Tag Archives: influence

The Many Faces of Peer Pressure

Peer pressure. It’s a term that provokes fear in every parent—fear that children will succumb to the negative influence of classmates and friends to behave in dangerous ways. Parents worry that being liked and a part of the popular group will be more important to their children than working hard, getting good grades, and getting their values at home. Turning into who they think their friends want or expect them to be is the stuff of a parent’s nightmare.

There are two additional and often forgotten aspects to consider about peer pressure: The positive side of peer influence and the affects of adult peer pressure on parents and thus on their children.

  1. Parents tend to focus only on the negative aspects of peer pressure and forget to acknowledge that children must learn the norms, styles and social skills of living in today’s world from their peers. Good friends influence each other tremendously as they talk about and decide so many behaviors they both approve and disapprove of in others. Bullies and snobs influence children in positive ways, too. That’s what I don’t want to be like.

A parent’s job is to accept and support the child to foster self-confidence so that they can navigate the ins and outs of their peers and gain the knowledge and influence that works for their success and further confidence. When parents spend too much time fearing which friends their children will choose, they lose valuable time in learning and accepting who their child really is.

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A Word about Obedience

I just heard a woman on the radio talking about her sexual abuse by a Catholic priest. She said that the church’s doctrine of obedience was a large part of it. “How else,” she said, “would a child be willing to endure that kind of control and not say anything about it?” – or words to that effect.
It is most important to consider the ramifications of demanding obedience in children. Why do we ask for it? To make our lives easier. Think about it. When children are brought up to obey their elders, they do not question. If they have not rebelled against the demands for obedience, they have succumbed—the risk can be far greater. We cannot be the authority in our children’s lives forever. So, would we rather have them thinking for themselves, being willing to stand up for what they believe against strong forces to comply, or would we rather have them follow whoever they look to for their source of influence at any given time?
Children who are not used to thinking for themselves will need an authority figure after we, the parents, have worn out our welcome. They will need someone to make decisions for them, to tell them which direction to take, to be the one they cannot live without.
Isn’t it worth it to raise children who are willing to say, “No, I won’t” when they don’t want to do something we ask? That does not mean raising children to do what they want—it means raising children who believe they have a voice.

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