Sibling Peer Pressure
By Sharon Scott, LPC, LMFT – Counselor's Corner
The Boston Marathon bombings were terrible. So many lives lost… so many lives changed due to the actions of two young people. The media reported that as the older brother’s life deepened into darkness that he had great influence on his younger brother who joined him in this atrocity. In my line of work as a family counselor I often see siblings influence one another in negative ways.
Generally the older child influences one younger who wants to be admired by or fit in with an older kid. Sometimes it’s even blackmail—"If you tell our parents, you’re in big trouble."
This is one of the reasons that when your children do something wrong together, talk to them separately. Allowing each child this privacy will help you to better judge what’s really going on. The children should both be held accountable and have a consequence for their misbehavior. In addition, if one child convinced the other child to do wrong, I suggest a separate consequence for involving the other child. This additional consequence should be loss of a different privilege so that it’s clear to the instigator that negatively encouraging the younger child will not be tolerated.
Consequences need to “fit the crime” and always have a time limit stated. There are all kinds of privileges that can be taken away and used as consequences such as no TV, computer or phone (or no technology at all for something serious). Other ideas include sent to a boring room in the house (such as dining room or guest bedroom), yucky work assignment, loss of privacy (can’t close door to room) or a 1-page single spaced report on "How I Should Have Handled This Situation." Avoid screaming and yelling and lecturing—they just don’t work! Fair loss of privileges that you 100% follow through on will!
Copyright © 2013, Sharon Scott. No reproduction without written permission of author.
P.S. Please see 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.