Growing up Immune to peer pressure
by Naomi Aldort
Author of Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves

Raise a child rooted in herself, and
she won’t become rooted in her peers.

The greatest difficulty is our own fear in the face of a teenagers’ powerful strive to create themselves. As a teenager, my oldest son, Yonatan, had friends who were far from representing our values, and his wardrobe and activities gave me a lot to worry about. After two years of this teen “trance,” he was done and moved on. As we were talking one day about growing up, he said to me, “Mom, the best thing I had these last few years was your complete trust in me.”

Trust is powerful for both you and your teenager, specially when she is trying out new fads or impressing friends in ways that worry you. When you hold another person’s core being in your heart, they can roam away safely. Your trust keeps the core being in your child or teenager alive, so she can feel confident in her own ability to return to herself. Parenting is letting go of control while staying connected, aware, and knowing when a teenager is yearning for guidance. Secure and confident teenagers don’t become like their parents; they carve their own path. They want to find a way to be part of the community, while preserving their inner sense of self.

To melt your anxiety away, start by realizing that you cannot know what leads to what and how it would end up. What looks scary today often becomes the spring board to great unfoldings tomorrow. Your worry is created by your thoughts and your “worst case scenario” images of your teen. Without those nightmarish fantasies, here is your teen son or daughter, lovely, engaged, making friends, and excited about new experiences. They have you; a deep relationship and an unwavering support. Keep the gates of communication open and non judgemental, so they can feel safe and at ease to speak to you.

How to stay connected:

Instead of saying anything, ask non judgemental questions of sincere interest and listen with all your heart. “What do you like the most about this skirt, makeup, friend, video game, movie…?” Or “Who is your best friend… what do you like about her/him so much?” (To your dismay, you may discover some real depth in her responses.) When she answers, ask more and really listen. Be a safe listener; one who has no judgements and does not offer advice without permission. Say things like, “Wow, that is so interesting. I love that you are enjoying your own new directions.”

It is alright to share your ideals only if she is interested (ask), and if you do so respectfully and not with the air of, “I know better.” After she speaks openly and feels at ease, you can say, “This is so different than my teen years. It is fascinating how each generation is so unique. Would you like to hear how it was for me… (or what my view is)?” She may welcome it on not. Be honest with yourself; if you want to share in order to influence, she won’t be likely to hear you or speak to you later on. If you share with honest fascination about differences, you create a connection and nurture your daughter core being. Of course there may be situations that require intervention, but first keep the gate of trust open.

Staying connected will ensure that she doesn’t hide her life from you, securing her safety and your peace. Most youth try different fads and when satisfied and clear, they move on with authenticity. Hold her to her true spirit, and she will stay
awake to herself.

Why fitting-in is not helpful and self-reliance is:

The desire of a teenager to fit in with her peers is what makes her suceptible to peer pressure and peer influences. In the early years, we are the children’s main social circle. If we are not, the void will be filled with peers as the primary influence even earlier. The ability to stay rooted in oneself starts with babies. For example, letting a baby sleep when and where she chooses tells her that how she feels inside is right and is her true compas. Same with responding to all her other cues. As the child grows, her reliance on her inner voice is either quanched or nurtured. To learn that her own inner guidance is her source, and not the voices of others, we have to respect her autonomy; her choices about her own body, timing, learning, and non addictive interests.

When we repsect a child’s authentic choices she learns, “How I feel inside is right – I can trust myself and don’t need to measure what is right for me by listening to others.” This does not mean permissiveness or license. We are talking here about trusting real authentic human direction. Likewise, it pays to model a commitment to be rooted in oneself and stay away from teaching children to “fit in.” “Fitting in” is just another way of saying, “Be like others,” or “Match your peers expectations.”

Often parents demonstrate their own anxiety to fit in with relatives, neighbours and friends, which children observe and learn. Not only it is crucial to empower the child to listen to herself about her own direction, but it is equally important that we provide a model of such respect of ourselves and others. Insecurity means seeking approval and not trusting oneself. It shows up when we don’t speak up for ourselves or for our children, because we want to impress others, or avoid hurting their feelings, more than we wish to protect the child in line with our values.

By the time they are teenagers, we have possibly given them millions of messages to fit in, compete, impress, and override their true being. They learn well, and falling for peer pressure is the natural outcome.

Never too late:

For parents who are already living with teenager, it may seem too late, but it isn’t. Although it is optimal to build self-reliance in the early years, teenagers are still very open and yearning for parent’s love and involvement. Their passion to fit in can be transformed to a desire to prove that they are their own independent being (including not being influenced by parents). They need inspiration, modeling, and emotional support. Here are some ways you can deepen your relationship with your teen and inspire self-reliance:

• Bring to light the power of going on one’s own path by modeling, and by sharing real life anecdotes about people you know, and/or reading/watching videos about people who have the strength and wisdom to go their own path.

• Share your feelings and thoughts; talk about yourself, your own inner explorations, memories from youth, fears, failures, regrets, successes and joys. Let your teen into your life and she will have one friend who has your values and a deep connection she can model her future relationship on.

• Ask questions and be interested rather than interesting. Ask her about her life and ideals, and listen without judgment. Appreciate her point of view. You may learn a lot from her.

• Bring into your teen’s life experiences that will create a bond of appreciation and that will elicit conversations about different values and life styles and the power of being oneself, free of the dependency on fitting in and on seeking approval: Watch together a good movie that demonstrate such inner strengh, theater, a concert, volunteer for the sake of others, or take a hike or a family camping trip.

• Join her on her ideas of good times. When one of my kids was fourteen he was eager to see the film Lord of the Rings, which is not my cup of tea. I went with him so I could share the experience and have a common subject to talk about including values, art, acting and more. You don’t have to pretend to like it, but you can join and be open, curious and loving the shared time.

• Go as a family to a self-awareness workshop. This can be life altering for all of you as well as a shared experience to talk about and explore further. Or, maybe a weekly yoga class or a one time short event would excite her. If your teenager won’t go, let her be. You are not the police of her life, but her avid supported.

• If she has interests that may lead to social selection of a kind you believe will nurture her spirit and talents, support such direction. A science group, art, theater, music or other focused groups may draw her near new potential friends.

• Explore worrysome themes together. When one of my sons wanted to play video games, I showed interest and asked some questions. His response was a passionate online search of opinions and statistics, which he shared with me and after we discussed the issue openly, he decided to limit the amount of playing.

• Invite friends or relatives whose teenaged son or daughter she may like and whose influence you will appreciate. If you don’t have anyone in mind, take yourself to new activities and meet new people yourself.

At the end of the day it is your confidence in her and your unconditional love that will keep her inner spark awake to herself. You need not pretend to love her choices along the way; delight in her being and her spirit will stay alive.

©Copyright Naomi Aldort
Naomi Aldort is the author of the best seller, Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, (published in 17 languages). Aldort facilitates self-realization through parenting in Phone/Skype sessions, workshops and speaking events internationally. She works holistically toward a peaceful and powerful parent-child relationships from infancy through teens. Her SALVE communication formula has been praised as providing the best of The Work of Byron Katie and Nonviolent communication combined, and more. For information: CDs, articles, videos, guidance and a free newsletter: