The difficulties of peer pressure
January 16, 2012
by Jenni Sebora

Parenting specialist and columnist Dr. John Rosemond wrote in his Bill of Rights for Children that “Children have the right to find out early in their lives that their parents don’t exist to make them happy, but to offer them the opportunity to learn the skills they will need to eventually make themselves happy.”

Certainly, we want our children to be happy, and it is our job as parents to teach them and give them opportunities to learn skills so that they can be independent thinkers, self-sufficient in many terms. As it is said, we, as parents, have to give them the tools to develop wings so they can “fly” – so they can learn to make themselves happy.

Sometimes that means that they will hear from us things that they don’t want to hear. They may hear us say “No,” to a particular item because it is not in their best interests, although they may think it is.

It is also not our job to be popular and to be their best friends. Now, does that mean that we don’t want to have listening ears like friends do? Of course not, but it is our job to parent.

I was having a conversation with my teenage son and a couple of his friends. They were openly talking to me about some decisions that a few of their friends were making that were not healthy decisions. They shared that it is not a parent’s job to be liked at all times or to try and be “cool” to their kids. Kids want parents to be parents. Being a parent means listening, too.

Wow, I was so impressed with their words and dialogue. Our kids want us to be role models for them. They want us to teach them right from wrong, and to help them also stand on their own two feet. They also want us to be there to listen to them.

We need to talk with our children about risky behaviors, and we need to have these conversations with them more than once. They need to be ongoing. As our children mature, the conversations regarding alcohol use, smoking, and other risky behaviors should also mature.

We should find times to be able to talk about these topics when it is a dialogue and not a lecture, and to try and keep it light. When it is seen as a lecture rather than a dialogue, teens and tweens will be turned off.

Talk in the car, as was the conversation setting with my son, his friends, and myself. Go out for dinner or breakfast. After church, when our two daughters are in Sunday school, my husband, our teen son, and I go out for breakfast a couple times a month. This gives us the opportunity to have some one-on-one time with him and have conversation. It has become something that all three of us look forward to.

Our son has shared with us happenings at school, places he would like to travel, possible careers he would like to pursue, and colleges he may like to attend. He shares his dreams, and we listen very attentively, ask questions, and laugh. It is the best hour we spend together.

Through our words and actions, we should make known our values. Our children listen to us and watch what we do. We are their most prominent teachers.

Our kids will deal with peer pressure, and we have to help our kids develop skills to “think on their feet” and deal with that peer pressure effectively. It doesn’t mean they or us won’t make mistakes, but minimizing those mistakes is what we want. We have to prepare our kids for tough situations by talking with them.

Programs such as DARE – Drug Abuse Resistance Education – exist in schools throughout Minnesota, the United States, and actually in 43 countries throughout the world to help give our kids the skills they need to avoid drugs, violence, and gangs.

I can’t say enough good things about DARE. Two of my children have been through the program, and it certainly has left an impact on them and gave them the skills that are talked about above. They have taken to heart what they have learned in this highly acclaimed DARE program.

Our kids need to know we are there to teach them, support them, and love them.

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