Decades ago, many parents would dread the teenage years for fear that their teens will test the boundaries, succumb to peer pressure, and will not need Mum and Dad so much. These days, parents tend to get a bit concerned as soon as their children hit the preteen years. It seems as if kids simply grow up faster nowadays and by the time kids reach 10 or 11, they’re already facing peer pressure when it comes to negative attitudes and behaviors.
What parents can do
Communicating with your children at any age is important, but during the preteen years it is especially important to make quality time to sit discussing life and issues with your children. Talk about the temptations that they will face during those years. They will most likely be exposed to things like smoking, drinking, sexual talk and/or acts, cursing, being rude, disrespectful, and more. I know it might be shocking to think that kids this young are engaging in such behaviors, but the truth is that many are experimenting with such activities during the preteen years.
Don’t put your head in the sand – face reality
As you sit and discuss peer pressure with your children, be sure that you explain why the behaviors you don’t want them to engage in are unacceptable. Let them know that smoking, alcohol, and drugs are very bad for them and they could get in legal trouble as well. Tell them that sexual talk and acts can wait until they are much older. Let them know that there will be serious consequences if you find out they engage in such activities. This is where children need to know that you’re serious about enforcing boundaries. If they think that Mum and Dad won’t follow through and their friend asks them to try smoking, they’re more apt to succumb to peer pressure.
Educate them so that they want to make the right decision, rather than fearing them into subordination. We want to raise children who can think of the cause and effect of their actions, not ones that obey us. Yes we need to use consequences to reinforce these lessons, but we also need to give them the information they need to make their own decisions.
Teach them the realities of doing such acts – example, drugs can lead you to jail as well as specific drugs doing specific things to their brains/bodies. Give them the information they need on what drugs are actually doing so that they begin to ask themselves – why would I do that to myself?
Teach them about respect
Respect is such a valuable moral to learn. If you can teach your children to respect themselves, they’re more apt to respect others. Respecting themselves means that they care about their appearance, performance, and have generally good self-worth. They’re not looking to others to affirm them; they like themselves for who they are. If your children respect themselves, they won’t allow others to influence them via peer pressure. They will be able to say no and not feel that they won’t be accepted or valued because they will value themselves.
Talk about respect and give them examples of how they can respect themselves. They can be responsible for their hygiene, keeping up with chores, homework, grades, honoring parents, and being helpful. Give them books to read that model respectable behaviors and praise them when you notice them being respectable. Teach them that in order to have high self-esteem, they have to do “esteemable” acts.
Have a say in their friendships
Preteens want to be liked and have some friends. Sometimes, however, they may have a friend or two that tend to be bad influences. It is important to monitor the kinds of friends that you allow your children to spend time with. You can’t help who they see at school, but you can make decisions about who they can hang out with in the neighborhood or elsewhere.
Discuss with your children that it is important that they choose friends who will be positive influencers. Let them know that they will become like who they spend time with and they should strive to become respectable and kind people.
Granted, preteen peer pressure may come and you might get stressed out here and there because of it. All you can do is do your best at preparing your children, as well as yourself, to combat things that pop up during those years. If you’ve never been through the preteen years yet, rest assured that things can run smoothly and even if you hit a bump along the way, you can get back on track with a few adjustments.
Just remember the golden rule of parenting – If you don’t know how to deal with a situation, seek help. If you’re stuck in an unwanted situation, the first step to change is to get your head out of the sand and accept the reality that this event IS here. You don’t have to like your reality, but you do need to accept it.
Once you’ve done that THEN you can look at solutions. What is it that you want exactly? What is the ideal? Then look at how you can get it. What resources are available to teach me what I need to know to get me what I want? Who can teach me this info? Who’s been where I’ve been and can teach me how to get out of this situation?
You’re at where you’re at in this stage of your life and a normal part of your child growing up is learning how to handle peer pressure. Put this stage of their life in proper context – it’s just another learning curve. So get started on deliberately seeking ways to help them to learn through this stage of their life with confidence so that it doesn’t lead to destructive behaviour.
A rational and realistic approach to parenting that no one’s ever shown you.