After an extremely disturbing YouTube video surfaced showing 8 teens from Florida beating of another teen, parents are confused and horrified. The victim was treated for a concussion and numerous bruises and the attackers were arrested.
Eight teens all working together to beat up another teen? Was this a result of negative peer pressure gone to the extreme?
As we know, many teens and preteens tend to find themselves in a peer-pressured situation. Sometimes peer pressure can be positive—getting teens to raise their grades in school, take positive risks like trying out for a sport or play, and introduce themselves to new people.
Other times, peer pressure can have horrible effects on teens. Because teenagers want to be accepted and “get along” with others their own age, they tend to “go along” with the crowd even when it challenges their core values.
How can Powerful Parents help their teens make good decisions even in the face of peer pressure?
(1) Start early: Begin a conversation about making good choices with young children and talk about them often. Be sure that your children know your views about “acceptable” and “unacceptable” behavior. Are those behaviors always unacceptable or are their circumstances when they are OK? Are these behaviors OK for some people and not for others? Rules should be clear from the very beginning so that everyone is on the same page.
(2) Ask Questions: Sometimes the best thing you can do is ask questions. Again, start this early so that your children are used to it. “What would you do if…” “If your best friend was smoking, would you try it too?” “Do you know anyone who makes you feel…” When you ask questions and stay quiet, you often get more answers and make more progress than just telling your teens how you feel about certain behaviors.
(3) Role Play: It can be difficult to find the right words when you are actually in the peer pressured situation. Practicing with a trusted person before it actually happens can make it easier. Play the part of your teenager’s friend and help your teen work through what he would do or say. Do they want to make a joke? Just say no? Leave? Go get help? Role play different scenarios often until your teenager or your preteen feels comfortable and at ease with their choices and their strategies.
(4) Talk about How to Buddy Up: There is strength in numbers. Encourage your teens to talk to a trusted friend about “buddying up” when peer pressure gets overwhelming. When teens know that their friends will be there to back them up and agree with their decisions, it can be a lot easier to make positive choices.
(5) Lay the Foundation of Character: Since you are using Powerful Words at home and through your schools, you are already way ahead of the game. “Drive the points home” when you leave your Powerful Words member school and ask your children how the word of the month applies to their lives. What decisions are they making each day that shows they are living according to the powerful word of the month? How does the family show it? How do friends show it? Words like compassion, acceptance, self discipline, confidence, respect, courage and trustworthiness, can certainly become a great springboard for a discussion of peer pressure, how to stay true to yourself, and how to treat others.
(6) Discuss “Spring Cleaning” in the Friend Closet: Teens grow and change. Sometimes that means that they no longer have the same interests and they are no longer heading in the same direction of some of their current friends. While it’s not OK to pick your teen’s friends for her, sometimes friendships at this time of life can be confusing. When you see her struggling with peer pressure, let her know that it’s OK to drift apart and make other friends who make her feel more comfortable.
(7) Model saying no: Show your children and teens that it’s OK to speak your mind in an assertive and respectful way. Children need to see that their parents are not “doormats.” When you show them that you can be assertive (yet not abusive or aggressive) and the result is positive, they will emulate you. If you show that you’re wishy-washy in pressured situation, they are more likely to imitate more passive “follower” behavior.
(8 ) Help your Children Avoid Potentially Dangerous Situations: When young people are not in situations where bad choices are being made, they are much less likely to make them. Choosing friends who share similar values, who don’t take part in controlled substances or inappropriate behavior and engage in positive after-school programs, will be one of your teen’s best defenses. In addition, the more time that children and teens spend in a positive environment like your Powerful Words member school and after-school programs, the less time they will spend in negative environments that can lead to trouble.
(9) Foster Strong Self Worth and Confidence: Children and teens need to know that what they do “counts” for something. Praise your children for positive choices they make and recognize them for their efforts and their strength of character. Get them into positive activities that allow them to give back to others (such as through community or charity work) so they build their sense of pride, gratitude, and citizenship. Help them to process critique so that it makes them stronger and assist them in peeling away useless criticism that stems from jealousy, closed-mindedness, or anger.
(10) Tell them that they can always count on you: No matter what time of night or day, your child should know that they can call on you when they are in a bad situation, no acceptation. Sometimes teens find themselves at a friends house, surrounded by people or circumstances that make them feel unnerved or distressed, and they are unsure if they should call you because they wonder if they’ll get into trouble. Preteens and teens need to know that they always have you and that they should not think twice about calling—because you will always come—even if it’s 2am.
Parents might feel that once their children round the corner to teenagerhood, they no longer have any impact. But you do. Teens carry your words, your actions, and your promises in their heads everywhere they go—even if they don’t admit it.
It’s not too late to start a discussion today. You might just be opening up one of the most meaningful and important conversations you and your teen have ever had. Of course, you might meet some resistance—you might even see a few rolled eyes—but what Powerful Parent backs down to a little challenge?
Here’s to you-