Parenting Teens

Teaching your teen to overcome peer-pressure is not a shot in the arm remedy. It starts with the relationship you have with them from the time they are toddling. I have two daughters, now 16 and 18. I don’t think any of us as parents look back and feel certain that we did everything right. I know that I don’t. But what I’m most proud of is that I did the best with what I knew and my daughters have always felt loved by me.

Of course we love them through infancy. They’re so dependent on and enamored by us that it’s easy to love them at this stage. But where our love for them becomes strategic a must as plans go, I think is during those toddler years when they begin their push for autonomy and independence. Three things are necessary to build a foundation towards our children eventually resisting peer-pressure. And these three things must be apparent from the toddler stage through the fifth grade (after that it’s mostly repetition). First, you pour on the love because they just want to know that no matter what they do, you will still love them. Second, you talk with them about every situation that finds them (even if their end of the conversation is limited to two or three word sentences). Children of all ages love to have the undivided attention of a parent listening to them speak. The more they’re given a platform to express themselves to mommy and/or daddy, the more likely they are to listen when their parent(s) have something to say. Third, you have to set limits because the world you are preparing them for has rules and boundaries. It is your job to help them understand the need for limits because it prepares them for daily structure and routine.

I don’t think any child, no matter how well they were parented, escapes peer-pressure completely. But how long the influence of their peers will last, how deeply they are in need of peer approval, depends on how consistently parents kept (and keeps) up the pouring on of love, communication, and discipline.

Everyday since they were in pre-school, I asked each of my daughters something thought provoking about their day, something that would not elicit a one-word answer. For example: “Tell me something that happened in your day that made you laugh out loud.” Or “Tell me something that happened today that made you roll your eyes.” These types of questions had them competing to tell me stories right through their respective seventh grades. Of course when they hit age 13 they each pulled away a little bit. I really don’t think there’s a way to avoid that, as it’s usually just a stage. But up to that point my opinion mattered more than their peers because we’d been so accustomed to talking with each other. When kids reach the pull-away stage, I don’t think we parents should panic and get pushy. Let your kids know your door is always open and try not to take their new behaviors or remarks personally. They usually return to the fold of the place where they feel loved and safe: their home. As for their peers, they eventually see them for who they really are: teenagers who are just as confused and rejection-phobic as they are.