Teen Peer Pressure: 5 Ways to Help Your Child Make More Mature Decisions
Good kids do dumb things. Silly things. Unfortunate and unwise things. And some of these things can be attributed to teen peer pressure.
Don’t panic. Bad decisions come with teen territory.
That being true, how do you encourage an impulsive, internet-susceptible teen to put peer pressure aside and do the right thing more often than not? And how do you do that before poor decisions become life-altering regrets?
Should you shadow them and snoop your way through their choices? Should you helicopter hover and set aside a stash of cash to help bail them out of their more serious missteps? Somehow those solutions won’t do enough to promote the kind of confidence in your teen that you need. Moreover, your constant interference won’t foster the competent independence they need to live life less influenced by the perils of teen peer pressure.
So, what’s the answer?
The key to parenting a teen who makes good decisions is to provide skills that support distinct steps and strategies for good decision-making.
Teach the process. Allow them to practice and discuss gaps in their execution when they happen. This way you know they know what to do. Less worry, nagging, or “helicoptering” will be necessary and they’ll feel empowered to take charge of their own lives regardless of what others encourage them to do.
Let’s look at that process.
5 Ways to Help Your Child Make More Mature Decisions
Step #1. Give the gift of balanced guidance
Your teen needs you to provide plenty of healthy leadership. Your input and ideas are necessary. However, it’s all about the execution. Without going overboard, provide wise and measured counsel. Be there to answer questions and share your history with certain problems. Then, step back and let natural consequences ensue. When they do, be there for your teen again as a partner with whom to reflect and discuss how to make better choices.
Step #2: Help your teen identify key issues
Sometimes, your teen just needs you to help them isolate the issues and problems of certain choices. Talk things through. Say something like, “What’s really going on? When you cut class, was it really because you think your teacher hates you or because you’re anxious about how difficult you find the class?”
A curious approach, as opposed to shaming or scolding, will induce better communication between the two of you, allow your teen to really think about the “whys” behind his or her behavior, and give them a chance to link their feelings to their behaviors more clearly.
Step #3: Encourage your teen to consider their options
Teens often believe there are only two paths to point A. Remind them that there can be a myriad of solutions to a problem. Let your teen know that solutions for extricating themselves from a party where there is underage drinking or resisting a friend’s challenge to sneak out don’t always have to look the same as long as they have the same safe, legal result. Brainstorm solutions together to compile some helpful solutions.
Even if they aren’t all good or practical ideas, your teen’s mind is working toward determining what to do under teen peer pressure, what a good decision looks and feels like, and how to discern situations appropriately.
Step #4: Teach the value of pros & cons and emotional awareness
How many times have you wrestled with a tough decision in your adult life and counted on some version of the old “pros and cons” list? It’s a tried and true way to filter your options and determine the best choice for you at the time. Share that technique with your teen. Explain that it might do some good to slow up and write things down. Sometimes nothing helps more than seeing a problem on paper and how solutions come together in writing.
In addition, discuss the impact of emotions on decision-making. A lot of feelings come into play for teens under the influence of peer pressure. Fear often tops the list.
Fears of being left out, left behind, being uncool, or missing something are powerful worries that might cause your teen to underestimate the risks of certain activities or relationships. Simply share that pros and cons lists, even quickly listed in their head, can insert more logic into the process of making a mature choice of own his or her own.
Assure your teen that there may not be a bad solution. He or she may simply need to make the best choice for themselves. For example, it’s not bad to consider a friend’s request to hang out, unless your teen knows that they should study. Choosing between the two is simply a matter of confidently and firmly letting peers know what his or her priorities are.
Step #5: Promote your teen’s future plans
A well-trained decision maker can move ahead, informed and certain of what is in his or her own best interests. Isn’t that the whole point? Your teen should recognize that he or she is ultimately responsible for doing what’s best for them, not what makes their peers happy with them.
Thus, next steps should be uppermost in your teen’s mind. Remind them to think of the consequences, risks, and costs of their decision. Encourage them to meet your expectations as well as their own. Discuss what will get in the way of their goals and lay out what progressing toward their goals looks like practically. This may help mitigate competing outside pressure.
All in all, you are in the business of coaching and encouraging your teen toward good decisions. And sometimes you’ll need to be an understanding recovery and evaluation partner as you help them deal with lapses in judgment. That’s alright, bad decisions can sometimes be the best facilitator of mature decision making later.
Allow your teen to explore the hows and whys of their decisions either way. Keep communication open and compassion plentiful. Your teens will appreciate your patience and willingness to let them grow. And you’ll appreciate knowing you’ve done what you can to usher them into another phase of healthy living on the road to adulthood.
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