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.
- 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.