Getting Out of Trouble is Harder than Staying Out

Our teenagers are trying to learn something that we, as adults, have yet to master. That is the ability to deal with peer pressure. As adults, we know that some people are likable but not desirable. We know how to appreciate their finer points without making them our best friend.     We have a nice little treasure chest of excuses that we pull out when we need to avoid a potentially sticky situation. Sometimes, we can’t really pinpoint what it is about a person or situation that makes us uncomfortable but we’ve learned to trust our instincts. We’ve learned that getting ourselves out of trouble is a lot harder than just staying out to begin with.

If you have teenagers, can I suggest that giving them a list of ‘red flags’ to watch out for can help them combat peer pressure? We parents have a tendency to concede defeat with our teenagers when it comes to drinking, smoking, drug use, inappropriate language and sexual experimentation. We decide they’re all going to do it so why fight. The answer to that question is obvious. These are our children. They are worth more than anything else we have in our lives so taking a stand for them and with them is worth every negative they can throw at us when we do. Let your children know the things you see as possible problems. Tongue rings, nose rings, tattoos, suggestive clothing, the lovely (not) aroma of cigarette smoke, cocky attitudes, disrespect toward authority figures – all of these things can be seen as ‘red flags’. Let your child know that others who display these banners of rebellion are not people you will tolerate in their lives. Once they walk out that door, you can’t be certain they will follow your directions but you will, at least, have given them tools to help them choose friends wisely.

Then, take that one additional step of showing them that they can politely smile at anyone. They can treat anyone with courtesy. They just don’t have to hang out with them. Help them start their own, personal treasure chest of excuses. Give them the first excuse they can use. The one that says ‘my parents don’t allow me to __________ (fill in the blank).’ If their friends (or should we say acquaintances) taunt them about the desire to obey, teach them to point out that the parents are the ones with the cash and the car keys and we don’t share with our children who don’t obey. Teach your children that there are consequences to giving in to peer pressure. The consequences from parents who love them is significantly less painful and of shorter duration than the consequences life can hand them.

Our teenagers are not always as loving to us as we would like them to be but they’re still OUR teenagers and we still love them. We also still hurt for them when they hurt. To help them avoid hurt, teach them to recognize people and situations that are problematic. Make sure they have the tools to avoid those things. They might not decide to use them but, then again, they might!

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