PEER PRESSURE! Do these two words hit the fear button of your parental instincts? Many parents wonder how they can empower their teenagers to resist peer pressure. What key can a parent use to unlock the strength and stamina a teenager needs to resist the pressures of today’s society? A society wrought with sexual immorality, drug addictions and many other stumbling blocks waiting for teenagers to trip over. What if we told you that you already possessed the key? In fact, the key is within you.
When I (Michael) was just fourteen years old, I stumbled across an incredible obstacle–sexual peer pressure. To say the least I was not very accustomed to the opposite sex being very interested in me. However, this night would be different.
A friend of a young woman I was dating called me on the phone asking me to come over to her house because her parents weren’t home. She said Lauren, my girlfriend, was there and wanted me to hang out. To prove my naiveté, I actually asked my older sister Kari to drive me. It never occurred to me that my protective sister might disagree with the idea. But, to make things worse Kari proved to be just as naive and drove me to the girl’s house unsuspectingly.
Lauren and her friend, Cindy, eagerly met me at the door. Without wasting much time Cindy led us to her parent’s bedroom. I was still confused about the situation but stumbled ahead anyway. The next thing I knew, Lauren said, “Now Mike, if my parents come home you can escape through their back door” and she pointed to some French doors located in the corner of the bedroom. Finally my fourteen year-old mind started getting suspicious. Then, when Lauren laid down on the bed it suddenly dawned on me that she wasn’t interested in just hanging out!
The evening could have been disastrous. Luckily I summoned up the courage to insist that we watch television with Cindy. Of course this did not help my “manly” reputation at school, nor did it provide any satisfaction for my teenage testosterone level. Instead, it saved me from the guilt which accompanies premarital sex.
When trying to decipher how we managed to avoid the peer pressure we realized that one of the greatest things our parents did to help us battle peer pressure was to constantly affirm us. In other words, they validated us as individuals by providing acceptance, support and affection. Affirmation. This may seem like a very simple solution to a difficult task.
In order to further explain why affirmation is so vital in the fight against peer pressure, imagine that your teenager has an inner gas tank. Your teenager’s inner gas tank is what fuels him or her to make the right decisions when faced with negative peer pressure. It helps empower a teenager to stand for what is right even when the peer pressure is greatest. However, this gas tank must be kept full at all times with affirmation. If your teenager’s gas tank is empty then he or she will have to seek other ways to fill it. The most common way would be to seek the approval of his or her peers. Therefore, the key lies in finding ways to help fill your teenager’s tank with plenty of affirmation.
Three Ways to Affirm Your Teenager
1. Acceptance. Your teenager must know that you accept her. Because if she doesn’t feel accepted at home she might have to find it else where. Usually when teenagers need to find acceptance somewhere other than the home it is not healthy acceptance. “I just wanted to fit in,” is a common phrase a teenager might say if she was caught doing something wrong. As a parent we encourage you to make sure your teenager “fits in” at home.
If my parents had not made me feel completely accepted at home, who knows what might have happened that night with my girlfriend. I was risking losing the acceptance of my girlfriend and her friend by not getting involved. But I felt inside that I could risk that because I knew that I had all the acceptance I needed at home.
2. Affection. If your teenager does not receive enough love and affection from home, it could likely be found in the arms of someone else. Lack of affection can push teenagers into sexual impurity. Affection is a wonderful way to show your teenagers how much you love them. We can remember all the times our dad embarrassed us with hugs and kisses. Although we acted like it bothered us, we realize today how much it meant. My (Michael’s) tank was full of affection from home so I did not need that from Lauren.
3. Support. Let your teenager know you support her no matter what she might do. Support does not have to mean you agree with her actions, it means that you will be there for her. If your teenager stands up for what is right and resists peer pressure, she will need your support.
One of my (Michael’s) duties as high school president was to report any use of alcohol at school functions. Our cheerleaders made it to the state finals in cheering and several students showed up drunk. After seeing them drinking, I painfully reported it to the Principal. It was one of the loneliest and hardest trials I had ever faced. What stands out most are not the confrontations with my classmates, but how my parents stood by me through the turmoil. I knew that if I went out on a limb, my parents would build a brace underneath it to support me. This was all the security I needed to stand firm in my beliefs.
Providing a loving, accepting, and supportive home can help your teenager resist the temptations of peer pressure. These different ways to affirm your teenager will make a difference in his or her life. It isn’t a guarantee that your teenager will resist every type of peer pressure he or she encounters. However, it can provide the strength necessary to face many difficult decisions in the future.
Dr. Greg Smalley serves as executive director of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family and is passionate to equip premarital and married couples with the knowledge, skills and insights necessary to enjoy a lifetime together.