Being a teen is a complex phase that every child goes through in their transition to being an adult.
It is difficult and very stressful (looking through a teen’s eye) to juggle image issues, school, friends, and peer pressure too.
The Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary defines peer pressure as “the pressure that you feel to behave in a certain way because your friends or people in your group expect it.”
Going by this definition, we can safely agree that people right from children to adults can and do experience some degree of influence from others to do what they might not ordinary do, be it at school, college, at work or indeed the broader community they live in. Today however I want us to look at teen peer pressure.
Teenage Peer Pressure
It is natural for teenagers to want to “fit in’ and be liked, to belong. As a parent with teen boys myself I can authoritatively state and hopefully you will agree that teens are not just highly concerned about their image, but can be overly worried about what others, particularly their peers (people of one’s age or background etc.,) think about them too. Peer pressure therefore is a biggie in many teen’s lives.
In order to be accepted and not to stand out like a sore thumb teens would do what others are doing. In the main, their behaviour, how they dress, attitude and ways of doing things is usually influenced by others including the people they admire on TV and the music they listen to.
Interestingly peer pressure can be positive and supportive or negative with detrimental consequences.
It is very important that a teen’s circle of friends or that the people they hang out with at school and in the home environment, are people who are making positive choices and good decisions. Naturally teens would want to be better and do better. This kind of peer pressure will increase a teen’s confidence and self-esteem, improve grades, get them to have a go at positive activities and improve on the quality of friends, as well as family life.
A negative influence unlike a positive one can urge a group of teens to play truancy, missing classes which leads to under performance and dropped grades, telling lies, steal, and cheat. The majority of teens involved in teenage sex and becoming a father whilst a kid themselves, or who have substance abuse problems began experimenting with sex, using drugs or alcohol as a result of peer pressure.
Surrounding oneself with people who’s influence is negative, can lead to harmful or dangerous activities/behaviours that could easily result in a brush with the law and in the worst cases alcohol or drug overdose related death.
What Can A Teenager Do?
As individuals, black boys must make decisions based on what is in their best interest and not what they feel will make them appear cool or be accepted. Essential part of this is to own and take responsibility for the way black boys think and the choices that they make. One can belong to a comfortable and welcoming group even as an individual.
We cannot wish negative peer pressure away or pretend it isn’t there because like positive pressure it is very real. The following are some tips that can help black boys manage peer pressure better:
Shared Values and Interests
Surround yourself with like minded people, this may help lessen or even avoid situations where you feel pressured to go against your values, your sense of what is right and what is wrong. Stay away from peers who pressure you to do the things you are uncomfortable with.
Refrain From Being A Judge Of Others
Whilst you might not agree with the choices or actions that others make, respecting someone else’s choices may in turn help them to respect yours.
Learn To Say ”NO”
Hard as it may seem sometimes having the will to say no can also give you a sense of pride (self-worth), knowing you stuck to your beliefs or values. Spend time with other teens who resist peer pressure. It sure helps to have at least one person besides you who is also willing to say ”NO”.
Calmly tell people why you aren’t interested in being a part of something. Of course sometimes people will not take your ‘no’ seriously and will persists with the pressure however, if maintain your stance they might respect you for that and you will gain a whole leap of confidence in yourself.
Talk To Someone
Managing negative peer pressure is much easier when you are more comfortable in your group or environment. Standing up for yourself can help you gain that comfort, however sometimes to do this you might need to talk to an adult you trust, like a parent or teacher.
How Can A Parent Help?
As mentioned earlier we cannot wish peer pressure away. The fact that teenagers are worried about the way they are seen by their friends, means there will always be an element of succumbing to peer pressure. Facing this fact is one thing and helping to reduce the hold of peer pressure over your teenagers is another.
This is what you can do to help:
Do Not Block Communication Channels
No one wants to open up or talk to a person who’s forever judgmental; it is important that you are approachable, listen and be supportive when your teen wants to talk. Make a habit of setting aside 1-2-1 time (10 – 15 minutes) each day to chat and actively listen.
Time spent together as family is just as important as teenagers who have a healthy relationship with family and have good support system do much better at not bowing to peer pressure.
Raising black boys to be exceptional men requires that from when they are young you make clear your expectations of their behaviour, and any consequences should they fail to meet them. It is not necessary to be over the top (OTT) strict just for the sake of it.
However if you fear that your son is involved in behaviours that could impact their life and future in a negative manner, then it is necessary and your responsibility to put on your disciplinarian hat and dish out an appropriate punishment that fits the crime.
You will be doing him a big favour because if you fail in raising black boys to being a responsible law-abiding person, the law unfortunately will one day do this for you.
Teach Them To Be Assertive
Sometimes as parents we have this bad habit of ‘shooting down’ whatever comes out of our children’s mouths in the name of educating black boys. This can overtime affect their confidence to speak and stand up for themselves and therefore are easily swayed by other peoples’ opinion, or in this case negative peer pressure.
Being assertive and to resist getting involved in dodgy or inappropriate activities should be a part and parcel of raising black children. Allow them to think and express opinions and be creative with positive thought processes. You will be giving them wings to fly higher and fulfill their true potential!
Get To Know Their Friends
Is your home an inviting place where your teens are encouraged to bring their friends? Your son’s friends to a large extent determines their mindset, behaviour and future. What better place to get to know them than at home and in a relaxed atmosphere? You will find out soon enough if there are inappropriate behaviour that requires addressing with your teen.
If possible get to know your teen friend’s parents too. If issues or concerns arise, share this with their parents. In the end, you must encourage your teen to choose good friends who will be supportive of them.
Be Observant and Do Not Ignore Signs of Change
If you are involved in your teen’s life, talking and listening to them, you should be able to pick up any major changes or worries that might be heavy on their mind. Do not ignore changes in school grades, behaviour, sleeping patterns and eating/drinking habits if and when you notice them. These could be warning signs and needs your immediate attention. Speak to people who can help if necessary.
It is my hope that our boys will remain true to themselves and better manage peer pressure related stress, that parents will offer the supporting and enabling environment to help them succeed.