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04/28/2014
Peer pressure is something we have all experienced at some point in our lives. As children and then as adults, we know all too well that our own attitudes and behaviour can be influenced by other people, whether they be overly vocal work colleagues or the “cool” kids at school. 

Standing up to peer pressure requires strength of character and wilful independence, but these qualities are still in development during our teenage years, when peer pressure is at its most prevalent. Moreover, adolescence is a testing ground for the adults we will become, so teenagers are often interested in experimenting with behaviour that differs markedly from that of their parents. As a result, the influence of friends becomes more significant.

The negative effects of peer pressure are well-publicised. Encouraged by the risk-taking behaviour of some of their contemporaries, teenagers can sometimes be led astray, developing bad habits, inappropriate opinions and a cavalier attitude towards the consequences. This is not to say that you necessarily have a wayward or troublesome teen; rather, one who is not yet secure enough to stand up for themselves. Defying one’s peers is notoriously difficult: saying “no” takes an enormous amount of courage for young people surrounded by others who are saying “yes.”

This is where effective parenting plays a major role. We all know of parents who impose strict curfews and rules on their adolescent offspring, deciding which friends they can and cannot see in the hope of eliminating those they perceive to be a “bad influence.” As is often the case with authoritarian parenting, this can backfire, encouraging children to behave more covertly and thereby put themselves at greater risk.

If you suspect your child is enduring negative peer pressure, the most important thing to do is communicate with them. Research has shown that teens who receive little support at home are most susceptible to the influences of a peer group, so establishing an open and honest dialogue with your child is vital. Try to make it clear that you will not judge or condemn them for what they have already done. If a child knows that they have the respect of the significant adults in their lives, regardless of their recent behaviour, they will be more at ease with discussing difficult experiences such as peer pressure.

Establishing a firm sense of self is one of the hardest things to achieve in adolescence. Many teenagers, influenced by their peers, mistakenly believe that their identity comes from defining themselves through outlandish or radical behaviour, in opposition to social “norms,” instead of staying true to their own personality and beliefs. Your primary job as a parent is to instil in your child a sense of self-worth and independence, so that they are able to deal with - and, if necessary, walk away from - peer pressure situations. This, of course, is more easily said than done, and the reality is that adolescence remains a challenging and sometimes upsetting period, often full of missteps and poor judgement. 

It is important to bear in mind, however, that not all peer pressure is negative. Your child will almost certainly be influenced positively if they are surrounded by friends who work hard at school, do good deeds in the community or strive to make the most of their talents. Often, other teenagers are the best kind of role model.

Interacting with peers is a healthy and essential part of your child’s life, without which they would not develop the social skills required to cope in the adult world. As a parent, the desire to shield your child at the first sign of negative peer pressure is understandable, but you will help them much more by engaging them in discussion and working through the issues together. 

The Tutoring Center Dubai is here to help. For more information you visit dubai2.tutoringcenter.com.

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