We are living in a great age of what Dr. Mary Pipher call “peer culture.” Unfortunately, this is the time where your child’s every decision hinges upon the ‘great’ knowledge of their friends. Essentially, the very essence of who they are is being shaped and molded by what their friends validate. Dr. Pipher says that “while peers can be satisfying and growth- producing, they can also be growth-destroying, especially in early adolescence.” As a parent, I’m sure that this is hard to watch especially since you have spoken intimately with your child about the importance of choosing the right friends, and being a leader and not following others. But, the truth of the matter is that the pressure that they feel is beyond the pressure that we can understand. We think that because we are adults, and we have made it through this period that we totally get what our children our going through. We think that they can move past the pressure by simply giving them a good strong speech about the power of making right decisions. We think that that speech should empower them enough to rise above the influence. And that they ‘should’ be able to be a leader and make the right choices. And, while I believe that developing right action within your child is important, it is vital to realize that the pressure children feel is real and life threatening.
Establish yourselves as best friends-Have best friend time with your child- This is a time where you can share anything. There are no judgements, no speeches, just two friends listening to each other about what’s going on with each other. Its critical that whatever is shared during this time that it is never brought up or used against your child. This space is important because they will know that they can always come to you.
The Speech- Save the speeches for the appropriate time and place. Many times parents go straight to the speech and ultimately it does little good but make you as the parent feel good. Your child feels annoyed and usually tunes you out at about the 2-3 minutes mark. So, if your going to use this strategy use it only when necessary as it usage will be more powerful if used effectively.
The Question- When parents ask question like “why did you do that,” it immediately puts your child into fight or flight mode. They go into self-preservation mode. The truth of the matter is that the essence of human nature is that we all make mistakes. As a parent you have to create a safe environment where mistakes are okay and not condemned. Talk about how it feels and what would they like to do next time. Ask them is there anything that you can do to help them to make a different decision next time.
Bedtime-When your child is dealing with peer culture or decision making habits wait until bed time to have this conversation. Its something about that time of the night that allows everyone to be open and honest. Bombarding your child with that sort of thinking and questioning during the day may be too much for them to handle. At night, your child’s protective shield is hung up, awaiting to be put on tomorrow. This is a sacred time, care for it and protect it.
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