“Don’t respond to the stupidity of a fool; you’ll only look foolish yourself.” —Proverbs 26:4 (MSG)
Peer pressure is nothing new but a recent article in the Wall Street Journal suggested it is something teenagers need in order “to become adults.”
1. Make sure they understand that any friendship has peer pressure—From the beginning it has had the potential to be either negative or positive in nature. For several years, researchers felt that responding to peer pressure was inevitable for teenagers because the frontal lobe of the brain (largely responsible for decision-making) was not fully developed.
2. Realize that the problem is the emotion attached to the decision—Recent research has discovered that the poor decisions being made in the teenage years are more a factor of responding to emotional influences (teenagers making decisions when they are worked up). The reward center of the brain is more activated for teenagers than for adults, hence peer pressure is more effective.
3. Help them develop the ability to respond—It is the parents’ responsibility to help their teenagers develop the ability to respond to peer pressure—to think rather than give a knee jerk, emotional reaction.
4. Discipline them lovingly—This is in contrast to the “strict disciplinarian,” the parent who demands certain behavior without building a relationship. The teenager raised by a “strict disciplinarian” is actually more prone to following the crowd without thinking. Parents who establish a loving relationship and clear boundaries with adequate consequences are more likely to raise kids who are able to think for themselves.
5. Land the Helicopter—The parent who hovers and doesn’t allow the child or teenager to make decisions and succeed or fail is also setting the child up for following the lead of destructive peer pressure. This child has no practice making decisions.
The Take-Away? Parents, love your teenager enough to establish boundaries and consequences. Don’t hover. Help them anticipate potential negative pressure and develop a plan to handle it. The teenagers who have developed independent thinking skills are the peers who exert positive peer pressure, encouraging others to do what is right.
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How have you helped your kids resist negative peer pressure?