Parent power trumps peer pressure

Although parents are sometimes concerned when adolescents begin to spend less time with them and more with their adolescent peers, most recognize this shift as a normal developmental change on the road to adulthood. Adolescence is the period when teens are looking forward as they go down that road, and at same time they are looking in the rear view mirror where they can still see mom and dad. For their part, parents are engaged in a perilous process of holding on and letting go.

According to Cornell University research, parental influence is greatest in the areas of life that are most important such as moral and religious beliefs and ethical values. Adolescents tend to defer to their peers around issues like music or clothing styles. Because parental influence is so powerful, youth tend to choose friends that embrace the same values that they do. What looks like peer pressure could more correctly be another expression of parental influence.

We know that parents that set clear boundaries and expectations for youth help them to make healthy decisions in their own behalf. We also know that parents who keep making deposits in their son or daughters' emotional bank account help their child to enjoy more positive peer relations and to have a generally more positive outlook on life. Parents that can create a healthy balance of rewards for desirable behavior and consistent consequences for behavior that is unacceptable will have given their son or daughter an important formula for conducting themselves in personal and work relationships. Youth survey outcomes indicate that most adolescents feel they can discuss problems with their mother and father.

Parents occupy a very important position in their teenagers' lives, one that comes with great responsibility and great satisfaction. Just because your son or daughter does not think exactly like you, or sometimes acts in ways that you disagree with, doesn't mean that they don't love you and still need you. In some ways, your adolescent son or daughter needs you now more than ever. As a parent, you know your teenager better than anyone else does and you share a sacred bond that no one can interrupt.

Even if they listen to music that sounds like bad noise to you or they wear clothes that are two sizes to large or more remarkable, two sizes too small, somewhere in there is your little girl or your little boy who could probably use a hug right about now. Remember all kids count.

Scot Hurlburt can be reached by e-mail at hurlburt@wildblue.net

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