Peer Pressure Isn’t All Bad
We all share the need to connect with others, no matter our age. We want a sense of belonging at home and within the community. Being accepted by peers is an important part of adolescence. Teens yearn to fit in and to be seen in a favorable light. As a result, peers often have a strong influence on teen behaviors, choices, and actions.
Too often, we assume peer influence is harmful. We tend to associate peer pressure with one forceful teen pushing another into doing something negative. But there are plenty of positive ways peers influence their teen counterparts. Here are five to consider.
1) Inspiring Positive Choices
There are plenty of ways young people influence others to make good choices. For example, if a group of friends takes part in a volunteer project, it may inspire others to join in on something they may have otherwise not gotten involved with. (And they may also quickly realize the benefits of giving back!) In my daughter’s case, she works harder to get good grades because her peer group is committed to doing well in school. They have a strong work ethic, and now so does she. (And as her parent, I remind her about the importance of working hard to understand what she’s studying, not to get a particular grade.)
2) Picking Up Healthy Habits
Fitting in feels good. It can even help contribute to overall health. Friends who make healthy choices for themselves may encourage your teen to do the same. Whether it’s joining the school track club, choosing a healthy option instead of junk food, or making it easier to say no in a situation where drugs or alcohol are present, peers often act as positive role models! Other times, they may use peer pressure to inspire your teen to give up established bad habits and begin new, healthier ones.
3) Sharing New Experiences
Trying new things can be hard. It takes courage and confidence. For young people, trying something new along with friends can be inspirational. Sharing new experiences with others can make them feel more comfortable. It can help them overcome their fears. Whether it’s trying out a new roller coaster, presenting a school report in front of the class, or going on a first double-date, there’s strength in numbers. An added bonus? They may build even stronger bonds through sharing first-time experiences together.
4) Offering Moral Support
Adolescence can be challenging as young people try to answer huge questions, like, “Who am I?” and “Do I fit in?” Good friends support each other. They try out ideas with one another before going outside their trusted circles. Or, they may learn to solve conflict together. The goal is for them to struggle through hardships and celebrate successes, together. And as they support one another through ups and downs, they build their own internal strength and resilience through the power of their connections to others.
5) Social Media as a Positive Force
When used appropriately, social media has its benefits. it’s a space for young people to quickly run ideas past each other and gain support from one another. It can be particularly critical for teens who are isolated in their own communities, but can find peers with similar interests or struggles online. And because social media allows interactions beyond schools, homes or local communities, the idealistic youth voice can be amplified and elevated to address social problems. In other words, it’s a space for teens to further connect and make their voices heard.
They Pick ‘Em, We Guide ‘Em
As parents, we shouldn’t try to pick our teens’ friends. Instead, we monitor our teens as part of a balanced parenting style. We encourage positive friendships and connections by exposing them to a wide variety of healthy activities. By giving them love and support while setting safe boundaries and modeling and discussing good character, we guide them to make their own, positive choices. As they learn to navigate peer culture, they’ll need to strike a balance between being themselves and fitting in. They are free to do so when we love them for who they are and provide safe boundaries for them to explore within. The positive result? Teens who learn to think for themselves and make the most out of their connections to others as they travel the road to adulthood.