You are here: Rediff Home » India » Get Ahead » Living » Parenting
Search: The Web
  Discuss this Article   |      Email this Article   |      Print this Article

Minimise the effects of peer pressure on your kids
Rupal Patel
Get news updates:What's this?
July 05, 2007

Peer pressure is the pressure an individual feels to conform to the ways of a social group, into which he/ she wants to be accepted. Peer pressure can exist in children as young as two years of age -- they will simply do things because other kids are doing them, and to 'fit in'.

This sometimes leads to positive results -- a tot, for instance, may start to follow the good eating and/ or sleeping patterns of a peer. But it's not always the case. Negative peer pressure can also have harsh consequences, and may cause a child to take up undesirable activities.

As such, parents can't avoid their children facing peer pressure, but they can take the following steps to minimise its effects:

~ Establish a strong relationship with your children, and nurture it every day.

Forging a strong bond with your children, one that makes them feel loved and accepted for who they are, gives them a sense of security. This security gives them the strength to face the world and stand up for their values and beliefs. Also, children who share a close relationship with their parents are influenced by them, and are more likely to come to them when faced with problems.

~ Encourage your children and build their self-esteem.

Shower lots of love and affection on your children. Appreciate them, and praise good behaviour. Motivate them to do things that will build their sense of self-worth. Building up a child's self-esteem is directly related to boosting his/ her courage. This will give him/ her the strength to stand up for what is right, when faced with difficulties.

~ Teach them decision-making skills, and let them face the consequences of bad decisions.

Allow children to make decisions for themselves from an early age, whenever possible. For example, allowing them to decide how to deal with a friend who is teasing them, or what stand to take in a fight amongst peers. Guide them towards the right thing to do, but let the final decision rest with them. Even if you feel like the decision made by your child is wrong, as long as there are no drastic consequences, allow him/ her to go through with it and bear the consequences. These natural consequences teach youngsters important life lessons. They will also become better decision-makers as they grow older.

~ Allow them to stand up for themselves.

Your children's beliefs about certain things may be different from yours. Allow them their beliefs, and respect them. Encourage them to make logical and independent decisions, and stand up for what they believe in. Let them know that their opinions matter. You may not always agree with your children or do as they want, but always give them a chance to share their opinions.

~ Communicate with your kids.

Always keep the lines of communication open. Get to know your children -- listen to them, understand their feelings and thoughts. Be a good listener. Sometimes it is important just to listen, without passing judgments or lecturing them. Know when to give advice, and when to just listen and be there for them. Talk to them about your life too, and let them be a part of it.

~ Spend time together as a family.

Make spending quality time together a natural part of your family life. Have meals together, or just sit and talk about your daily routines. Take time out to have fun together. Plan outings and holidays. Let your children know that they always have an unconditional support system.

~ Know your child's world.

Get to know your children's friends, their hobbies, the activities they are involved in etc. Be involved in your child's daily life and attend school events that are important to them -- Parents' Day, Sports Day and so on. Be their biggest support and strength.

~ Develop a strong value system in your children.

Teach your children to distinguish right from wrong. A strong value system forms the foundation of a good character. Teach values through day-to-day routines. Younger children can be taught values through stories. A good value system gets built over a period of time, through everyday interactions.

~ Set age-appropriate limits.

Children need limits just as much as they need freedom. A child who has no limits set for him/ her by the parents will be very confused as to which path to take. The rule of thumb is to increase the freedom and decrease the limits as a child grows older.

~ Be a good role model.

Your children look up to you when they are young. For a child, his/ her parent can do no wrong, and that puts a big responsibility on the parents' shoulders. You have to be aware of your behaviour at all times, and understand that you are your child's greatest role model. He/ she will always try to behave like you.

~ Have family talks

Have a lot of discussions with your children. With younger tots, it could be about values you want enforced, such as respect, honesty etc. As they grow older, talk to them about smoking, sex, alcohol, drugs and even peer pressure. Listen to what they know about these things and try to understand how they feel about them. Once children have an understanding of a negative process and its results, they are less likely to give in to it. Make sure they know that you are always there for them to talk to. Regular talks, especially on topics that are perceived as taboo, will make it easier for your child to approach you when he/ she is in trouble, or is faced with a difficult decision.

~ Never criticize your child's friends

You may not always approve of the friends your child chooses. However, criticizing your children's friends will only put them on the defensive. Instead, explain a situation that may be bothering you and discuss it with your child. For example, a parent could say, "I have been noticing that whenever you spend more time with Rina, you start talking rudely to elders" or "Whenever Sita comes over, your toys are not put back in their place. I was wondering what the problem is and how we can solve it." Though you may not be able to dissuade your child from being friends with someone, as long as they are not a negative influence on them, that is good enough. And who knows, maybe your child's positive qualities will rub off on his/ her friends.

Moreover, you can encourage your kids to develop and maintain friendships with children who have positive qualities. Get to know your child's friends and their families. Invite them over to your home so you can get to know them too. Make plans together; maybe go out dining, or to the park.

~ Face the real reason for your child's negative behaviour

Understand a problem and then look for the solution. Sometimes children get into trouble not just because of a particular friend, but because they may be lacking in self-confidence. They may not value their own ideas and beliefs, and may tend to get swayed by the first person that makes them feel a little better. Even if they listen to you and stop associating with that particular individual, it will be a matter of time before another comes along and leads them down the wrong path. Find out the real reason behind the problem and work on that.

Facing peer pressure is a natural part of growing up. Whether children give in to the negative aspects of it, or are able to handle it in a diplomatic manner will have a lot to do with the kind of relationship they share with their parents. The best thing to do is let your children always know that you are their pillar of strength, and that they will always be loved and accepted for who they are, no matter what.

Rupal Patel has done her child psychology from the National School of Health and Sciences, London [Images] [Images]. She also holds a diploma in early child care and education ORT India and Oxford. Rupal has been holding workshops for parents for the last five years.

 Email this Article      Print this Article

© 2007 India Limited. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer | Feedback