The Wrong Crowd: What Parents Fear Most

jersey shore cast

The seriously wrong crowd from 'Jersey Shore'

A national online survey of parents was recently conducted to find out what was on the minds of American parents regarding parenting and their children’s future. The survey found that 79 percent of respondents were most afraid that the wrong crowd would influence their children. Sixty-three percent of respondents were concerned that their children will start using drugs and alcohol.

I asked Dr. Richard and Jane Horowitz, co-founders of Growing Great Relationships where the survey was conducted, to discuss how friends can influence a child's behavior and what parents can do to help influence their kids to choose good friends and to help them resist peer pressure. 


Here's what Dr. Richard and Jane Horowitz had to say: 

When asked, “What are the three biggest concerns or fears you have about your children’s future?” 79% of the parents reported, “They will be influenced by the wrong crowd” and 63% reported, “They’ll use drugs/alcohol.” These two responses were by far the highest and are certainly related since substance abuse is most commonly initiated in the context of peer pressure.

It would be great if one could dismiss these fears as unfounded but, unfortunately, research on the influence of peers has shown that a child’s friends have about as much influence on their behavior as their parents. Therefore, the question for parents is, “What can I do as a parent to monitor and influence my child’s selection of friends?” To answer, we need to keep in mind that there is fine line between watchfulness and interference.

We all know the “forbidden fruit” phenomenon. The more we try to suppress an activity or discount a friendship, the more attractive it becomes -- especially for teenagers. This poses a dilemma for parents when they suspect that a particular friend or group is having a negative influence on their child’s behavior. However, there are some steps parents can take, and the earlier you begin, the better chance you will have to have an impact on your child’s choice of friends.

3 Step Parents Can Take to Help Influence Your Child's Choice of Friends

  • Open up your home as the meeting or hangout place for your child’s friends. This will give you an opportunity to meet your child’s peers and get a handle on their character. 
  • When you drop your child off at a friend’s house, make the effort to get out of the car and walk your child to the door. This has a two-fold benefit. You will be able to see firsthand that an adult is home to chaperone, and when you meet the parents, you can have a friendly conversation to get a sense of what kind of people they are.
  • Additionally, before a problem arises, it's important to have open discussions with your children about how they can resist peer pressure when they know that going along with their friends is a bad choice. Rehearse with them strategies that they can use if the situation arises. When we mentally prepare for an event, it's more likely that we can adhere to our plan rather than having to make a decision spontaneously.

As a parent, what are your biggest fears regarding your kids? And what tips do you have for guiding your child's choice in friends?


Image via MTV


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