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September 22, 2014 —
Teenagers have a lot on their plates. In addition to navigating an adult world full of choices, they are also exposed to negative peer pressure online and offline at alarming rates. They are becoming part of a collective whole and are terrified of not belonging. And in their heart of hearts, teens want to be accepted. Add a developing teen brain, especially the prefrontal cortex, and you have the perfect equation for impaired judgment skills.
When teenagers are predisposed to test and push the limits while discarding the opinions and insights of adults, danger lurks around every corner. Truth be told, sending your teen out into the world is difficult, but the proper parental guidance can help a teen resist peer pressure. Here are some tips you can use to help your teen successfully navigate difficult situations.
Create open dialogue. Plan ahead and discuss situations your teen may encounter. Help develop responses to pressures from friends or classmates. The key here is to encourage an open dialogue.
Accept your teen’s friends. Bad talking your teen’s peers might his or her increase desire to be part of the group. Teenagers congregate with others with similar hobbies, intelligence or sports. Nasty remarks made towards his or her friends make it appear you see your teen as unworthy.
Do not lecture. Keep calm and rational. People make mistakes. You can't change what happened; you can only move forward. Lecturing and nagging will get you nowhere fast, and anger and resistance will be the outcome. Remember this is a development stage, just like those body part jokes from your teen’s former seven-year-old-self.
Remind your teen of his or her goals. Teens have goals and desires for the future, even if at times they avoid admitting it. Focus on your teen’s intrinsic goals and how success is highly possible if kept on the right track. Offer support and subtly nudge your teen to be proactive.
In an idyllic world, teens would honor parents. They would put away folded laundry without being asked and offer to do the dishes after every meal. Unfortunately, we live in reality where hormones hold the aforementioned personalities hostage. Like it or not, teens will resist parental authority.
So, what can a parent do?
Stop complaining. Voicing your disapproval of your teen’s behavior is likely to cause him or her to rebel.
Monitor online activity and bedrooms. Avoid "spying", but make sure your teen knows you will check on his or her Internet profiles and activity. Let your teen know you may clean his or her room and see his or her belongings. A teen might reconsider certain behaviors if there’s a chance someone will see rude posts or find secrets under the mattress.
Ask for respect. Teenagers don't have the right to offend you or others because of their age. Their comments and tone need to be respectful. It's okay to disagree - in a respectful manner. Define expectations of your teen and model the behavior. Avoid name calling and hurtful statements. In general, people find it easier to listen when respect is mutual.
Avoid power struggles. Choose your battles wisely. It's difficult, but explain what you expect from your teen Consider the absolute "no’s" in your house. Maybe you explain that schoolwork comes before all social activities, but allow your teen control over things that don’t carry quite as much weight such as clothing and hair styles. Don't sweat the small stuff.
Instill morals. Be proactive and work on character education with your child before a rebellious stage. Discuss the importance of character and limit inappropriate media exposure that glorifies disrespectful behavior.
Lay down the law. You are the parent. You control what happens in your house and your teen's safety is top priority. You call the shots. Grounding, removing doors and withholding privileges help you communicate your disapproval.
Peer pressure isn't the only influence on a teen. Teens still value their parents, but during this stage they are becoming their own person. The teenage years don't need to be a nightmare. Find the formula and values that work for your family to get pleasant results.
Tara Heath is a journalist and mother of two in California who guest blogs for TeenSafe. She is passionate about parenting and using her own experience and knowledge to inform and encourage other parents. Follow her on Twitter for more!