As my daughter turns thirteen, I figure it is time to seek advice on how as a parent I should handle the defining years ahead. I attended a seminar by Ken Sapp on ‘Preparing Youth to Handle Peer Pressure’. (See acknowledgement at end of article).

In this article, I share some of his main points, and add in a number of ideas that struck me as I ponder the subject.

Times have changed since the 1950s. Back then, teenagers were shaped primarily by home, school and faith. In the recent years, peers and the various media have taken over as the forces that influence teens.

Peer pressure arises from the teens’ need for attention, the need to be liked and accepted by the people surrounding them, ie their peers. In blending in with the crowd, they often participate in activities that alone they would not have done.

Teenagers spend a lot of time worrying about fashion, friends, music – not necessarily because they are truly interested. Naturally, we the parents would rather that they spend more time learning. We place importance in aspects of life that are quite different such as morals, social values and life skills.

In driving our agenda across the pre-occupied minds of the teenagers, we feel rebelled against by them. This serves to worsen what little commuication is left of the relationship.

The reality however, is that, I quote “.. young people want to talk to their parents about issues that interest them, puzzle them, trouble them. The parents want to talk, too. But the conversations never happen.”. There and then, it struck a chord and I recognized how difficult it is for myself to initiate conversations with my teen. And as the wiser person, I reckon I should be the one to make the move.

Teenagers crave for attention. If they find little of it at home, they make up for it by turning to peers.

Having said that, peer pressure is not necessarily negative. But at that stage of life when they are still developing opinions on right and wrong, parental guidance is important.

But guiding requires that we know who they mix with, what they discuss, how they perceive and react to issues. We need to know whether there are a dominant individuals in the group who are particularly influential. Really, we have to mix with them to know their dynamics. Since it is unlikely that we get invited to their gatherings, the alternative is for us to open up our homes to their friends.

So for me, it is time to change. I have to start making small talk - and serious ones, too - with my teenager. I am also mentally preparing myself to open up the peace and quiet of the sanctuary called home to my teenager’s friends.

Children who are self-assured tend to be more resistant to peer pressure. They don’t sway easily because they know who they are, and how they are valued by loved ones. Maybe also they get enough attention from people they look up to.

Academic excellence helps instil assurance, but then not every child is blessed that way. That apart, the parent can nurture assurance by providing opportunities for the teen to accomplish. Start with small tasks, and gradually increase the magnitude of the tasks. Vary the nature of the jobs. Over time, transit to projects. Where he gets stuck, provide guidance rather than the solution. Lavish praise when it is due. Do not ridicule. The teenager will gradually recognize his versatilty, strengths and worth.

Ken Sapp advises parents to encourage the teenagers to share their dreams. Talk about what they want as careers, and what they want to possess. Introduce ideas that give them a sense of purpose in life.

Instead of imposing values upon them, try to understand what their opinions are on issues. Accept that the opinions may be different from yours. Encourage them to be assertive and to stand up for what they believe in. But do intervene when they are obviously wrong. Do so gently, and with love. That’s guidance.

Essentially, it boils down to lots of communication. And a lot of time together - there is no short cut to this.

Acknowledgement:
Ken Sapp is a Youth Mentoring Specialist and Trainer. For more than 15 years, Ken Sapp has worked with thousands of youth from around the world as a mentor, a teacher, a basketball coach, and as a youth pastor. He has worked with young people from many nations including USA, England, Scotland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, China, Korea, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, and others. He has mentored youth one-to-one and led youth camps and international workshops for groups as large as 1000 youths. With the experience and understanding he has gained, he conducts training and workshops for parents and those working with youth.

By: Ianny Lau

Author's Bio: 

Ianny Lau is an engineer-turned-entrepreneur. He is an example of a very conservative person succeeding in business. In an evolving economy today, Ianny encourages and helps others start small in businesses. You can find one such opportunity at http://www.strategytofreedom.com.

Ianny maintains his ‘Ianny Loves the Freedom” blog at http://lauianny.wordpress.com. Apart from his thoughts on current affairs, he also shares products of his hobbies from time to time.