By Dickson Tumuramye
Peer pressure is common at all ages. It is among people with similar characteristics who may pursue similar interests when they get together.
You can help your child avoid being influenced, especially by negative peer pressure from fellow children, youth, or any group with similar interests.
Raising a confident child can help him or her avoid peer pressure. Self-confident children can express their feelings and emotions. It is easy to follow their minds and pursue their dreams, passions, and interests. They don’t have to follow what others are saying or doing due to pressure. They can stand on their own and say yes or no without fearing the negative consequences for their friends, and they can therefore avoid very risky behaviours.
Nurturing independence in children can be a reward. Such children have an independent mind that can make them think through their actions before being part of them. They are quick to decide whether it is of value to participate in whatever their friends indulge them in or not. It does not matter whether they are left alone or work in a group. They can still thrive on their own. You can therefore teach them to be self-reliant, be on their own, and develop a sense of responsibility and accountability at a tender age.
Train your child in decision-making skills as early as 3 years old. Some children get engaged in anything because they lack decision-making power. They need to know when to say no or yes, no matter what. They should first think through something critically before taking part, analyse the consequences, make a cost-benefit analysis, review their decisions over and over, have time to evaluate their progress, successes, and failures, learn from the past, and be good enough to always make independent and well-informed decisions.
Enhance your children’s communication skills. Share your expectations now and then, and let them know that the family sets boundaries and rules. Help them learn how to freely express their views. Issues of discipline should be implemented when one crosses boundaries and sometimes involve them in deciding on the discipline strategy. Communication creates bonding, strengthens healthy relationships, and improves their emotional well-being.
Don’t always shift goalposts because some children, especially adolescents, are stubborn or unruly and throw tantrums. They will do something intentionally to test your patience, your ability to practice what you say (set boundaries), and get to know the clear side of who exactly you are. If they read your areas of weakness in implementing what you say, they will break the rules because they know you are just a “dog” that backs a lot but can never bite. This is why most children succumb to risky behaviours from their friends because they know that back at home, mom or dad will only talk, but they can’t do much beyond that.
It is also good to set realistic goals and expectations with your children if they want to avoid succumbing to pressure. Their goals should be age-appropriate and easy to implement.
Be a good friend to your children and be involved in their daily lives. If you neglect them or don’t give them time, they will definitely find ways to fill the gap. And since they have friends available to meet their physical and emotional needs, they will lean on their side.
Know their friends, what they do together, and the times they like to be together as well. You can ask them what their interests are, what is common among them, and how they connect. As they say, “Tell me your friends, and I will tell you your behaviours.”, Knowing their friends will help you know their behaviours, and you can resonate with what your child does with them.