Daniel Wong is a learning and teen expert, and is also the best-selling author of “The Happy Student”. He offers 1-to-1 programmes to help students attain exam excellence while also finding happiness and fulfillment, and to empower parents to motivate their unmotivated teenagers. Download his FREE e-book, “16 Keys To Motivating Your Teenager”. The views expressed are his own.
“I don’t want you hanging out with those friends. They’re a bad influence.”
If you’re a parent, you might have said this to your children before.
Those friends you were referring to were probably disrespectful, mischievous, unmotivated – or all of the above. So it’s natural that you didn’t want your children spending time with them.
You know how deeply friends can affect the course of your life, so you feared that your children would jeopardise their future.
An important question for parents to ask
Of course, you don’t want your children hanging out with bad company. But I’d like to ask you this important question:
Are you hanging out with “bad company” yourself?
I’m not talking about friends who are loan sharks, drug dealers or con artists. I’m guessing that your friends aren’t criminals.
I’m talking about friends who influence you to make bad parenting decisions.
Allow me to explain.
I’ve had the privilege of working with thousands of students, and their parents. Parents frequently share with me that they send their children for all sorts of tuition and enrichment classes.
Chinese class, English class, math class, science class, creative writing class, music class, art class, drama class. It’s a mind-boggling list!
When I ask these parents if they believe this to be beneficial for their children’s development, they almost always give me the same reply:
“Daniel, my children are too busy. I don’t think this is good for them. They’re missing out on their childhood. But all my friends who are parents are doing the same thing – and I don’t want my children to lose out!”
Peer pressure affects adults, too
Evidently, peer pressure is just as powerful a force in adulthood as it is in childhood or adolescence.
And who suffers the consequences of parents who give in to peer pressure?
These children might not “lose out” in terms of academics or enrichment classes. But they lose out on something much more important: a memorable, meaningful childhood. Furthermore, they lose the ability to be alone, to think, reflect and dream.
No wonder our society is fast becoming addicted to busyness. We feel the constant need to be occupied by something, whether it’s work, social media, games, or other activities. Many people even feel uncomfortable about being alone with their thoughts.
For the sake of your children’s future, here’s what you can do
But don’t be discouraged. If you’re a parent, you can do these two things to reverse this trend, starting with your own family:
1. Intentionally choose your online and offline friends
Do you feel peer pressure to make parenting decisions that aren’t in your children’s long-term interests?
If you do, then you must recognise that you have the power to choose:
You can choose your friends.
You can choose which Whatsapp chat groups you’re a part of.
You can choose which social gatherings and birthday parties to attend.
You can choose which websites you visit.
You can choose which online forums you participate in.
You can choose which magazines you read.
You can choose which TV shows you watch.
It might not feel like you have a choice. But you do. As the saying goes, “Live your life by design, not by default.”
If you succumb to peer pressure, it’s your children who will pay the price. I’ve worked with far too many children who are hyper-competitive, stressed, anxious, unhappy, and unfulfilled.
I’m 100% sure that you don’t want your children to turn out like this. So I encourage you to find a wholesome support network of parents who will spur you on to become a better person and a better parent. You could also join an online community, and read parenting books that have a holistic approach toward raising children.
2. Decide what values you want to impart to your children
What values do you want to pass on to your children? Love? Generosity? Hard work? A love for learning?
Discuss this with your spouse, and write down the top five values you want to teach your children. Then ask yourself what you’re currently doing to impart these values. Develop a list of specific actions that you’ll take in the coming weeks and months.
For example, if you want to teach your children generosity, what will you do to show your children that you’re generous with your time and resources?
Or if you want to teach your children the importance of family, what family traditions or rituals will you establish to reinforce this?
When you’re clear about the values you want to pass on, you’ll find it easier to resist the peer pressure to do things you don’t want to do.
The bottom line
I’m a parent myself, so I know how easy it is to react to the urgent, instead of focusing on the things that matter most in the long run.
Yes, it matters which schools your children go to, and it matters how they perform academically. But these don’t matter nearly as much as their character and attitude.
Your children are looking up to you as the leader of your home, and as a role model. If you can’t resist peer pressure, why should they?
So choose your friends wisely, and you’ll be on your way to building a joyful, meaningful family life.