How to Identify the Negative Effects of Peer Pressure on your Preteen

When one hears “peer pressure”, a negative viewpoint comes to mind. Everyone: a child, preteen, teenager, or adult, wants acceptance and approval from their peers. Peer pressure is not negative when it reinforces acceptable values. Most parents want to encourage children to have friends who are positive influences. This article focuses on negative peer pressure signs and how to help preteens resist detrimental pressure that grows more intense during the teenage years.

What is peer pressure? The definition is the “ability of people from the same social rank or age to influence another person’s decision making process.”

When a parent thinks of peer pressure, stereotypical negative behavior comes to mind: A boy attempting to seduce their daughter; a gang banger attempting to force a son to try drugs or join the gang.

A preteen’s need to “fit in” is paramount to their identity. The obvious negative signs are dressing inappropriately, changing hair color, wearing wild make-up. These overt behaviors are easy to observe and help parents to deal with peer pressure problems. It is the covert behaviors that may be overlooked. Many parents forget that preteens have two faces. One face shows their parents that they are doing well in school, and have an appropriate circle of friends The other face is a secret one that is bulimic – eating and purging – in order to stay thin like the other girls in her group. It is a good academic student who gets caught cheating and assures his or her parents that it was a one time thing. It is the preteen who gets caught lying about an incident he or she claims they didn’t commit. These are signs that a preteen is losing his or her sense of values. It is imperative that parents catch these behaviors before their children become teenagers and have more freedom.

The best approach to avoid negative peer pressure on a child is to be an active participant in a preteen’s life. Any change in a child’s behavior, however small, is one clue that negative peer pressure is present. Look for behavioral changes: An easy going personality is now judgmental, or critical; the circle of friends has changed; or there is a change in clothing. These changes all signify a possible problem.

Parents, who take an active part of children’s lives, help children avoid negative peer pressure. There are ways for a parent to involve themselves in a child’s life that helps keep a preteen on the positive peer pressure path. The following are ways to be involved with your child.

* Consistently talk with a preteen’s teacher(s). Teachers are a good resource for discussing changes in a child’s behavior. A teacher spends a lot of time with a child and is the first to notice a change in behavior.

* Keep in contact with preteen friends’ parents. If the parents seem uninvolved, it is a clue that activities of the children are closely monitored.

* The most difficult, but the best way, to influence preteens against peer pressure is to set rules. Consistency in applying the rules teaches children that “breaking the rules” is not an option

* Communication between a parent and preteen is paramount. Parents may find the information disconcerting, but it gives an important insight into a preteen’s life.

When parents are involved in a preteen’s life, it builds a foundation of trust between parents and preteen that lasts a lifetime.