On the last track, we discussed six components of relational aggression. These six components are, looks, the gay issue, conceit, exclusion, rumors, and the label ‘slut’.
On this track, we will discuss the five steps in the compromise on conformity technique for parents of excluded adolescents. These five steps are, paying attention to the adolescent’s style, undergarments, facial or body hair, hygiene, and compromising on media.
Joseph, father of Matthew, age 13, stated, "Matty has no friends. He’s always so lonely, and recently a teacher told me that some kids have been calling him a ‘fag’. There just never seems to be an end to the teasing! Isn’t there anything I can do to help Matty fit in?"
I explained to Joseph that many parents are concerned about conformity in their adolescents, and rightfully so. As you have observed, many parents fear that a tendency to give into to group standards and wishes will lead students into risky behavior. However, I have found that if parents can help teach an adolescent how and when conforming is an important social skill, the adolescent may find more peer acceptance while building self confidence.
5-Step Technique: Compromise on Conformity
I introduced Joseph to the Compromise on Conformity technique. I suggested to Joseph that he keep a diary for the next week, in which he could observe certain aspects of Matthew’s behavior and choices.
Step # 1 - Observe Fashion Choices
The first step in the Compromise on Conformity technique is observing fashion choices. I stated to Joseph, "Look at what Matthew’s choices and style are compared to other students in the school. You might check some teen magazines or clothing catalogues as well. Is Matthew more towards the norm, or away from it? I certainly do not advise you to spend a fortune, or buy Matthew clothes you do not approve of, but you might work with Matthew to find some choices that everyone can live with. Sometimes, something as simple as a new pair of sneakers or a new haircut can upgrade how peers evaluate each other."
One issue of style I have found addressed more recently is piercing. I certainly do not advocate that parents endorse the "everyone is doing it" rage and allow, for example, their 12 year old daughter to get a navel piercing. However, with some students, it may be important for parents to keep in mind that an earring is an exciting adventure that can help a student fit in… and is a safer expression of ‘rebellion’ than experimenting with drugs and alcohol.
Discussing the jewelry and body modification issue can be an excellent opportunity for parents to help students develop common sense. If an adolescent really wants a tongue ring to ‘fit in’, a parent might explain the negative, and painful, results of a tongue piercing, and guide the adolescent to a more positive, less permanent choice, such as a new necklace or watch, that will serve the same purpose of ‘fitting in’.
Step # 2 - Pay Attention to Undergarments
The second step is to pay attention to undergarments. This is especially important for girls. I encourage parents to help their daughter fit in by purchasing a training bra when her peers begin wearing training bras, even if she does not technically need the bra. Both boys and girls see each other’s undergarments when changing for gym, so helping students select appropriate underwear can be extremely important.
Step # 3 - Facial or Body Hair
In addition to observing the adolescent’s style and undergarments, the third step in the Compromise on Conformity technique concerns facial or body hair. Have you observed a parent who adamantly insists their teenage son is two young to shave, while the son’s peers have labeled him ‘Chewbacca’? I encourage parents to recognize that there is no right age for a boy or girl to begin removing unwanted hair.
I stated to Joseph, "Try to pay close attention to where and when Matthew is growing hair. How does it look? If Matthew announces he wants to shave, even if you can’t see a problem, it is probably because he has observed a peer doing it, or at least bragging about it, or he has been teased because of his facial hair. If this is the case, you may want to consider helping Matthew begin shaving, even if you do not feel it is necessary."
Step # 4 - Hygiene
A fourth step in the compromise on conformity technique concerns hygiene. I asked Joseph, "What is Matthew’s morning routine? Does he put on clean clothes in the morning, or roll out of bed in what he has slept in? Does he change his socks? Does his morning routine include brushing, flossing, and deodorant? Does Matthew’s hair look clean every day? Is he having trouble with acne?" As you know, adolescents who have hygiene problems are usually unaware that their hygiene lapses are what is making them the target of clique aggression.
Joseph stated, "It’s true that sometimes, Matty stinks when he leaves for school. But when he’s done with his homework at night, sometimes he’s too tired to shower. And then in the morning there’s not enough time! He needs enough rest, and I don’t want to turn making him shower into a power struggle!" I suggested to Joseph that he work with Matthew to help him devise a shower schedule that works.
Perhaps Matthew would have an easier time showering right before or after dinner than right before bed. I also explained to Joseph that by working with Matthew on hygiene, he would not only help Matthew make a better impression on his peers, but help Matthew learn excellent habits that will help him take care of his body throughout life.
Step # 5 - Compromising on Media
The fifth step in the Compromising on Conformity technique is compromising on media. I stated to Joseph, "It’s normal to be concerned about the current trends in the media that Matthew’s peers are into. However, if Matthew is blocked from the media entertainment and rituals experienced by his peers, he will wind up out of the loop and excluded. Certainly not every video game, popular movie, or entertainer is right for Matthew or your home.
However, it might be advisable to be flexible about at least a few of the most popular entertainment choices so that Matthew automatically has some common ground to discuss with his peers. You might use this as a learning opportunity. Allow Matthew to make several suggestions of popular entertainment in which he wants to participate. Choose one. You might preview the video game, movie, or album, then stay with Matthew when he first plays or watches. Take the opportunity to share your values and opinions, and ask for his.
You might prepare a list of questions or topics you wish to discuss with Matthew concerning violence, sexuality, or the importance of discerning fantasy behavior from what is appropriate in his daily life." As I explained to Joseph, his role as a parent is to help Matthew choose and process media. The operative word, as you know, is compromise.
Think of a parent you are currently seeing regarding relational aggression and their adolescent student. Would the Compromise on Conformity technique help him or her help the student make more appropriate choices, while helping the student maintain a healthy sense of self?
On this track, we have discussed the five steps in the compromise on conformity technique for parents of excluded adolescents. These five steps are, paying attention to the adolescent’s style, undergarments, facial or body hair, hygiene, and compromising on media.
On the next track we will discuss helping clients understand four aspects of the ‘clique chick’. These four aspects are, what makes the clique chick tick, the clique squeeze, rapid responses, and the bottom line.
What are the five steps in the Compromise on Conformity technique? To select and enter your answer go to .