "co-authored" with her savvy cocker spaniel Nicholas who makes the learning fun.Their book on managing elementary-age peer pressure is titled Too Smart for Trouble.