As parents we are very protective of our children and spend a lot of time trying to keep them from getting themselves into trouble. Amongst other things this means teaching them what we believe to be right so that they do not find themselves giving in to negative peer pressure.
But, at the end of the day, kids will be kids and when they get to be teenagers in particular there are going to be times when, despite your best efforts, they are going to get into trouble. So, what can we do to get them back on the rails?
The first thing you need to do is to understand the environment in which your teens are operating and that often means thinking back to your own days as a teenager. One common practice for example is to put the blame onto someone else.
We are all familiar with the “it’s not my fault I only did what John told me to do and he said it was okay” routine. I do not know of many teenagers who will not use this type of excuse and the moment it appears for the first time is the moment to step in and begin teaching your teens the meaning of responsibility because, the sooner they learn that they must take responsibility for there own actions, and that they will be held accountable for their actions, the better.
This is sometimes an easy concept for teenagers to understand, but it is not always easy for them to see how to avoid getting into trouble in these circumstances and one good way around this is to sit down and role play with them. Come up with various different situations and then help them by providing ways in which they can get themselves out of a corner that they are being backed into.
Perhaps most important at this stage is also to teach them that, if their friends simply will not listen to them and insist that they join in, then they can always simply walk away and, if necessary, call you to come and pick them up. You will also be surprised how often the simple act of calling a parent ostensibly to ask if something is okay will cause a friend, or group of friends, to change their mind.
Your child also needs to understand that your responsibility extends to him and not to his friends and that, regardless of what his friends do, or are allowed to do by their parents, your role in bringing him up means setting rules which you consider to be appropriate to him and which are set out of your concern for him and for his protection. Having laid this framework, you then need to set specific rules and draw boundaries within which he must operate.
Finally, remember that not all peer pressure is bad and that interacting with other teenagers is an important part of growing up and that your own teenager can learn a great deal from talking with his friends and watching the actions of those around him. Of course it does help if they have friends who follow the rules, but you cannot choose your teenagers’ friends for them and will have to be prepared to cope with whatever they throw at you.