Teaching Your Young Child to Withstand Peer Pressure

Peer PressureWho would think an 8 year old little girl would have peer pressure. But it’s there.  And it’s been there for awhile in my neighborhood.

At first my focus was on helping my daughter to learn how to share.  When we moved into our current house almost four years ago, my daughter was 4 and there were seven other girls in the cul-de-sac who ranged in age older or younger by one year.  I thought teaching a 4-year-old to share would be the toughest challenge, but really the challenge started out on how to deal with so many different personalities.  I’ve been blessed with a little girl who is naturally sweet, kind, and generous.  Okay, maybe I had something to do with a little of that, but she really has grown into a wonderfully even tempered girl.  But being so congenial could lead her into other troubles, like following what the crowd does, just to get along.

My first inclination was to try and find every possible scenario and discuss what “our” reaction would be.  After the first two scenarios, I was ready to pull my hair out.  There was no way I’d be able to cover everything in a short period of time, preparing my precious Maddie to walk out the door.  Of course the next option to wait for her to come to me with issues was out of the question as well.

Kids have so many rules to try and remember and my Maddie has short term memory issues (her birth mother used meth while pregnant.)  I decided that my best solution was the following:

  1. Set an example of behavior in the home.  This has given Maddie a good base for knowing what is acceptable behavior.  It’s sort of like how they train counterfeit inspectors.  They give the inspectors a real currency bill that they memorize from top to bottom.  Eventually when they come across a phony bill, they recognize that it’s not like the original.  Maddie is growing up with two parents and a sister who chase after a lifestyle pleasing to God.  When something in her life pops up that doesn’t fit with that, it becomes blatantly obvious that it’s not acceptable.
  2. Build a close relationship.  This closeness has cultivated a response in Maddie that inspires her want to make Mom and Dad happy.  She knows us well enough now, because we spend so much time talking and playing together, that she has it figured out who we are and what is important to us.  And she strives to fit into those guidelines.  I walked away from a parenting seminar years ago with a phrase that has stuck with me:  The absence of relationship breeds rebellion.
  3. Demonstrate that our actions & activities are pleasing to God.  Maddie participates and witnesses our family intentionally picking out television shows and movies that are pleasing to God.  We demonstrate that we choose not to watch R-rated shows, because we don’t like what it does to our hearts and minds.  We set standards for our guests in our home that we don’t tolerate profanity.  Don’t let it fool you that kids aren’t aware of what the adults are doing in the home.  We have a great number of guests in our house weekly, and she’s heard her father or myself to ask guests to guard their language.  I heard Maddie tell one of her friends, “I’m not allowed to watch scary movies.”  It’s true, she’s not allowed, but I’ve never said “you’re not allowed” or she’s never asked to watch one.  She has learned the importance of filling our minds with positive and happy shows, and scary doesn’t fit into that.

Our biggest challenge of late was the neighborhood craze for monster high dolls.  While they may be “fairly” harmless for the girls to play with, since they play with them exactly like they do the Barbies, it was a great tool to pick so we could practice saying no.  Maddie really wanted a monster high doll.  Matter of fact, she was the only girl in the neighborhood who didn’t have one.  I explained that dolls that are vampires or zombies (dead) were not pleasing to God and I was not buying any.  I told her why I didn’t like them.  I didn’t tell her she couldn’t play with her friend’s dolls at their house, but she’s taken it on herself to say she is not allowed to play with them.  One of the girls asked her why not…  Maddie:  They are not pleasing to God.  Friend:  What’s pleasing mean?  Maddie:  Making God happy.  If Maddie can get through this pressure, I feel pretty certain the rest will be a breeze.

THE TEST:  One of the neighborhood girls accidentally discovered pornographic movies on the internet while searching for a Disney show.  She then got another girl to come watch.  This went on for a week of repeatedly watching the show.  Finally they invited the rest of the girls to watch.  Out of six of the girls, Maddie was one of two that declined to go watch.

We can’t be with our little girls every minute of every day.  Even when they are in a trusted home, dangers abound.  Teaching your children to make the right choices is critical!

So maybe the exercise of Monster High Prohibition has been useful already!

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