Peer Pressure and the 'Discipline' Connection

family counselor child helpBefore opening my private counseling practice years ago, I was the Director of the Dallas Police Department's First Offender Program working with delinquent youth (ages 10-16). Parents were invariably shocked when they got a phone call from the Youth Section Officer that Suzy or Billy had been taken into custody for a breaking a law such as theft, burglary, vandalism, truancy, or minors in possession of alcohol. What often shocked me was the parents' response to that phone call. The three most common were:

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1. 'It wasn't his idea! My son's friend made him do it.'

2. 'My child is so scared by this arrest. I know she will never do this again. I'm going to stop on the way home and get her an ice cream cone.'

3. 'I didn't raise my child to do this. I don't know when I'll ever talk to him again. In fact, I don't even want to take him home with me.'

All three responses are terribly inappropriate and dangerous. Because if the child isn't held accountable for his actions, then it's highly likely (64%+ chance) that he will do it again'most likely within the next six months.

Not holding children accountable for their actions is the biggest problem in child rearing today. My reactions to the above comments are:

1. Unless your child's friend held a gun or a knife on him, then he didn't make him do anything. Words were used on your child and you need to teach him the Peer Pressure Reversal skills that I've been discussing in this column the past year and are outlined in my parent guide, Peer Pressure Reversal: An Adult Guide to Developing a Responsible Child. (Editor's Note: Sharon has also authored as well an award-winning book for teens and one for children to read on managing all kinds of negative peer pressure. See sidebar.)

2. Fear doesn't last long. And kids think they are invincible. The child needs to know that she will have a consequence when she does something wrong.

3. The child needs the parent even more in times of trouble. You should be his guidance and more influential than his peers. And since you hold all the privileges, you are more important! Besides not talking to someone when you are mad at them sets up a pattern that they will repeat in their marriage'and that, sadly, keeps marriage counselors in business.

Next month we will discuss more about consequences. The point today is that it's imperative that we help our children set boundaries and that includes holding them accountable for their actions'and not relying on others to do that for us.

Copyright ©2007- 2014, Sharon Scott. No reproduction without written permission from author. Excerpted in part from Sharon's classic parent guide: Peer Pressure Reversal: An Adult Guide to Developing a Responsible Child, 2nd Ed. (

P.S. Please check out my other column, 'SmileNotes' about helping your child internalize praise.

Sharon Scott, LPC, LMFT, is an internationally recognized family therapist with a private practice in north Texas. She is considered the leading expert on peer pressure having trained more than one million people across the U.S. and in Australia, Canada, Switzerland, South Africa, Spain, Malaysia, the Philippines, Turkey, and Micronesia in her proven techniques. For information on bringing Sharon to your community or school to present one of her 29 dynamic workshops for children, teens, parents, or educators, please see her website .

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Sharon is the author of eight award-winning books including four on the topic of peer pressure.

peer pressure reveral book coverThe guide for parents/educators on how to peer-proof children and teens is


how to say no and keep friends book coverHer popular book for teens,


too smart for trouble book coverSharon 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


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Peer Pressure Experienced by Teens, Adolescents and School-age Children. Parenting Advice.

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