Five steps for parents to lead their teens in the face of peer pressure.
“Mom, you are not doing it the right way,” my friend’s six year old said to her as she tried to help her with her homework. “Don’t worry, when dad comes home, I’ll do it with him.” My friend was not amused.
Who or what influences our children’s behavior? Who do our children really listen to? Early on in life, parents have the greatest influence. Then come the teachers. Once the children find a teacher they love, she can do no wrong. Teacher is always right. In the teen years, it’s especially important to know who they are listening to. It appears on the surface that parents have very little influence, but I always tell parents, your teens will listen to you if you take the time to talk to them and truly connect with what is important to them. Hopefully by then there is a mutual respect, love, and a great relationship between you. Teens also listen to their church youth leaders, coaches, counselors and mentors in school are all crucial to teaching important life skills, mental toughness, perseverance, and the ability to finish tasks.
One of the most significant influences in the lives of teens is their circle of friends. Teens want to spend time with their friends, especially the ones they admire. They want to be like their friends and be liked by them. Have you noticed how teenagers all seem to dress the same way, and talk the same way even though they all like to think they are “different” or even unique?
“Peer pressure is very important in a teen’s life!”
Here are five steps for parents to lead their teens in the face of peer pressure.
1. Stay involved.
From early on in life, get to know the people who have the greatest influence in your child’s life. Be involved with school activities, get to know their elementary teachers and their values. If there’s a particular value that is being instilled that you don’t agree with, draw the teacher’s attention to it. Be respectful, teachers are entitled to their opinion, but in the end you are responsible for your child’s wellbeing and mental health.
2. Ensure quality time
Do the hard work required to have a relationship with your child. I’ve often heard parents say, “That is the school’s responsibility? Why does the teacher expect me to do this or that?” The answer is simple. Because you are the parent. Children are happy and proud when their parents participate in school activities. Some parents use work as an excuse for non-participation. There are also stay at home parents who choose not to get involved. You will have to make some sacrifices in this role of parenting. At the end of the day it is the quality of the time together and not quantity that counts most in any relationship.
3. Befriend other parents.
Get to know the parents of your children’s friends. Do you share the same values? If the parents are not people you want to associate with, then perhaps you should gently steer your child away. These are parents who will eventually become your friends and allies during the teen years. You can watch out for each other’s children. Believe me this is not spying it is strategizing for future safety and success.
4. Look, listen and advise.
As your children become teens, know who they are hanging out with. Peer pressure is becoming even more important now. Don’t pry, but learn to ask, “How did your day go?” So much can be learned about what is going on in your teen’s life if you actually listen and pay attention. They may tell you about what their friends are doing or thinking. They want to know if you approve. Don’t be judgmental, but discuss consequences when necessary, both the good and bad consequences of actions being taken. Take the opportunity to discuss the behavior of teens in TV shows or movies, when the opportunity presents itself. The aim is to keep the channels of communication open and still have some influence without driving your teen away. One mom I really admire always offered to be the parent who drove her kids and their friends to the movies. That way she knew who the kids were hanging out with, whilst doing something nice for them.
5. Know the adult influences in your teens life.
Teens are at the stage, where they still care what people think about them and they still want to impress the adults in their life. Even as some teens are starting to work, make sure that they can discern right from wrong and be able to say “NO” if they are put in compromising situations by their bosses at work, teachers, aunts and uncles. I’ve seen too many teens led down the wrong path by the very adults and mentors they admired and respected. Be alert and ask questions if you are uncomfortable about an adult in your teen’s life.
When all is said and done, parents are still the greatest influencers in their teens’ lives. It is important to maintain an ongoing relationship with your teen. Get involved in your child’s activities. Know the parents of the friends your teen hangs out with. Stay connected with your teen. Teens do listen to parents who take time to talk to them.