Teens are often criticized for not being able to stand up to peer pressure. In my parenting workshops, I show parents and teachers how much they, as mature adults, grownups and parents, submit to group pressure. They are usually very shocked to discover how many things they do that do not match their own thoughts and beliefs, and how strong their desire is to be accepted, not judged and not criticized by the people around them.
Being social creatures makes us compromise our thoughts and beliefs to match those of the society we live in. It is in some way a survival mechanism that got out of control. In the beginning, we did it to survive in the group. Later on we have to obey the group if we want to be accepted in.
My book, Be Special Be Yourself for Teenagers, is dedicated to this dilemma that starts when we are teens and never seems to end. “How many of my beliefs and values will I sacrifice in order to fit into the group I am in?” A group can be anyone: siblings, home, school, friends, family (close or extended), culture, religion, country and in some cases, even the universe.
The power of peer pressure was examined many years ago in a famous study called “Asch’s conformity experiment”. This short video can explain how easy it is conform.
I was exposed to this experiment more than 28 years ago as part of my Education studies. It made me realize a few things that helped me greatly in my work and even in parenting, things which I now teach in my parenting workshops.
How to raise teens who can handle peer pressure
- We are all sensitive to pressure regardless of age.
- The people that put the most pressure on us are our socializing agents: parents, and teachers, in that order.
- The sense of belonging is stronger than being true to who we are. In our parenting, we must take into consideration that our kids will compromise a lot to have that sense of belonging to the family. We need to build this feeling in them by having a confident parenting style.
- Regardless of how strong, independent and confident we think we are, it is hard and maybe even impossible to hold an opposite opinion to the majority for a long time.
- If we want to stay true to who we are, we must come up with beliefs, rules and values that separate us from others. We have to accept other for thinking differently to us and allow ourselves to keep our beliefs, values and rules (without trying to convince others to change their mind). This is important to understand in parenting. Learn to accept that your kids think differently and never put pressure on them to change their minds. If they change their minds under pressure, it is not really a change, but a force of habit to avoid pain.
- It is very important who we hang around with. It is better to spend time with those who share similar beliefs and values to us so we don’t have to compromise too much.
- As parents, we encourage our kids to associate with kids whose parents share the same beliefs and values as us.
Share your conclusions from watching this experiment in the comments below.
Happy parenting and watch out for peer pressure!