The Recurring Pattern
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- Teen Perspectives on Peer Pressure
When I was in kindergarten my next-door neighbor told me that I could be in her secret club if I ate a dog biscuit. After I ate the dog biscuit it turned out there was no secret club. I have since found that all of my peer pressure experiences pretty much follow the doggy treat pattern: Friend provides incentive for stupid act, I agree to stupid act, I enjoy it, I regret it. Just for clarification, I did enjoy the dog biscuit; it was not too different from a cookie, only meat flavored.
I'm far from a kindergartener, but the same sequence of events has happened throughout my life, just with different instigators. I find the striking similarity between kindergarten and contemporary peer pressure to be noteworthy. The pattern suggests that peer pressure is not a learned behavior, but an inherent one. In other words, we're born with it.
Nowadays people hold out a bottle of beer, and they don’t tell me I can be in their crowd, but the act itself seems to imply such fantasies. The incentive is unspoken, but its there. As I'm sipping the beer, avoiding eye contact, I enjoy it. I like letting go, and freeing up, and acting a person who is not myself. But I regret it the next day, because, like the dog biscuit, I understand that what I did was gross.
Although I rarely give in to peer pressure, I can fall for the pattern just like anyone else, because when I do give in, I've followed the same four step pattern: I hear the incentive, I do it, I enjoy it, and I regret it. I go through the motions without adding a unique flare, following the script that has been laid out for me, as though I’m being herded down a winding corridor, and I just keep putting one foot in front of the other. No matter how many lessons I get, I can't help but repeat my mistakes.
Like all things that are so completely human, peer pressure is addictive. The inclination to pressure and to submit to pressure is a natural human phenomenon. This is not a new trend that kids these days are learning. Even you parents must remember peer pressure experiences from both your childhood and adulthood.
So, should I be angry with my friends for pressuring me? Probably not. Like most everyone, parents included, I’ve handed out a few dog biscuits in my time. Should you feel like a bad parent if you find out your child has submitted to, or taken part in, peer pressure? In most cases, the answer is no: it's just life.