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I feel there is a conflict between these two aspects:

  • Kids talk about current trends, and they talk about what's on television right now. I'm guessing that if a child can't participate in this, he would feel left out and possibly made an outsider. (That applies to any age, even adults.)

  • I'm trying to keep TV and media consumption as low as reasonably possible. I'm not fanatic about this, but I think that a significant portion of what's on television is too dumb and need not be watched (random example).

I don't want to force my child to be an outsider by not being able to participate in such talk (e.g. by forbidding television entirely), but at the same time I don't want to give in and let kids watch lots of TV every day.

What are ways to help a child put up against this peer pressure, without being left out?

I'm asking this in the context of TV, but it could just as easily be in the context of fashion/clothing, sports, or any other topic. Feel free to broaden the context if it helps create a better answer.

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10 Answers 10

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Although peer pressure has amazing power in our lives, there are ways to minimize the effect it has on people. It is always important to tell you children what your values are. Explain to them that you value activities over watching TV, or that the non brand name shoes are just as good as the brand name. Also, empower your child to understand that individuality is good. Praise them for being an individual; sometimes this may mean praising them for doing something differently than you would have, as long as it is not harmful, focus on building them up as an individual.

Every year I see students obsessed with being just like "everyone" else. They often feel that is how to be valued in the society of their peers. Yet I also see (more and more often) students that know they are different and understand the value in being their own person.

I think there is actually minimal need to be exposed to television to have talking points with their peers. If your child comes to you and says "everyone else is watching __" and it is a show you find to be appropriate for your child, there is no harm allowing them to watch it from time to time. However, at the same time if the show, or item in question is something you have no desire for your child to watch/ have, explain to them that although it may be popular, it is not right for your family because... be sure to give them a reason. Providing your child with a clear explanation provides them with something to defend the fact that they have not participated in something others have. To that end, make sure you do not tell them that other kids are bad or wrong - keep it focused on Mom and Dad are responsible for making sure you are exposed to the types of things we want you to be exposed to and it is okay if what our family does is different from your friends.

Make sure they are having experiences that they can talk about when asked about their weekend and you would be surprised how quickly going on "adventures" or outtings become popular among their peers.

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Very, very good points here! –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Sep 18 '11 at 17:16
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Consider your premise for a moment; you are claiming that it is desirable for your children to seek social approval from people who engage in activity you consider mindless and bad. I would change your focus slightly. Teach children that it's okay to be left out of things and that they don't need another's approval to engage in or abstain from an activity.

Also try moving in different circles. If these people don't have common interests with your children, there is no reason to socialize with them. It's good to be cordial and kind to such people in a professional/educational context, but friends can be made elsewhere. Maybe your children could play sports, join an academic or music club, or pursue some other hobby with like-minded people.

If the problem is not being able to avoid the stuff at school, remember that school is a place to learn, not a social club. If your child's is more the latter, consider enrolling them in a school with more of an academic focus.

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I love that you point out the mismatch between social approval and what I deem desirable! +1 for that alone. As for the social circles, this is obviously a factor to consider, as far as the choice is ours; I don't get to pick their classmates in kindergarten or school. Well answered! –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Sep 15 '11 at 19:56
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Honestly, I'm not sure I agree that school is a place to learn, and not a social club. The social component can be a very important part of the school experience, and, depending on your location and situation, may be a primary source for meeting peers. Particularly in more rural areas where school districts cover a wider geographic area. –  Beofett Sep 16 '11 at 12:53
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@Beofett allow me to be clear. It's exposure to people, so it's good for learning how to interact. But as simply a random group of kids, it should rarely be a primary friend source. Even in a rural area, activity clubs can still flourish. If the social component of school is a significant part for someone, I would wager that person either was lucky to meet some exceptional people or isn't getting enough out of their education. As a caveat though, I'm very reclusive; quiet happily, my wife is my one friend and that aspect of my answer may not apply to all. –  William Grobman Sep 16 '11 at 22:55
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I think there's a significant difference between "friends" and "social peers". Being able to comfortably interact with people that you don't have much in common with is arguably one of the most important social skills to master. –  Beofett Sep 19 '11 at 12:57
    
@Beofett, I agree with you and that's what I addressed in my last post (and even my answer). One needs to be civil and get on well with social peers, but my social club comments relate to friends directly. –  William Grobman Sep 19 '11 at 13:00
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Kids talk about a lot of things, and they also play a lot of things, I don't expect my sons to follow every trend that there is but they can usually pick up enough to go along. Just because a child isn't extremely knowledgeable about a current pop trend doesn't mean he will be excluded. Let me point this out with two examples from our household:

  1. Bakugan is a popular toy/game with monsters converting from small balls, my son heard lots about it and played some of it with his best friend down the street. For months all I heard about was Bakugan this and that, my son was allowed to watch one or two episodes on TV - with me because I was curious as to what this was about. After a few months we bought a couple Bakugan toys for him for his birthday, they were about 50% off at Target (in my wife's price-range). He played with them for a few weeks...now we try to keep my youngest son from throwing them against the wall and breaking them.
  2. Beyblade! Now it's all about Beyblade, some other toy/game about tops. Again we watched a couple episodes, so I could see what it was all about. Again his best friend down the street had some, so we ended up buying one when he completed a large amount of summer homework - my prize for him for doing it early and doing it well. He and his friend do a few things with them but I think this craze is dying down.

I've learned a few things from this:

  • Trends come and go, sometimes the younger kids get them later and they don't last long. There are lots of tie-ins [just hit any toy store] but the foundation has already been laid down - you might get one or two toys but not a lot. When they do come it's for special occasions, if people buy them as presents but don't expect a lot - because I know interest will wane and it will be onto the next thing. Due to that I don't want lot's of stuff at home.
  • Kids do like to follow other kids, still my son at times prefers to play more with his friends stuff - I think because its considered more special since he only gets to play with it on occasion. Once we get a few toys the interest wanes and when they do play with the stuff it's not often or only when his friend starts playing.
  • Kids like lot's of things, one of my favorite toys with my son is the Hot Wheels race track, I like making some and he has gotten into it some. His friend LOVES to come over and play with it, I think this falls into the "he has toys I don't" scenario and there tends to be interest in it.
  • Trends, while popular do not last long, if your kids have other interests they can pick up enough on one to deal with it and follow along then take up a lead on something they are more familiar with. My son has a few friends who all have different interests, he has his own, and they all get together well.

I find that if you give your kids a wide exposure, but find things that they enjoy and do good at and focus on those they have something that they can talk about when talk about the "hottest trend" dies down. Kids can deal with the change and can pick up things quickly so if you also teach them that they don't need to follow everything and have other stuff to talk about then they can deal with the other kids. Having a good common interest is nice, since we have lots of Lego's and do some sports he has subjects he can talk about with others. My son already knows we won't follow every trend, so far it's worked out well and we are in a school system with lots of kids who follow lots of trends - although everyone's mileage will vary.

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Are you actually experiencing this problem? Since I don't have kids this age, I can't answer from experience. However, I feel that not having knowledge of current TV culture wouldn't be that big an issue, and here's why:

  • Adults deal with it
    You accurately pointed out that this issue applies to adults as well as to children. If you had friends who followed football, and you didn't, you would probably pick up enough about football to follow and enjoy the conversations. I believe kids can do the same.
  • Your children will do other things
    In the time they're not watching TV, your kids will be reading books, or playing sports or games. Chances are, there are also kids in their peer group who enjoy that game or play that sport. There should be plenty of things that aren't television that your child can talk to his friends about.
  • Being different is okay
    And it's never too early to let your child know that. If your children rebel against your TV restrictions, it's probably a good time to discuss why they want to watch more television. Is it because they like the program, or because their friends do?

I would suggest you set the TV rules to a short and reasonable time limit, and disregard the social aspect. You will probably have to have a discussion (or ten) with your kids explaining why they don't get to watch as much TV as their friends. But as you've pointed out, TV is junk, and you need to do what you think is best.

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point one: kids are not adults. It's unfair for adults to assume kids can deal with life the same way. point two: I agree. point three: an important thing to communicate but rarely will help a situation. Sadly, being different when growing up is a challenge for a lot of kids. Not that that should mean kids should conform...just that it's a challenge. –  DA01 Sep 13 '11 at 12:46
    
Being different is okay: Tell that to 11-year-old me. Kids are cruel and ruthless, and will readily prey on those who are "different." It's decidedly not okay to be the one who can't participate in such conversations - it's really hard. I'm looking for advice on how I could have handled this way back when, and to find out what I can teach my children. Yes, they'll do other things and be much more literate and what-not - becoming even more different. Can you provide some insight on how to teach a child that being different is okay, and how to deal with the peer pressure? –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Sep 14 '11 at 17:27
    
@Torben: looking at your question again, I didn't answer it very well. But it's a good question, so I hope the bounty brings more appropriate answers. –  Sarato Sep 14 '11 at 20:34
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I was not allowed to watch Soap Operas while I was growing up. As a result, there were lots of discussions in which I just could not take part.

Now, our household TV-free. We do not have cable. We do have internet.

I would suggest that if your child is thirsting for information on the latest TV programs, they can research reviews and spoilers online. Benefits:

  • takes less time, no need to watch the whole episode and no commercials
  • encourages reading
  • encourages researching skills
  • increased use of imagination because they have to interpret the visual descriptions for themselves
  • provides sufficient information to still take part should they want to go to the effort

This is a compromise. I hope it works for you.

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Why the down-vote? –  nGinius Sep 13 '11 at 22:54
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Peer pressure is empowered by the drive to belong and be accepted.

I suggest the regular use of family meetings to empower your children with a deep sense of belonging and acceptance in the family. By creating "formal" times for children to present their perspectives and be heard they feel valued.

In these meetings, children develop the understanding that they are important and their ideas and differences are valued. This builds self-esteem fortifying them against the need to "be like everyone else."

A family meeting also becomes a place for them to present their issues and help you see their struggles and concerns clearly. This will arm you with the information you need to make timely decisions regarding their need for support.

Developing a strong sense of self-worth in the home is the foundation children need to be independent thinkers and equips them with the tools they need to thrive in spite of "being different."

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It may be a little late for you, Torben, but I hope others may find it useful.

I was raised in a family that was different in many ways from the others, and was especially exposed to huge peer pressure, from both same-age friends but also from adults who criticized our way of life. But all my life, including childhood, I was happy with my parents' decisions, which I consider smart. (We did not have a TV, did not spend time with neighbors, did not went out in all the school trips, etc. Reasons were plenty, among them a really bad neighborhood)

Here are some of the things that our parents specifically focused on:

  • Build a very strong family identity

We knew we were special, and there were many nice things we did, and the others didn't. Sporting, camping, adventures, crafting, books, bed-time stories, and many others. We always had something to talk about, to be proud about

  • Give strong reasons on why we do/do not do things

When told to write a page-long story based on the latest TV show as homework (happened) we were proud to explain all the reasons why not spend your time in front of the TV. When a teacher without much regard for privacy, personal choice or child protection laws offered to help girls find a nice boyfriend (for explicit sexual matters), I stood up and told her that this is completely wrong and crazy. But...

  • Be sensible about other families' choices

You must not criticize what other families do, except when it's completely wrong (stealing, encouraging to violence, etc.) Make them understand that there are many ways to do things, "our family does this way, this is our choice, because we think it's right for us"

  • Offer another environment where children can befriend like-minded guys and girls.

It offers them the much-needed emotional comfort that they are not alone, not crazy, not handicapped. Then, they will have the opportunity to socialize and make friends in a safe place. For us it was a really great church. For you it may be a social club, a relative or colleague with same-age kids, a crafting club, or whatnot.

  • Keep them busy

No time to cry about all the missed cartoons. Give them tools, scissors and paper, books, bicycles.

  • Help them see the effects of your decisions

Help them realize, in measurable ways, that your decisions are good. Not all of them will be obvious, but usually a child that spends less than half-an-hour on TV will perform better in school than his all-TV mates. Without being critical or overly-proud, show them the fact and the result.

  • Make sure they see other adults share your opinion

If a respected teacher tells the entire class that some violent cartoons are really bad, or praises those who were able to read more books in the holiday, it gives your child an advantage in the fight for respect among his peers. I clearly remember the day when the math teacher told the class that the reason I am so good in math is that I do not have the "stupidity box" in my house.

  • Spend time with them

There is nothing like the father spending two hours fixing the car with his 10-years-old. Use the time to teach them practical skills, like cutting wood or using complex tools, but also make it an opportunity for them to share with you their troubles. It is much easier to talk when you two work together. It creates a sense of belonging that offers them stability in turbulent times.

  • "Less is more" is not true

It is much easier if your child is not alone. Two brothers is better, and three have so much more fun! It may sound funny or strange, it may be impractical, but generally speaking, a good investment in your child is another child.

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Hi @sammy, and welcome to the site! I think this is a great answer; +1! –  Beofett Dec 6 '12 at 16:24
    
This is a fabulous answer! +1 and welcome to the site. For Torben, I would only add to this, that if you say, "you may choose two shows to watch per week" (that if you have okayed as appropriate shows) The kids have a little wiggle room and practice with making decisions. It also gives them the ability to say, "mom and dad let me watch ___ shows per week and I chose ___ because I like it a little better." They can still participate in the conversation in a very adult way - many of their peers are likely to have similar limits too. –  balanced mama Dec 6 '12 at 19:33
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"What are ways to help a child put up against this peer pressure, without being left out?"

Here's the deal: that's merely a symptom. if all the kids are talkin about spongebob or frikkin pokemon, and your kid feels left out, it's truly not about spongebob or pokemon. . .

it's about your kids self-awareness and confidence to be who he is. so he doesn't watch tv. they're not bettern him because they have 7 tv's in their house. Give the kid what they need to be confident in themselves (i guess we're trying to do this anyway, huh?) and they simply won't care what other kids think about them.

My 10yo girl can't stand justin beeper. i mean actively HATES the guys voice. all the cool kids think he's dreamy, but she doesn't care. . . now the context relevance to the post? she doesn't have an ipod or even cd player. she doesn't listen to or follow music at all, but won't hesitate to say "who is that?" and not care.

As far as actually watching television? well, like anything else, you're the parent. you get to set the limits without fear of what the kid will think about you because they'll get over it. when my kids (6, 8, 10) want to watch any of the really bad cartoons that are popular these days, if i'm within earshot i say "turn that crap off." yeah i'm grumpy... i make them change it. but the key is i don't make them change it just for the sake of changing it... i make them watch something else that's not sucky. believe it or not, they like the Discovery Science shows... How it's Made, Factory Made, Build it Bigger, etc.

So when Phineas and Ferb comes on, and i say change it, they roll their eyes and usually change it to Discovery first.

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Join a cult? Maybe move to Antartica? Become Amish? I dunno. It's hard to escape pop-culture. My kids recognized logos before they recognized words.

TV is supposed to be dumb. That's what it's for...mindless entertainment. I think the key is moderation more so than dictating what they can't watch (age appropriateness aside, of course).

My suggestion: buy one Spongebob DVD and cancel cable. They can still be exposed to it to know what it is and talk with their peers...but won't be tempted/able to watch 4 hours of it every day.

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I'm reading your first three questions as sarcasm, but to other readers it could also come across rather rude. I don't think tv needs to be mindless. Whatever happened to Sesame Street, or the Muppet Show, or other less idiotic shows? But I agree that allowing it in moderation is a good way. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Sep 13 '11 at 6:06
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I was making a point that it's hard to escape pop-culture. If I offended any Scientologists, Antarctic scientists or the Amish, my apologies. –  DA01 Sep 13 '11 at 12:44
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I chuckled a bit. :) –  jlg Sep 15 '11 at 14:15
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  • Kids these days don't watch that much television because there are other things like video games and Internet to keep them occupied.
  • You say that you you want to limit the TV Viewing time not completely eliminate it. Give your kids an option to choose what they would like to watch and record the shows they are interested in if necessary. There are probably only one or two really hot shows which people are talking about.
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