Teens are famous for doing wild and crazy things without thinking about the consequences. I shudder when I remember some my own antics as a teenager. Of course one of the reasons for this behavior is that they’re experimenting and exploring their independence at a time when the decision-making part of their brain is “under construction.” They’re also particularly vulnerable to peer pressure. A friend may suggest a joy ride, shoplifting, drugs, sex or some other ill-advised behavior. Faced with the disapproval of a friend, it can be very hard to say no.
Most parents aren’t sure how to help their teenagers resist this kind of peer pressure. There are no easy answers, but help may be found in some of the books written for teens.
In addition to my own books, Conversations with the Wise Aunt and Conversations with the Wise Uncle, my favorite book for teens is Sean Covey’s The 6 Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make: A Guide for Teens. Covey is also the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens.
The six decisions are focused on school, friends, parents, dating & sex, addictions and self-worth.
In the chapter on friends, Covey has some important things to say. For starters, he gives this tip: ‘Choose steady friends who like you for who you are, not fickle ones who like you for what you have.”
He also advises, “The key is not to make friends the center of your life.” He says that most teens make this mistake. Friends are important, but they can move and change. They’re not always rational and they’re inexperienced at relationships, so they sometimes treat each other badly.
Another tip – “Make as many friends as you can, but never center your life on them.” So if friends aren’t to be the center of a teen’s life, then what is?
He recommends making principles the center of your life: things like honesty, respect and responsibility – what I call “personal strengths.” This theme colors every chapter of his book.
Don’t center your life on popularity or try to become popular for popularity’s sake. It doesn’t work that way. Instead, just be your best self. If you put your focus there, good things will happen. Then, if popularity comes, fine. If not, fine. After all, popularity is secondary, not primary, to greatness….
Primary greatness, on the other hand, is not what you see on the outside, but what lies within. Primary greatness is your character – who you really are.
This is the foundation for resisting peer pressure, although the chapter has much more to say about this issue, along with others related to healthy friend relationships.
I strongly recommend this book for teenagers. Any teen who reads it from cover to cover will have a clear advantage as he or she negotiates the gauntlet of adolescence and prepares for a successful, happy life.