Peer Proofing Your Child or Teen, Part 2
Peer Proofing Your Child/Teen, Part 2
By Sharon Scott, LPC, LMFT
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Good decision-making by children and teens begins with good values, and most parents try to teach their children the difference between right and wrong. Unfortunately, this only begins the preparation to help them manage the intensity of modern peer pressure.
Kids are bombarded by media messages (advertisers, TV, music, movies etc.) to be abnormally skinny, wear certain brand labels, drink, curse, etc. And some of your child’s friends suffer from ‘affluenza”they want a lot and get it no matter whether they do chores, are respectful to parents, and make good grades.
These children feel entitled and their attitude, behaviors, and purchases persuade your child that is the way to popularity and happiness. (Or perhaps this is your child and they may be influencing others in negative ways?).
The point being is that this is a difficult world for kids to muddle through. Many kids can’t seem to avoid trouble from encouraging peers. Others may not do the trouble suggested, but they feel like a dork always saying no and have damaged self-esteem.
As I’ve mentioned before, research says that 87% of America’s youth face at least one negative peer pressure situation daily whether to talk in class during the teacher’s lecture, copy homework, fight, gossip, skip a class, lie to parents about the real destination, drink alcohol, or other misbehavior, dares, or pranks.
My column last month began discussing Step 2 which is to Introduce the Goal and the Skill Needed to Reach It. This step begins the discussion of peer pressure by defining it (someone close to your age who is pressuring you to do something wrong; i.e., it could be dangerous, harmful, illegal, or against the rules).
There needs to be some dialog that no one actually makes a person do something wrong, but a friend may verbally encourage them to go along claiming that it will be fun and that everyone is doing it.
It’s important to note that peer pressure can also be internal. Sometimes the youth assume the other person thinks he’s a nerd or she’s a goody-goody when they don’t go along with the trouble idea. Discuss that a real friend doesn’t drop them because they don’t go along with the trouble. The peers might get mad at them but they don’t stay mad for long.
In the many hundreds of workshops that I’ve presented at schools across this nation and abroad, kids always reply that their friends don’t stay mad more than a day when they turn down the trouble.
As you’re preparing your child for the actual teaching of my Peer Pressure Reversal skills, it’s helpful to tell them some true stories about children or teens who let their peers influence them. This is not to scare the child as the stories must be age appropriate, but to make them aware that when we let others choose for us, we usually lose (lose privileges, freedom, etc.)
In my guide for parents/educators, Peer Pressure Reversal, 2nd Ed., I outline numerous stories to establish interest that you can tell your child or teen. One happened at recess on a snowy playground in Michigan. Some second grade boys were daring their buddies to stick their tongues to a metal pipe on the playground.
One little boy accepted the dare and pulled the skin off his tongue and lips when he pulled away. He ended up being rushed to the hospital and had months of speech therapy due to the damage.
Another story involved a very bright boy in Florida who had dreams of being an astronaut. He always made the highest grades in his class. However, when he entered sixth grade, the other boys teased him for being the teacher’s pet. The teasing became so intense for him that he slacked off his grades to try to fit in.
And in Texas, 12 high school seniors from middle-class, church-going families were sentenced to prison for the armed robbery of twenty fast-food restaurants. They wanted more money for prom activities. And, sadly, true stories abound about kids who are influenced to drink, use other drugs, have sex, or drink and drive.
You can find stories in your local area from newspaper reports, word of mouth, and other. Do avoid, however, criticizing your child or his/her peers during this discussion as they will think you are going to punish them or fuss at them.
This is a time of teaching a skill and it must remain very positive in order for the child to listen openly and learn from you. This sets the stage for next month’s column where I begin to present the Peer Pressure Reversal skill to help your child say no to trouble while maintaining their friendships.
Copyright 2018, Sharon Scott. No reproduction without written permission from author.
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.
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