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Peer Approval Addiction is Real

Posted by on in Teens and Tweens
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So what the heck is peer approval addiction? If you work with tweens and teens you need to know about this. Don't bother looking it up in anything official, though, because I made up the term myself after 18 years of answering email questions from middle and high school students. These messages come to me daily from kids who've gotten themselves into hot water and are trying to figure out, "How did I get here and what can I do now?!" These young people don't seem to be aware of the mysterious force (peer approval addiction) that drives them to do whatever it takes to fit in with The Group. What they're often willing to do is  stuff they're not particularly proud of. So they are left with guilt and shame.

Peer approval addiction also makes them resistant to standing up and acting as an individual, especially if they perceive a social risk in doing that. That can leave a heavy residue of regret. None of this is helpful for character development. Yet every day, when tweens and teens find themselves in a push-pull situation, where the group is going in one direction and their gut feeling tells them, "This isn't right for me," they are more likely than not to go along with the group. We tell them to "Stand up for yourself!" "Think for yourself!" Great advice, but way easier said than done.

The best way to help students through this phase when their peers' approval is so intensely important to them, is to have compassion. It's not easy being them. In fact, it's never been easy being a teen. (You remember middle school?) But now, in the Digital Age, when our kids are plugged into their peer group 24/7, it's harder than ever because they never catch a break from the social drama or the pressure. Show them that you get it. Make it clear that you understand their priorities and their struggles, and that you've got empathy for them. Do that and they are much more likely to open up to you. They're also likely to listen to your wise counsel and add your voice of reason into the mix. Of course this doesn't guarantee that they will do exactly what you'd like them to do when they're on their own and the pressure's on. But they will hear your voice inside their head. That's going to give them a foundation of positive core values. And that's exactly what's going to help them fight peer approval addiction.

P.S. I hope this helps you deal with your own peer approval addiction, because the truth is, we are all susceptible to it. I typical change my close three or four times before I leave for a speaking gig! LOL

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Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting coach focusing on helping parents raise emotionally intelligent, kind and confident kids, especially during the tween/teen years. Her award-winning books and apps include: Teaching Kids to Be Good People, The Girls Q&A Book on Friendship, and the Middle School Confidential series.

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Guest Wednesday, 07 December 2016