Use Peer Pressure to Your Advantage
The Power of Peer Pressure
Peers play a crucial role in teen development. The drawbacks of peer pressure get such widespread attention it’s easy to forget the advantages. Peers can also impact motivation, willingness to work hard, and decision-making. Your daughter may be motivated to study more when she sees her friends earning good grades. Your son may work harder to improve his basketball game if he sees his teammate earn a starting position. Peers allow teens to learn about healthy, meaningful, cooperative relationships — skills that prepare them for the work world and for families of their own.
Encourage Positive Relationships
Consider the tips below to increase the chance your teen is surrounded by a supportive network.
1) Pursue a Variety of Activities
Encourage your teen to get involved in extracurricular activities that include a diverse group of young people. Help them find opportunities that match their interests — sports, music, theater, local Boys and Girls clubs, the Scouts. Involvement in after school activities has added benefits. Kids that participate in structured programs show improved academic performance, better physical health, and less involvement in risky behaviors.
2) Maintain Open Communication
Show interest in how your teen engages with friends so you’ll know more about what is going on. What did your son think about the movie he saw with his friends? Did the band play your daughter and her friends’ favorite songs at the concert? Having a sense of what your teen is up to and who they’re spending time with is highly protective. It offers insight without being overly intrusive.
3) Explore Multiple Peer Groups
Having friends from many circles (e.g. neighborhood, clubs, school, sports, religious activities) offers teens a wide range of influences. It can also be helpful to have other friends to turn to when peer-groups shift, as they often do during the tween and teen years.
4) Reserve Judgment
We all make mistakes. Judging your teens’ friends for missteps can lead to resentment, especially if they decide to maintain the friendship. Instead, use the opportunity to ask how they might handle the situation differently.
5) Resist Negative Peer Pressure
The need for acceptance by peers during adolescence is intense. Your teens may choose to engage in risky behaviors out of fear of losing friends. Teach them to weigh the cost and benefit of their decisions. Equip them with strategies to say no and get out of uncomfortable situations.
Model Healthy Relationships
Close friendships are a hallmark of adolescence. They are a stepping stone towards healthy work, family, and romantic relationships in the future. While peers play an increasingly important role during adolescence, no one matters more than parents. Relationships within the home are a model for relationships outside the home. Ensure your teen learns to expect kindness, love, flexibility, and respect in all relationships.
Image by: Samantha Lee/Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia