During my 8 years as a high school teacher, I worked with thousands of amazing kids. But every once in awhile I would meet a student who seemed to defy the odds. These students knew who they were and where they were going, they had strong self-esteem and were well received among their peers. They held leadership positions in the school, and they had a genuine desire to make a positive difference in the community. And somehow, they weren’t influenced by peer pressure. According to the National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 74.3% of high school students have tried alcohol as a result of peer pressure. As a mom of small children, I would wonder to myself, how do parents raise strong children capable of saying “no”? Is it their parenting style, a solid home environment, or do they just have special kids?
Recently, I decided to try to figure out the answer by interviewing a few of these students. One girls response blew me away and I had to share it with you. Meet Bailey. Bailey spent her first three years of high school as class president and her senior year as ASB president. Even more remarkable, Bailey found a way to beat peer pressure. She is now a freshman in college. Take a moment to read about her experiences in high school and how she overcame the odds and beat peer pressure. Bailey offers sound advice to parents and teens who want to avoid the partying lifestyle, but just aren’t sure how.
The choices I made throughout high school have to do with one goal… to be able to fully love others. When people choose to party and participate in unhealthy fun it creates baggage, pain and embarrassment. Having to deal with all that makes it hard to care for anyone other than yourself. Freshman year, I made it clear that partying wasn’t something I was interested in and from that moment on, I made myself busy with dance and leadership. It was always an excuse I could use. I don’t believe in excuses but when it comes to peer pressure, have at it. The key to avoiding pressure is this: if you know what a situation will put you through and it makes you nervous, then don’t go. You aren’t going to miss anything significant. Ask a different friend to hang out and do something else that you find fun. Not partying also showed people my stability and they knew I would always be there for them. Just because you don’t like partying doesn’t mean you have to hate the people who do it. Some of my best friends in high school partied frequently but we still had awesome friendships. They respected my choice to not drink and I respected there’s. Once you make the choice and stick to it people will notice and not bother asking you anymore.
To the parents, the greatest thing you can do is let your kid use you as the bad guys. I can’t tell you how many times I used my mom as an excuse to not be able to go to things. She was my saving grace. It made it so much easier than coming up with some other reason. Because here’s the deal, no one smart enough is going to question a mother’s authority. Talk to your kids about drinking but be real about it. There are a lot of bad things about drinking but I think it all comes down to the responsibility of the drinker. Make that clear to them. The only thing you can do is make sure they know the pro’s and con’s.
I wish there was a magic phrase that would make kids wait but there isn’t. I knew how much my parents thought of me and there expectations of the person I am and I would never want to destroy that. Along with that I knew my parents trusted me with everything. It’s hard for parents not to question every move of their child, but if you do, get ready for rebellion. No kid wants to feel tied down. In high school you feel invincible, don’t take that away just guide that towards a more positive outlet.
Here’s my advice to students, despite all the crazy stories you hear and all the “fun” they are having. You are not missing out. I didn’t have one friend that didn’t come to me broken and confused because of something they did when they were impaired. THERE ARE SO MANY OTHER FUN THINGS TO DO. If you are sitting at home while others are getting drunk, don’t feel sorry for yourself. I guarantee there is someone doing exactly the same thing as you. Call them and go do something. Be proactive in who you want others to think of you as, how you want to impact people and what people say when you leave. Be genuine. Be real. Be kind. It’s the greatest thing you can do for others.