Tips to help your child deal with peer pressure
Tricky stuff

Tips to help your child deal with peer pressure

Peer influence begins when children are young and increases as they get older. It is natural and healthy for children to rely more on friends as they mature.

Teen expert Anthony O’Prey advises how to help your child deal with peer pressure.

As children morph into moody, pimply-faced teenagers, parents often worry about the loss of control they feel they have in their children’s lives. As this control lessens, especially with choice of music, favourite idols and friends, parents can struggle with adapting to a new version of their child.

Peer pressure or peer influence?

When we hear the term ‘peer pressure’ images of a gang of youths pressurising a more timid child to commit an act that they would otherwise not commit arise, i.e. stealing something from a local newsagent. However, ‘peer influence’ is probably a more accurate way to describe what really happens among teenagers.

Teenagers have an innate need to belong and feel accepted by their friends. They will seek out peers who hold the same moral compass and value system as themselves and will allow that system to be expanded or adapted if the message fits in with their ideas about what is right and wrong. In-house problems emerge when this new value system is not congruent with the already-established family one.

A mistake parents often make is to accuse their teenage child of being ‘led’ by their peers. This is a sure way of provoking feelings of defensiveness and resentment towards parents because no young person likes to feel like a sheep following the flock. This defensiveness can manifest itself as argumentative and confrontational behaviour, distracting attention away from what is really important – a young person trying to make sense of the world around them.

Families with teenage children often get caught in a communication trap, which revolves around homework, loud music, untidy bedrooms and sleep routines. Unfortunately, while these conversations are going on, the teenage child is struggling with whom to listen to about topics such as drugs, alcohol, sex and rock ‘n’ roll. As this happens, peers fill this need by sharing each other’s thoughts and opinions on these matters, including expectations if one wants to belong to their particular group.

Peer influence is inevitable. It’s part of the developmental process. We have all come through it. Hair styles, fashion choices, taste in music; that’s just the start. But what if the influence is of a more sinister nature? What if the influence promotes the use of drugs, alcohol and underage sex?

Social research today gives us a very clear understanding of how young people become involved in the regular use of drugs, alcohol and crime. The path to these choices and behaviours has been mapped out by extensive research from leading universities around the world. The interventions have also been clearly mapped out, proving time and time again that parents who provide a safe, secure, loving home to children succeed in raising their children into adulthood with minimum collateral damage.

How can parents maintain a safe, secure, loving home with moody, grumpy teenagers always testing limits?

Teenagers are very good at convincing their parents that they don’t listen. They do. Parents opinions are crucial. Unfortunately, many parents only give opinions about what is wrong or what needs improving in their teenage children’s lives. Teenagers get enough of those sorts of opinions in school, both from teachers and peers. Parents can still be the main source of positive influence by ensuring their daily communication is enriched with praise, understanding, tolerance, acceptance and affection; this doesn’t mean they have to finance the nose piercing!

5 expert tips to help your child deal with peer pressure


1.  Help your child develop self-confidence.

Students who feel good about themselves are less likely to give in to pressure from others. Ask your child for her opinion often. “What do you think we should do tomorrow?” “I need to decide who to vote for in the election next week. Help me look over these articles and figure out who I should support.” When parents show children that they value their opinions, children’s self-confidence grows. Help your child see that she is capable of making good judgments for herself. She will then be less likely to be blindly swayed by peer pressure.

2.  Encourage your child to take part in positive activities.

Activities like music, athletics, Scouts or other youth groups can boost your child’s self-esteem. Your child will be surrounded by peers who share these positive interests. After-school activities can also occupy the time your child might otherwise spend in negative pursuits.

3.  Listen to your child.

Our goal is for our children to make wise decisions because they want to do the right thing. That means parents have to help children develop responsible attitudes about important issues. The best way is to spend time talking with children about important issues. If you watch a television programme that deals with peer pressure, talk about it later with your child. You might ask, “What would you have done in that situation?” Your willingness to listen and not just lecture will show your child that you respect his opinions.

4.  Get to know your child’s friends.

Turn your house into the after-school or weekend hangout. For the price of some pizzas or popcorn, you can learn who is influencing your child. And, you’ll be able to make sure that your children and their friends aren’t using drugs and alcohol.

5.  Teach your child to foresee situations that may lead to trouble.

An invitation to a place that will have no adult supervision, or hanging around students who use drugs can lead to “sticky” situations. Phrases like, “We won’t get into any trouble,” or “Everybody else is doing it,” should be a tip-off that this may be a situation to avoid.

More like this:

How to keep your children safe
Keeping kids safe from abuse
Help your child to be streetwise

Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.



Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….