Peer Pressure

Parents of teenagers soon realize that they can feel desperately outmatched by the power that peers seem to gain over a child.

Children feel peer pressure and other influence at early ages. By middle school, peer influence may overcome attempts by parents to teach responsibility and respect. Parents may become anxious and feel helpless and scared at the apparent loss of a teenager to the whims of a weird and possibly unsafe adolescent culture.

Some parenting experts claim peers have more influence than parents over the habits of teenagers, others maintain parents are still more influential. The bottom line forparents of teenagers is that you need to stay connected, because research strongly indicates parents have a much greater impact on the development of teenage character and values than do his or her peers. This can be extremely challenging for many parents, who struggle for knowledge and focus to deal with the myriad of teenage issues, including school, sleep-overs, dating, driving, Internet safety, drinking, sex, drugs, and of course, tattoos and piercings.

The first measure of peer power over your teenager is time. How many hours a week do you get to sit and have conversations with your teenager? Anxiety can set-in when a parent realizes that a teenager’s friends have hours and hours per day or per week to exert influence, while parents may hardly even be able to break the ice. But peer pressure is potent for only a short period of time, with the worst of it usually during early teenage years in middle school. As teens get older, they begin to become less and less influenced by peers.

Unfortunately, peer influence shows itself in such glaring, in-your-face ways, including issues surrounding personal hygiene, clothing, language, sleep patterns, religion, fads, dating, and so much more. The good news is that peer pressure research indicates there are some very hopeful insights among some scary myths. For instance, peer pressure can’t ruin good kids and strong values.

Research indicates that teenagers will seek long term relationships with those who share similar values to themselves, even though they may seem rebellious and oppositional for a short time. The nature of children suggests even responsible kids with high self esteem can also be impulsive or egocentric at times. Often other underlying issues may be causing a change in behavior in teens.

So instilling responsible and respectful values at an early age is a parent’s best defense against negative peer pressure during the teenage years. Realize your influence over your child doesn’t have to diminish in the teenage years, but rather changes in focus. A child’s core values, ethics and morals all come as a result of that child’s primary relationships over the long haul, not temporary ones while in middle school and high school. But this is provided that a parent has earned a child’s respect.

Maintaining a close and trustworthy relationship with your teen, will help you navigate the inevitably choppy waters ahead. It may seem like your teenager has put his or her values in cold storage for a bit, but they are still there and they will reappear in time. Self discovery and experimentation is part of growing up and how a teenager becomes his or her own person.

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