WORDS WAI HOONG
BOARDING SCHOOL WAS A HOTBED OF PEER PRESSURE
When I was 13, I left home for a boarding school. It became my ‘new home’ 85 days a year.
Like most boarding schools, there were a few seniors as well as juniors that would smuggle in cigarettes as well as drugs such as weed. These would be indulged in the washroom, after dinner. The housekeeper was fond of his own drinks and cigarettes—his office smelled of cigarettes all the time—so most of us assumed that he wouldn’t detect the smell of weed in the washroom!
These rebels were seen as the ‘cool kids’, and if one wanted to be a part of the cool clique, one needed to jump through hoops and conform to the clique’s often arbitrary rules and requirements.
Then, there was the ‘fun’ time, such as the birthday of someone that most people disliked. A group would surround this person and contribute a hammer fist—you put your hands together in a fist and swing at the person like you’re swinging an axe.
Likewise, a senior had the ‘privilege’ of setting up a junior to get into trouble, and the rest would pile on that poor junior.
No one wants to be the target of such bullying, so most would try to get on the good side of the ringleaders. This means playing by the rules set up by the ringleaders.
Then there were the richer students that would show up in branded clothes. New shoes every semester. They became the trendsetters and leaders of their own cool cliques, and everyone else either tried to match them or be looked down upon as inferiors.
Peer pressure was everywhere during my school days. To be popular, to fit in, and to belong; being an outsider could subject one to serious bullying and experience the negative psychological effects caused by such bullying.
SO, WHAT ABOUT ME?
I wasn’t cool enough to join any of the groups—too poor for the rich kids, too smart for the jocks, too much of a jock for the nerds, and too dorky for the cool crowd.
I was always the odd one out, along with a close friend whom I’m still in touch with today.
However, I avoided getting into much trouble by following house rules to the dot. This came with its own perks: I was chosen as house disciplinarian during my senior year, and this gave me certain house benefits that kept away those that wanted to harass me.
I also happened to stumble into the school gym. The equipment was rusty and the whole place wasn’t in the best of shape, but it became my sanctuary and safe space I started working out, and from there I discovered a whole new world of fitness options to enjoy. I started lifting weights, taking part in sports, and more.
Let’s just say that not many kids wanted to pick on the student that knew martial arts, could outrun them, and looked tougher than most of them!
HERE’S WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT DEALING WITH PRESSURE, AND HOW I WILL HELP SUPPORT MY DAUGHTER AS SHE GROWS UP & EXPERIENCE IT TOO
Always be present for your children
This is much easier nowadays with social media, WhatsApp, FaceTime, and more.
When you have built a close rapport with your child, they will feel more confidence to confide in you on issues such as bullying, loneliness, relationship issues, and more. Having your support will allow them to better deal with these issues.
Also, when you are aware of your child’s mental issues, you are in a good place to encourage them to seek the help of a counsellor or other mental health professionals should the need arise.
Encourage your child to participate in sports and other social activities
These activities help to build confidence, improve their relationships with other people, promote team spirit, and develop other skills that can’t be learned from just schoolbooks.
Such activities will also allow your child to identify their passions and talents.
Spend time to do things with your kid
I know, some parents may find it awkward to do things with their kids, but taking time to do this helps to strengthen your bond with your kid and build a close relationship that is based on trust and love.
This kind of bond will build your child’s confidence, as they have the assurance that their parents will always be there to support and love them even through their most trying times.
Furthermore, such a bond can last for a lifetime and keep your family together through thick and thin in the coming years.
Let your kid have fun
They may not always meet your expectations. Sometimes, they stumble and fail.
Whether your kid does well or not, their experiences with success as well as failures will contribute to their learning experience and character development.
Hence, don’t discourage your kid when they fail. We all have to learn to lose before we learn to win!
Teach your kid to be themselves
Teach them to cherish values, character and effort, not material objects.
After all, no one would remember the shoes you wore in high school. Instead, people will remember your character and efforts.