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The culture of "I want to belong" - helping to prevent your children from becoming victims of peer pressure.

Updated on March 28, 2013

I want to belong

I know I am not the first person to write about children and peer pressure, nor will I be the last. I do not profess to be an expert in child psychology, but I am a parent and a mum and it's a topic that will never be exhausted as we evolve in our methods of parenting and perceptions of society as a whole. Just like many other mothers I love my children very much and do not want them to get sucked into what I describe as the culture of "I want to belong."

Peer pressure (for the sake of my discussion, negative peer pressure), can be subtle and not readily evident, whereas in other circumstances it can be blatantly obvious. It can cause children to do things that they ordinarily will not do. However for the sake of wanting to belong, they succumb, which sometimes results in unwanted tragedies and circumstances. Children are naturally inquisitve and sometimes adventurous hence will want to experiment with all sorts of things that are not always beneficial to their development and growth. If children are not well grounded in what they believe to be right or wrong, and are quick to follow the mob, they can be easily lured into unwanted worlds such as having sex at an early age, drugs, alcholism and other forms of social vices.

You have probably heard all this before and are thinking "deja vu". It is however very easy for us to live our lives in a bubble to the point that we forget what is happening around us until something undesirable happens. We have to constantly remind ourselves that the world we live in is an imperfect one and our children are in constant danger of falling victim to the culture of " I want to belong." As parents we have to keep our ears to the ground and our eyes open as our children experience the different stages of growing pains.

As our children grow up we realise that we cannot to be around them as often as we would like. They become more independent, thoughtful and can be less communicative and open about what is going on in their lives.

Peer pressure ranges from children being ostracised from a group of friends because they are not willing to succumb to the culture of drugs and drinking that the others are engaged in, to the "importance" of having the latest and coolest gadgets or clothes by any means possible.I have heard stories where girls have been pressured into having sex only because the clique of girls they are affiliated with claim to have had sex, only to realise after they have lost their virginity that all the other girls have never had sex before.

Peer pressure is something our children will experience at any point of their growing lives. They may experience it in its subtlety or aggressively. In whichever shape or form, its necessary that we help our children cope with this aspect of growing pains.

We should never be too busy for our children

Parent hood is not just about bringing children into the world, feeding, clothing them as well as ensuring that all their needs are satisfied. We live in a world where our daily lives can overtake the most important basis of parenthood which is being there for our children when they need us. I must admit, sometimes this is easily said than done especially for parents who work. I am one of them so I can relate. We should remember though that no time with your child is too much or less. I am learning this everyday especially as from the time I wake up at 5.50am daily (apart from weekends), I feel like I am on a constantly moving train till my head touches my pillow at 11.00pm (if I am lucky).

I try to use every spare minute I can possibly get to chat with my children, whether its in the car en route to school, during bath times or even whilst grocery shopping. A minute lost is never gained, however a minute well spent can make a huge difference in your child's life.The more I make the effort to chat with my kids, get silly and make the effort to be in their company, the more they realise that I am there for them whenever they need me. That, for me as a parent is important for me; that my child should know that I am never too busy for them. No parent would want their child to turn to undesirable company for attention.

Children have a voice and should be heard

Children should be allowed to have a voice at home. It is essential that we give our children the opportunity to express how they feel and what is on their mind. Of course there should be boundaries to ensure that respect for parents is not lost in the process. An atmostphere where children are able to air their thoughts and communicate without fear of being told off, creates confidence and the freedom to discuss issues that are bothering them. My children have always been able to express how they feel. There have been times however when I have not listened because I have wanted to get my leg in first. I thought I was the parent and needed to have my voice heard first. During one such occurrence, I was reprimanding my oldest for misbehaving. He tried to talk, but I silenced him with my hand and did not want to hear a word of what he had to say. He started crying and said to me "Mum you don' t listen to me when I talk. I'm trying to say something but you are not listening". I can still hear the silence that followed. It hung over the room like a thick blanket. I thought I always listened, but at that time, I realised that was obviously not the case. Listening is important. When we listen to our children's voices we we will able to discover more about their world and what makes them tick. We will be able to share in their experiences and offer advice where needed. Our children will have no trouble coming to us with what is weighing heavily on their minds because they know that we will always take the time to listen.

Be Open and Frank

Honesty in your relationship with your child is essential. Do not protect your child from the ugly truth of peer pressure. As your child grows and becomes more independent in their way of thinking and interacting, talk to them about peer pressure and moving with groups of friends who will not influence them positively. Be blunt in your discussions. Use examples of true stories which have ended up tragically. Help them understand the importance of recognising right from wrong and not to allow themselves to be caught in the web of the mob. Help them understand that it is alright to walk away from a group of friends who will only get them into trouble. Be firm in your discipline should they stray. There should be consequences for disobedience. I call it tough love. It hurts to have to take liberties from your child for undesirable behaviour, but it pays off in the long run.

We should help our children understand that it is ok not to have everything

"One man's meat is another man's poison". That's an adage I grew up with and still use to this day. When my kids come home from school wanting everything under the sun, moon and stars because their friends have them or "the new boy or girl in the school has it so I want one otherwise I can't hang with him or her"; I tell them gently but firmly that they can't. I explain to them that, the fact that a friend has the latest trainers and they don't, does not make them better than my children by any means. If they don't want to play with my children, then its their loss. I always tell my children that they cannot have everything they want, not because I'm not financially independent, but because I think its important that a child realises that there is a limit to what they can have. If they get this balance right, they will not have an insatiable need to own everything they see. They will grow into the habit of analysing whether they need something or not. They will question the importance of their acquistion, before making a final choice and commitment. Children need to be taught at an early stage to be content with who and what they are as well as what they have. Easier said than done, when children are exposed daily to the materialism and vices of society. Its however all about the early bird catching the worm and persevering in our quest to teach our children good morals, independence and the will power to say no and walk away. When my son said to me some of his mates don' t like him because he hasn't got a blackberry like they do, I told him not to worry about it. It is the function of the phone that is important, not its fancy nature. I explained to him that If those mates of his do not like him because of a common phone, that tells a lot about how shallow they are in the way they think, and that they are not worth being friends with. He felt better after that and said he had never thought about it quite like that.

Teach and encourage your children to pray

Prayer moves mountains. You however cannot move mountains if prayer is not backed by the gift of faith. Prayer is an important weapon we can hand to our children. As our children grow and experience the world at large, they will come across so many temptations which can be difficult to resist even for the most grounded child. Teaching your child to find comfort and solace in prayer goes a long way to offer protection both for their physical and spiritual wellbeing. Prayer does not have to be wordy. Just simple words like " Dear God show me the way and help me decide", can work miracles for the sanity of your child and save them from succumbing to the negative pressures that come from wanting to belong.

Whilst we teach them to pray, let us also make the effort to remind our children to look around them and see how lucky they are. Somewhere out there in this big world of ours, there is a child who would give an arm and a leg to swap lives with them so they should appreciate their lives and not destroy them.  

We as parents should encourage them, sing their praises and be there for them at all costs. We must help our children to stand tall and strong and not succumb to the negative influences of peer pressure.


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    • PK2010 profile image

      Anthea Kwaw 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Great comments there. Loved the fact that you want to discipline parents when you see "bad" children. Funnily enough I feel that way too. Kids will always try it on, but parents have to remember who is in control and who has the last say. Having parents who let their kids rule the roost is simply appalling. I don't doubt for one minute that the three year old who left a lasting impression at the hospital made headlines long after he had gone. Sad but true - it happens everywhere. Parents should reign their kids in when they start pushing their buttons in order to be able to see them through their challenges of peer pressure.

      I'd like to think I'm a good mum, doing the best that I can to raise my kids up to build good and strong characters to enable them stand up for themselves and what they believe in and not let negative influences sway them.

      Thanks for stopping by to read and share your experiences.

    • ahostagesituation profile image

      SJ 6 years ago

      Great! I was giggling to myself that you said " There should be consequences for disobedience. I call it tough love." Most of what people call tough love, I call regular love. I'm not a parent, but I can see what a tough and special responsibility it is. When I see, "bad" children, I want to discipline their parents. We recently had a three-year old on our unit who was clearly very indulged, and was the TALK of the day--the doctors, nurses, and visitors all had something to say about the kid. He ran, screamed, hit, bit, disrespected everyone he saw, while his parents cowered in the corner awaiting his direction. That is definitely not how I would roll as a parent. No one should. A child hated for their behavior is more likely due to sloppy parenting than because the kid is "bad."

      Peer pressure is tough, your advice is great. You sound like an excellent mom.

    • PK2010 profile image

      Anthea Kwaw 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi izetti, that's a great point you have made here. Our thoughts do indeed manifest themselves into reality and people around us bounce off the energy that we emanate. Negative thoughts draw negative attention and vice versa. A smile draws people nearer, a frown draws people away...Being a mom is one of the hardest jobs in the world. As you know you've got to be one to appreciate how arduous this task is. However positive thinking and energy sees us through. The world today has so many distractions, unwanted side attractions and unavoidable occurrences. I think what we can best do for our kids is always to be one step ahead of them in the way we think, act and interprete the constantly evolving society that we are living in.

    • izettl profile image

      Laura Izett 6 years ago from The Great Northwest

      you mention your tall friend and I think of how I was self-conscious about my height when I was in school, but later realized I was bringing the negative attention to it and focusing on it so that brought negative attention to it from others. Most of the time, if we are OK with ourselves, others are too. You seem like a great mom and I'm glad you have recognized the many reasons kids focus on peer pressure. I like the word self pride!

    • PK2010 profile image

      Anthea Kwaw 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks for taking the time to read my hub izetti. Your mum taught you well because I can tell you are proud of who and what you are. Its exactly what I tell my kids, don't wish to be like someone else. We all have different abilities, different paths in life and different reasons for our existence. Having no desire to "fit in" is a great way to progress in life and not fall victim to the wishes of the mob. I have a friend who is 5 feet 9 inches tall. She said she used to feel self conscious about her height because people would stop and stare. She however is the most gorgeous being and if people stopped focusing on her height they would notice what a perfect smile she has. I'm glad you embrace your height. There is a reason why we were all created the way we are and it is our duty as parents to instill that self pride in our kids - and yes we adults can learn a lot from not succumbing to peer pressure too.

    • izettl profile image

      Laura Izett 6 years ago from The Great Northwest

      this is a very well though out hub about peer pressure. It proves moms are just as knowledgeable as child psychologists. My daughter is only 3, but I realize I will have to deal with a lot of what you've talked about here. My mom always encouraged me to be different, not like everyone else. I think it helped because I never had a desire to "fit in". Being 6 feet tall, i always stuck out and I guess I embrace that ultimately.

      I agree these are also lessons many adults need to learn to.

    • PK2010 profile image

      Anthea Kwaw 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      I couldn't agree with you more Miss Mellie, adults can be as vulnerable as kids and can be swayed just as easily :-D

    • Miss Mellie profile image

      M.S. Ross 7 years ago

      This article applies to adults too! We grown-ups need to remember these suggestions, as well.

    • PK2010 profile image

      Anthea Kwaw 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks Hyphenbird :-)

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 7 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      This is a great Hub. My son is 8 and already I see some of his classmates hurt and swayed by this very thing. Great advice especially praying with and for them.