It started during church. My son’s buddy was razzing him about his long fingernails. My son was laughing and agreeing.
I’ve been razzing him about cutting his nails since he was old enough to hold the clippers. He NEVER listens to me. My razzing turns to nagging and then begging and he still won’t cut them.
Yet on this day, within ten minutes of being home from church my kid had the most beautifully manicured nails I’d ever seen. How did this happen? Am I such a terrible parent I can’t get him to take care of his hygiene needs?
It’s called positive peer pressure. It’s importance hit me like a rock on that day. I realized as my kids get older there are some things they just won’t do because I want them to. They need a little positive peer pressure to get stuff done.
What is peer pressure?
Peer pressure is influence from one’s peer group. It can be negative or it can be positive. Healthy families need to foster positive peer pressure relationships.
And it’s not just for kids, tweens, and teens. Moms and dads also need positive peer pressure in their lives. See, we are all influenced by peer pressure, whether it’s kids in class or neighbors around the corner.
What matters is the type of peer pressure we allow to influence us. Healthy families are all about incorporating positive peer pressure into their family culture.
I propose there are seven really good reasons why positive peer pressure is key to having a healthy family.
1. Positive peer pressure can “speak” where we can’t
As in the case with my son and his friend I have spoken all I can to him about keeping his nails trimmed. At this point he is done listening to me on this subject. He either doesn’t care or doesn’t seen the value in keeping his nails trimmed. It means my approach isn’t working.
When his friends step in and tell him he needs to cut his nails and he responds, they help him find the value point for keeping his nails trimmed. In this case, not being a complete weirdo. They can speak into the void and their influence can make a positive difference.
This is an important part of growing up and becoming independent. I fully support it.
2. Positive peer pressure can build up our family unit
We have a few of different families in our lives who are really great people. We share common values and beliefs, our parenting styles are similar, and we approach family culture from similar points of view. This means when we spend time together our kids get along and influence one another in positive ways.
When we are together we enjoy one another’s company and trust our kids to keep each other in line. But the great part of having these good friends is when we let our kids hang out with them without us. These are the few families we trust for sleepovers and to take our kids when we aren’t there.
We know our tweens will be positively influenced by both the adults and the kids in these other families. When our small people come home they haven’t picked up bad habits or attitudes. In fact, they usually come home with cool new ideas or skills they have learned.
This is encouraging and uplifting to our family unit because these families are actually helping us parent. By influencing our kids and teaching them good habits and skills they are participating in our family culture, and we in theirs. It’s helps our family unit become stronger.
3. Positive peer pressure helps to build a foundation for the future
In my younger years I studied in Germany. There was a boy from Slovak in my school. Every day at lunch he would eat spaghetti noodles and ketchup for lunch. It’s the only way he’d ever eaten them and no one could make him believe that ketchup is not a real, quality sauce for noodles. We almost lost a couple of Italian students over this row.
Because this boy had never tasted a quality pasta sauce on his noodles he had no frame of reference for good vs bad sauce. At his age I don’t know if there was any hope.
It’s the same with kids. If they never know what positive peer pressure looks like, when bad peer pressure comes a long they won’t be able to tell the difference. And for some kids it will be too late to show them.
Positive peer pressure lays the foundation for healthy, uplifting influence in a kid’s life so that by the time they are a tween and then a teen they can differentiate between good and bad and make wise decisions when you aren’t around.
Peer pressure that is meted out in love will look and feel differently than the kind that is harsh and negative, based on fear of rejection or on meanness.
Lay that foundation early and your tweens and teens will have a much better shot of avoiding bad peer pressure in the future.
4. Positive peer pressure helps to establish trust
One of the results of bad peer pressure is the emotional fallout. Not only do some actions lead to terrible consequences but they also leave behind feelings of hurt, anger, and rejection. Because the influencers don’t have the best interest of the influencee at heart he or she is left feeling like litter on the side of the road. Not fun.
Positive peer pressure, on the other hand, helps to establish trust between friends and peers. Because it is rooted in doing what’s best for the person and comes from a place of true care from the influencer, tweens and teens learn what it feels like to be cared for and loved by their friends. This creates a bond of trust that will last far into adulthood and again teach the difference between good and bad intentions.
5. Positive peer pressure is an excellent model for good relationships
Remember when I said positive peer pressure is for moms and dads too? When moms and dads allow positive peer pressure to influence their lives they model good relationships. Kids will see what it’s like to have friends who care about them and have their best interests at heart.
If your kids are still too young to choose their friends this is the perfect place for your family to start – buy modeling good relationships around them.
When kids are old enough to make their own friends they will know what to look for. It’s a win-win for your family.
6. Positive peer pressure minds the gap when you’re not there
As kids get older they spend more time away from you. There will be times when they need to make choices and their friends will be a big factor in how they choose. If your kids are hanging out with quality friends who exhibit positive peer pressure on them you won’t have to worry.
As your tweens and teens get older their peer group begins to take on new significance and value. Positive peer pressure from the right friends can mean the difference between a wise choice with lasting consequences and a poor choice that will follow your kid around for years.
My husband and I are very thankful for the families I mentioned earlier because those kids are an amazing influence on our kids. Some of them are older and some are younger. We love the variety of personalities and approaches but most of all we love that they have our tweens’ best interests at heart.
We feel confident that as we send our kids off to places like youth group, summer camp, birthday parties, sleepovers, and camping trips our kids are being pressured to do good things. It makes our hearts sing.
7. Positive peer pressure begets positive peer pressure
When your kids are being influenced by good kids they learn to make good choices and in turn they help other kids by putting positive peer pressure on them.
If the majority of the kids in your tween or teen’s peer group is exerting positive peer pressure on your kid he or she will most likely exert it on others. When they do have a renegade, and every peer group seems to have one at some point, the good will outweigh the bad.
That’s what you want, for your kid to feel, know, and understand positive peer pressure so he can make wise choices.
So, how do you begin to foster this type of peer pressure?
The first step is to begin developing family friendships. If your kids are still small they need you to guide their friendships. Aim for friends who share your values, interests, and parenting style. Not all kids get along just because the parents do. Keep searching for families where the kids and the parents connect.
The next step comes when kids enter middle to upper elementary school and begin to form their own friendships. Get to know the kids and the parents. See if you can’t help your kids build strong friendships and relationships with those kids and their families.
Sports, church, and extra-curricular activities are also a great place to meet quality kids and families. Open your home for opportunities to fellowship together, eat, watch movies, and play games. Invite parents and kids alike so you can develop those friendships.
Finally, share positive peer pressure experiences with your kids. If you have a friend from high school who calls you out on something, share it at the dinner table. If you’ve made a mistake and a friend from carpool points it out, apologize to your kids and your husband and your friend and explain how it was good to learn to be better.
Peer pressure affects us all at all ages. Positive peer pressure can strengthen your family and help you be a happier, healthier bunch. Look for opportunities to foster it in your family and see life-long results.
Who models positive peer pressure in your family’s lives?