By Dennis Lawson
Published on Dec 15th, 2012

I had a recent discussion with a teenager (always a challenge!). This young man had started training with me at the age of five. As we discussed college choices, SAT scores, and his interest in musical theater and Quantum Mechanics, I suddenly remembered the article below. I originally published this article in 1993 and again on my website in 2007. Although the events prompting the article occurred many years ago, I believe the commentary still has merit. As always, I welcome thoughtful comments from our readers.

On Peers

The word PEER as a verb means --- to look intently or curiously, to come into view, to pry or peep. Reading this definition reminded me of where and when I had first learned about Peer Groups. At 15, I had read "Childhood and Society" by Erik H. Erikson. This noted psychotherapist and student of Anna Freud had written a seminal work on the process of human development. When writing about puberty and adolescence Erikson commented, "The growing and developing youths faced with this physiological revolution (puberty) within them, and with tangible adult tasks ahead of them, are primarily concerned with what they appear to be in the eyes of others compared with what they feel they are. So, adolescents live with a feeling of being "peered at".

This sensation relates directly to another meaning of the word --- peer. Peer means one of equal standing with another, an equal, a match, a companion. Erikson's interpretation was, "The danger at this stage (adolescence) is role confusion. To keep themselves together (as personalities) adolescents temporarily over identify, to the point of complete loss of identity, with the heroes of cliques and crowds." The word peer may also refer to nobility, relating to the peerage, the five degrees of British nobility --- dukes, marquis etc. How many examples have we seen of teenagers creating their own "nobility"? Styles in hair, music or dancing all must be in accord with what the peer leaders say is – in, cool, da bomb, the ubiquitous AWESOME, whatever the current fashionable term. These stylistic differences represent a way for the adolescent to stake out her/his identity as a --- young adult in transition --- an accepted member of --- the group.

The adolescent invariably feels "onstage". These differences might be makeup, dialogue, or costuming; or at their worst, symbols of antisocial or even criminal behavior where costuming becomes gang "colors". Whether you're an adult instructor, like me, or a teenager, as student's of Mr. Parker's Kenpo we've learned to tailor our attitude and constantly evaluate our environment.

If you are a parent, adult student, or instructor, create an attitude of acceptance and toleration regarding your "peers" who are adolescents. Remember it is this state of being "in-between and on-stage" that makes these young people so inclined to resist your wise guidance. Many of us know "adults" who never grow out of this resistive stage of emotional development.

If you are an ---adult in transition: keep in mind that your peer group is just one part of your environment. Other young adults can be a help or a hindrance to your development. If their environment is challenging and fun, that's great! But, if your peers pressure you in a direction you're not comfortable with, then your definition of peer might be PEERS (Persons Exhibiting Erroneous Rituals & Styles).

Filed under Philosophy and Opinion

Author Bio :: Dennis Lawson

Dennis Lawson has trained for 4 decades in Ed Parker's Kenpo. During his varied career, Mr. Lawson has been an IKKA Regional Director for Region #3, has acted as Master of Ceremonies for the International Karate Championships, and has published numerous articles in publications for the International Kenpo Karate Association, The Martial Arts Learning Community (TheMALC), and Kenpo 2000.

Mr. Lawson has had the opportunity to study other Martial Arts and holds advanced rank in Aikido and Takemusu Aiki Budo. Dennis taught, competed in, and promoted events in the New Orleans area for 20 years. Among his list of favorite achievements is choreographing and performing Kenpo for the Dance Council of New Orleans. His academic background in psychology and love of music allow Dennis to offer a unique and entertaining approach to tailoring "the Art" to the individual. Dennis has taught seminars in Ireland, Jersey Channel Islands, The Netherlands, Portugal, and throughout the United States.

Dennis holds a Sixth Degree Black Belt in Ed Parker's Kenpo and was awarded the title “Professor” under the auspices of The Martial Arts Learning Community (TheMALC). Mr. Lawson was inducted into the International Black Belt Hall of Fame as Master Instructor of the Year for 2006.

Other Articles by Dennis Lawson

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