Talk to your children about any form of aggression or bullying and try to understand the pressures they are facing in school
You notice your teenager is unusually upset recently. You have no clue as to what is upsetting your child. Think about it. There is a possibility that your child is experiencing peer pressure at school. Surprised? You have heard about blood pressure, air pressure, but peer pressure? You may be clueless, but chances are your child is confronting it on a regular basis, regardless of whether s/he tells you or not. For your children their friends are almost like family, so it’s natural for them to spend time and do fun together. Gradually sometimes this friendship starts to take its toll on your child. They are gradually pressured to do things that they are not comfortable with. This is where your child has no clue as to how to resist someone they feel so close to and care about so much. This is just one example of peer pressure. Let me break down the word and make it simple.
According to the dictionary, ‘peer’ is person of the same age, the same social position, or having the same abilities as others in a group. Could be friends or relatives. While ‘pressure’ is the feeling of being pushed towards making a choice: both good and bad. This is where ‘peer pressure’ comes from and it is—you must have guessed—the feeling of someone of the same age pushing others to make certain choice: good or bad. Teenagers are often victims of peer pressure, because they are vulnerable and confused about their choice of actions: accept the pressure and succumb or resist it and face bullying.
Watch your children
Teenage is a critical time when children need their parents’ support. Parents having a good bond with their children come in very handy while dealing with such situation. If relations are good between you and your children, your children will come and unburden their problems to you, and you in turn can talk about it and suggest ways to get by. But if relation between parent and children is not there, then it is entirely possible for the children to fall into bad company and bad habits.
Now that you understand the implication, it is entirely up to you to either teach your children to deal with this problem or just leave them alone to fend for themselves to choose their actions: accepting or rejecting it.
Peer pressure is not something new. We have all faced it at one time or other. We all know that peer pressure requires us to make quick decisions. Under such situation, it is the parents who can play a crucial role in making or breaking their child’s resistance to peer pressure and tolerating bullying. Especially in this age of online communication that provides different means of socializing, cyber bullying is more prevalent. Many times, children will pressure or encourage others to cyber bully. These can include pressures to participate in anything from online hate lists to mean social media posts.
Parents need to teach their teenage children to understand that while making their decision, they need to remember, if someone is pressuring them to do something that they are not comfortable with, they have the right to say ‘NO.’ Make sure your children understand that they do not have to justify their decision. They can simply walk away.
You need to take into consideration the fact that your child will definitely face tough situations during their teenage. They are bound to think, ‘but they are my friends how can I say NO to them?’ Yes sometimes resisting pressure can be very difficult. You need to understand that your children’s confusion and their decision are guided by their thought of the possibility of being rejected by their friends. They do not want to lose their friends, nor do they want to be ridiculed.
This is the time for you to understand your child’s emotional condition. It is possible that your child is very kind and does not want to hurt their friend’s feelings. Sometimes they are not sure of their expectations, and go along with their friend’s plans. Often times their conscience hits them, but they don’t know how to get out of the situation. They are tempted to think initially, giving in will make their life easier, and that everything will be smooth sailing afterwards. The truth of the matter is—it won’t. Life for your child will be more miserable after that. They will be victim of being partner in crime because of their vulnerability, and their inability to resist, to say ‘NO.’
I can understand a parent’s defense. ‘It’s not easy to resist’, you may be thinking. But there are some tricks. These will help your child resist almost anything that they may feel pressured into. So here you go. The first thing to do is to teach your children to say ‘NO’ with a bang when under peer pressure. When faced with a situation, they need to muster all their confidence and stand up straight and make eye contact with the bully. Your child should have enough confidence to tell them how they feel about the whole thing. Teach your children to be careful and not make excuses regarding their decision.
Your child should have enough presence of mind to just walk away and find something else to do with other friends. Teach them enough smartness to do something else. If all these don’t work they should immediately decide to go home. No one can stop your child from going home. That should be the final choice for your child. Teach your children to be persistent and not give up. Assure them that practice does make one perfect over time.
Stand by them
Parents need to be aware that their teenage is struggling to cope with difficult situations. Children need a place to run to, when they are troubled or pressured. Peer pressure is amazing and I am sure that you too remember these things also happened to you as teen. I am sure there were some people you hated seeing and would feel wonderful if you did not meet them one day. If you remember correctly, you had your older brother or sister to share your problems with and you had their frequent assurances that they are there for you when you need them. Now is the time for you to be present to support your child when they are troubled. Teach them to be assertive, but not aggressive. Teach them to stick to their decision and not waver under peer pressure. This will help your children gain stability and positive self-image and bring them closer to achieving their goals in future.
Raising a teenager is surely a challenge for parents that require their presence at every step.
I can understand parent’s dilemma. They might feel like they are fighting a losing battle. Then again in reality, parents have much more influence than they realize. At this age teens are attempting to pull away and are trying to assert their independence, but they still need their parents. So this is the right time to step up and grab this opportunity. Talk to your children about any form of aggression or bullying and try to understand the pressures they are facing in school.
Finally, share with your children ideas on how to respond to peer pressure. Now here is a twist. What if your child is a bully because s/he was pressured into it? Complicated matter. You have to set up rules and go through disciplinary actions. If you just let it go, your child will assume that the rules do not apply and that it’s not a big deal. As a result, your child’s bullying may escalate out of control or seriously harm another person. Remember, looking the other way will only harm your child in the end. The more you connect with your children, the more you will give them the confidence and positive energy they need to face peer pressure and bullying. Now that is not very difficult, right parents?
Pokharel is an educationist and author of several children’s books