Peer vs. Parent Influence

Julia is a 17-year old junior from New York City. She swims, plays the violin and loves spending time with her English bulldog Louie.


There comes a point in every child’s life when they would rather spend time with friends than with parents. But when is the point when advice from a friend takes priority over advice from a parent?
There is always a debate on the dangers of peer influence, often described as peer pressure. Peer influence is typically portrayed in a bad light; the reason why teens drink alcohol, take drugs and disobey parents. Parental influence, something most parents have trouble relinquishing as teens become more and more independent, is always in a teen’s best interest and always comes from a place of experience and insight that teens don’t have yet. Therefore, advice from parents and peers can often be
conflicting and confusing for a teen. How do you know which advice to take? Both come from trusted sources but teens, who often want to avoid disappointing anybody, cannot make a choice without rejecting someone’s opinion.
Break it down a little bit. Peer influence is often highly regarded by teens. Friends are friends. They know everything about you (especially what you don’t want your parents to know), they understand what you are going through, they share common interests with you. Why wouldn’t you want to take their advice and do as they say? Often teens can relate better to friends than parents simply because of what the have in common. Teens don’t chose parents but do chose friends, picking people that are
just like them and therefore understand them in a way perhaps their parents can’t. So advice from friends often takes priority over advice from parents.
But, lets be honest, parents are parents. Parents are the ones that know you through and through, who you were then and who you are now. They are the ones that will never judge you, humiliate you or stop caring about you. They are the ones you can throw a temper tantrum in front of without worrying about what they will think. So parental advice can be nice too. Parents often think that teens are deliberately ignoring their advice but the reality is teens are making difficult judgment calls every day and
parental anxiety and anger never helps. Parents are often frustrated when teens don’t take their advice, and they are right, it is frustrating to watch someone you love make decisions you don’t agree with. But the reality is, teens often have trouble seeing the long-term ramifications of their
actions and need the approval of friends more than parents. Next time your teen is making decisions you don’t agree with, don’t get angry and act like you know what is best. Relax. Talk it over with your teen. Listen to what their friends are saying and respond. Helping your teen make the best decision for them means acknowledging their desire to decide against you, and helping them explore all options.
Teenagers are always bombarded with influential stimuli, whether it is from magazines, TV, or friends and family. It might take awhile for teens to figure out how to make their own decisions. But every piece of influence is important and helpful for a teen on the journey to independence.
Photo by Oliver B.

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