By Katie Moosbrugger

You know how we’re always researching articles, blogs and how-to manuals to help us become the best parent we can be? Well guess what? I’m here to say we’re all doing a darn good job…we just don’t know it yet! I say this because I am that person who is constantly searching, “Googling,” and asking TMoM readers and guest bloggers for their advice, perspective and guidance on some heavy parenting topics. But a little something happened last year that made me step back and say, “Whoa. I think we’re going to be alright. At least for now.”

The little something I’m referring to is peer pressure and my then-second-grade daughter. At the time, “peer pressure” wasn’t even in my mom vocabulary. The thought of researching expert advice on that topic never crossed my mind. Peer pressure and my seven-year-old daughter? No way – that’s not something I needed to worry about, right?

Wrong! I have since learned that the social pressures start early, especially among girls. I had thought she was years away from the mean girls stage, but she was closer than I realized. In Emily’s case, she was part of a clique of girls (four of them) who were best buds in and out of the classroom. They’re still friends today, and despite the peer pressure that existed among them, I adore these girls and still do (they’ve actually grown past it this year!).

But off and on, all last year, I would often notice Emily not acting like herself. Then halfway through the year, her teacher got hold of a note that Emily and two of the girls were passing back and forth to one another (yes, the note passing begins this early too!). In a nutshell, Friend #1 and Friend #2 were trying to coerce Emily into ignoring Friend #3. They said things like, “Friend #3 thinks she is awesome,” and that she laughs too much (I never knew such a quality was bad?).

To the teacher’s surprise (and to mine), Emily replied with comments like, “I don’t think this is a good idea,” and “Let’s write about something else,” as well as random questions like, “How many cartwheels can you do in a row?” Typical Emily, but I was so proud of her (as was her teacher)! At her young age she was displaying a level of maturity in that situation that her teacher said was not so typical. She made the decision not to be mean to her friend. And she did this knowing Friends #1 and #2 could easily ostracize her along with Friend #3.

We had never talked with Emily about such social pressures, and frankly I was stunned she made the decisions she made. I don’t think I would have done the same, in her shoes, at that age.

Turns out, I later learned that Friend #1 and Friend #2 (the instigators) had pressured Friend #3 to ignore Emily on several occasions, and Friend #3 would always follow suit. Through tears, Emily told me the three girls had never experienced being “pushed out” of their clique like she had been. She knew how awful it felt, so she made sure that Friend #3 never had to feel that same way.

Even writing this today makes my stomach turn in knots. I hate how this happened to my daughter. I hate how this happens to any child. Unfortunately for Emily, she learned the Golden Rule the hard way. But (cross my fingers) I hope a lesson like this will stick with her for a long, long time.

So when this happened, I got into my research mode and tried to find suggestions and advice for dealing with peer pressure in elementary school. What I found surprised me. Lots of the suggestions were things we, as a family, were already practicing without knowing we were “practicing” anything. And I’m sure the same applies to you and your family.

These suggestions include :

~ Get to know your child’s friends (and those they don’t consider friends). Ask them  who they like, who they don’t like, and why.
~ Invite their friends over as often as you can, and try and watch their interactions.
~ Get to know their friends’ parents
~ Demonstrate and reiterate values that are important within your family.
~ Create an atmosphere where your kids feel safe telling you anything and everything.
~ Respect your child’s decisions.
~Let your child stand up to you at home, and allow them to defend their choice.
~ Let your child fail and learn from that failure.
~ Teach them about consequences, and the opportunities, that go along with their decisions.
~ Role play different situations. I do this all the time with Barbies and Play mobile figures!
~ Never stop rewarding and praising your kids for their good decisions, actions and intentions.

See, I knew you were doing all these things too. We’re good parents and we’re raising our kids right – we just don’t know it yet!

Has peer pressure arrived in your home too? Has it been a challenge, or has it gone smoothly so far? Are there additional tips you can share for combating peer pressure? What are the most difficult ages to work through peer pressure? At what age can we start to see a light at the end of the tunnel?