People of all ages are going to fall to peer pressure, both the good and the bad kind. Yes, there is a good kind of peer pressure, which will enable a person to achieve something better for themselves and possibly for a group. Then there is the bad kind of peer pressure which usually involves getting into some kind of mischief or doing something which one will eventually regret. There are plenty of definitions out there, so I am not going to try and explain all of the types and ways peer pressure exists.
The problem with defining peer pressure, especially the type – including age factors, and explaining it to someone else, so they can hopefully identify it when it happens is that we usually relate it to ourselves and how we respond to such pressure. Just as a quick example, when I read the comments and emails to the Miley Cyrus post about her comment about ‘ADHD’ and ‘Crazy Medication’ most considered how they viewed the comments to themselves and basically blew them off, because, really, to the educated and well-informed person her comments were meaningless and for the most part should be blown off.
The thing is that people who read my blog are not really going to take Miley’s comments seriously, I know that. However, Miley’s fan base is made up mostly of young teens and preteens. What happens when they go to school and jokingly antagonize their classmate who is taking those ‘crazy meds’? You know the child in question with low self-esteem, who is already feeling out of place. Yeah, that young impressionable child. I was that child once and I haven’t forgotten, that’s why I offered to send her my book One Boy’s Struggle: A Memoir — Surviving Life with Undiagnosed ADD!
So, how seriously do I take Miley’s comment today, as an adult with ADHD? I am listening to one of her albums right now and I still like Miley and her music just as much! For me, her comment was just an immature generalization about ADHD and ADD of which she apparently knows next to nothing, and from what I can tell, she didn’t mean anything by it – for me, that is! The pop idol’s comments are ridiculous, yes, but even more so they are rather irresponsible considering the millions of young people who look up to her. If Jay Leno had made those comments, no one would have blinked and it certainly would not have made headlines. Leno has a different audience. Most adults usually know who they are and what medications work for them or don’t. Preteens and teens are still impressionable and are still figuring out who they are, especially those with ADHD. Unfortunately many of them want to model themselves after their favorite actors and pop stars. Miley doesn’t have to be an angel or perfect, but she should be responsible in her comments when it relates to mental health issues.
In order to help someone recognize and avoid certain types of peer pressure parents and educators should encourage them to know themselves and to feel confident in their values. We should reinforce those good decisions that our children make at home, when they are young and eventually when they are faced with peer pressure they are better able to make good choices for themselves. Positive feedback about a child’s good decisions will help build their self-esteem and make them less susceptible to the peer pressure that they face at school, with their friends after school, and what they read and hear from their favorite pop idols. For children with ADHD fostering a healthy self-esteem at home and by educators at school will also help a child struggling with the day to day effects of ADHD. Peer pressure only works when one allows it to work on them. We must help our children build a force field of emotional strength by letting them know that they are smart, capable of achieving greatness, and are worth taking care of themselves.
I am not an expert on peer pressure by far! I have fallen for it myself from time to time and who knows, I may fall for it again, but I like to think I won’t. With that in mind, I think the best way to help anyone avoid negative and/or destructive peer pressure is to find ways to help them lift their self-esteem and their own self-worth. I think most people fall for peer pressure when they don’t have positive encouragement for their personal beliefs, wants, needs and desires. If someone is always being criticized and punished, or told they are wrong and dumb, stupid or crazy then they may look to others for support, even if it is the gang down the street who will take them in with open arms and let them know how ‘valuable’ they are. I think this is extremely important to take into account if a child or teen has ADD, ADHD or a LD.
The unfortunate truth is that most people with or without ADHD are susceptible to peer pressure at school or even at work for us adults. When we are insecure we go along with the negative and destructive suggestions of those around us, and conversely when we are secure in who we are, we do not even notice the negative suggestions of others, or if we do, we may inform them it is unwanted. Peer pressure is only as powerful as we let it be. How we react to the so called pressure of others is the key. If we know who we are, respect ourselves and know what our values are then the pressure is off. We can laugh off the negative suggestions and continue to be just who we are with all the confidence and greatness that is within us with ADHD or not.
Young children are typically struggling with who they are and are unsure of their identity, when ADHD is a factor this issue is compounded and the ramifications can be dramatic, profound and lasting. Even more so kids with ADHD want to feel like they belong, they don’t want to feel alone and different, much less take some crazy medication because they can’t think and act as well as their peers. For an adult this may all seem a superficial example, but for a 10 yr old, that’s a very real situation to deal with. If it’s crazy medication that they are taking then maybe they will feel or believe they are considered crazy too and possibly stop taking it. It’s already difficult enough for most parents to explain to their child why they must take medication daily, or in many cases, more often.
In a comment to the Miley Cyrus post a commenter made a very important point that there is a problem when reading other’s comments because it is impossible to know their true connotation without actually hearing them. That is so true. The problem is, with such interviews most people won’t ‘hear’ them anyway, they will either read them, or in the case of children they will probably just hear aboutthem. That’s why it is that much more important for celebrities like Miley to think first. Most of us ADDers have an issue with thinking first, our words tend to come out and then we look around to see if anyone heard us. Miley’s issue kind of reminds me of that.
If anyone has watched an interview with Miley you know then that she is actually quite intelligent and far ahead of her years, she is truly gifted. Miley also goes out of her way to encourage and lift others with her songs and in person. So, again, my take is that she did not mean her words the way they ‘read’; however, she also clearly showed a lack of understanding about the condition she discussed and did not consider members of her audience who may be struggling with ADHD. If she does have ADHD or ADD, it still is no surprise at how well she has done considering her natural talents with music and acting and moreover she has a strong support group and a caring father who has always been there to support her each and every step of the way, he was even there during the taping of American Idol this past week where she was a mentor to the contestants! By taking these things into account she may not have a true understanding of peer pressure and why her recent words have made the papers, because she hasn’t herself lived in the public systems and clicks, or lacked emotional and mental support.
We can all learn a little something with regard to the support Miley has received, but to most of us it isn’t even close to realistic. How many parents have a job when their child is always right there, nearby, or the funds etc…? There is so much to consider here. There are extremely major differences to consider when a person is raised with substantial funds, private schools and the support all the above provides, with or without ADHD.
All in all, despite all efforts, sometimes we will, or our children will, fall to peer pressure anyway. However, if we have a good idea of what it is and how to spot it, I think that decreases our chances, and our children’s chances, of going too far down the wrong path.
What’s your take on this?
What has helped you help others with peer pressure? Or has someone helped you avoid peer pressure?