Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Peer Pressure...Good and Bad

People are influenced by social relationships starting in preschool (when your kid brings home someone else's cold). And they should be. We are social beings. If you think you can control who your child comes into contact with, you're wrong. Sure you can influence their social environment (for example, public vs. private, or religion-based school), but you will be much more effective if you teach your child how to choose healthy relationships and they know that they can come to you for help when they need it. And of course you have to BE THERE for them.

We all have a need for attention and acknowledgement, in order to feel good about ourselves. The more you give your child (especially early on), the less they'll need to get it elsewhere. They will be more confident, make better decisions, and choose peer relationships that add to their lives, rather than take away from it. I mean they will choose friends who support the kind of values that you agree with. If your child NEEDS to be accepted by others, can't make decisions well, HAS to feel like a part of something (other than your family), then they will be more likely to respond to negative peer pressure. Maybe they'll try drugs to "fit in." Maybe join a gang to "belong." Perhaps pick on other kids to feel better about themselves.

Require that your child introduce you to their friends. Get to know them. Don't overdo it though. Embarrassing your kids doesn't bring them closer, it pushes them away. Encourage your child to participate in organized sport or social activities. Help your child learn the difference between good and bad peers, then you won't have to worry about their friends pressuring them to make bad choices.

How about the social pressure we feel as adults?  We are more likely to be influenced by our friends (or media images and role models), good and bad, if we're in unhappy relationships, or are lacking confidence in our lives and life choices.  Consider the people you spend your social time with.  Do they influence you positively, or ...  For example, some friends we tend to drink more with, or spread negative gossip, or trash our spouse.  Are these friends or frienemies?  [See my posting of 4/22/2008, Beware Of Toxic People].  I'm just saying, while we're trying to protect our kids from negative peer pressure, let's also look at who we're choosing to spend our time with.