The culture of "I want to belong" - helping to prevent your children from becoming victims of peer pressure.
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.
Further reads on helping your child cope with peer pressure
- Facts about Peer Pressure
Peer pressure is one of most difficult things that children have to deal with in schools, colleges and even later in life. Here are some facts about peer pressure... Facts about Peer Pressure.
- Teach Your Child How to Deal with Peer Pressure Teach Kids How
Teach kids how to do just about anything!
- Ten Ways To Help Your Child Deal With Peer Pressure - SchoolFamily.com
Tangible ways to help your child cope with peer pressure.