This guest post is by Naomi Aldort, Author of Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves
When he was a teenager, one of my sons expressed a concern about his peers who, he explained, are so insecure that they succumb to peer pressure and take unnecessary risks such as smoking, drinking, unwanted sex or careless driving – just to gain peer approval.
I was an insecure myself in my youth, and suffered dire consequences. I was in the front seat of a car, wishing to put a seat belt on (before it was a law) but my friends ridiculed me so I didn’t. An hour later we had a small accident and my face went through the glass leaving me with seven facial scars for life. Fitting in with my friends had more power than my commitment to my well-being. Unlike me, my sons, even as teenagers, followed their own inner guide rather than fit in with peers.
At age fourteen another one of my sons came home and said, “My friends mocked me. They said I am a sissy and gay.”
“How did you feel?” I asked.
“Nothing. It doesn’t matter,” he said with an authentic ease.
“What did you say?” I continued.
“I told them that its fine with me,” he said.
“Even though you are strait…”
“Yes,” he interrupted, “it doesn’t matter, it is just their thoughts.”
Then he added, “Strangely, they seemed agitated by my response.” He then laughed and that was the end of this benign conversation.
We all know teenagers who stay rooted in themselves and make responsible choices. I have talked with many teenagers who resist peer pressure. One teenage girl said it well, “I don’t need to impress anyone. I do what is best for me.” By now, like my sons, this girl has already been through college and had no difficulty staying true to herself in every way including freedom from the use of substances or bad food.
Before going on a long distance trip to a big family gathering, a teenage client told me that his cousin warned him, “There will be lots of drinking and pot in this family gathering; you will have some new experiences.” My client assured him that he will not take part in these activities but will otherwise enjoy the family; which he effortlessly did.
What’s the secret?
The greatest immunity to peer pressure is the young person ability to listen to herself which is to have a high self-esteem and self-trust. I therefore teach parents how to nurture the child’s self-reliance from the start, so, as she grows older, she won’t be dependent on peers’ approval. If a child learns to seek parental approval, she will move on to seek peers approval. Make sure the child/teen feels loved and appreciated unconditionally. Avoid manipulative tactics like praise, rewards and punishment. There are much better ways to impart responsible behavior and general competency. And, notice when you yourself fall for peer pressure (the peer being extended family and friends.) Dare to stand for your principals; your teenager is learning from you.
A youth who has no desire to escape reality or to harm herself, and who is not dependent on peer approval is unlikely to be swayed by ideas of her peers that contradict her direction. As my son said, “If I act to impress them, they end up liking who I am not. That means I have to keep acting this person they like, which is a nuisance. I would rather be myself and make my own choices so that whoever likes me is going to like who I really am.”
©Copyright Naomi Aldort
Naomi Aldort is the author of, Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, sold in thirteen languages. Her advice columns are published in progressive parenting magazines worldwide.
Aldort offers guidance by phone/Skype internationally regarding all ages, babies through teens: attachment parenting; natural learning; peaceful and powerful parent-child/teen relationships, self-realization, marriage and more. Products, phone sessions, teleclasses and free newsletter: www.authenticparent.com
“The typical upbringing in our culture makes it so that by age 18, the child has had, force fed into their mind, answers to the following questions: “What am I?” “Who am I?” “What am I for?” “What should I do?” “What will make me happy?” They then proceed through the rest of their life not knowing why they’re so unhappy, when it’s as simple as the fact that they are trying to live someone else’s ideas.” – Lennon Aldort
“People often belittle the efforts of attachment parents and say “children turn out fine no matter what you do.” Maybe they do. But children are not born with the potential to be “fine.” They are born with the potential to be extraordinary.” – Lennon Aldort