by Stacey Schifferdecker
Positive peer pressure? How can peer pressure be positive? After all, it is peer pressure that often lures our children and teenagers into skipping classes, experimenting with drugs and alcohol, and becoming sexually active. True, but peer pressure can also encourage your kids to strive for better grades, try a new positive activity such as a sport or drama club, and say no to dangerous activities.
Positive versus negative peer pressure
You have probably used the power of positive peer pressure with your children many times in their lives without realizing it. I remember a lunch play date when my children were toddlers and one of them did not want to eat his banana. Positive peer pressure won the day: when I pointed out his friend enjoying a banana, my son began to chow down too.
Peer pressure is when your child or teen tries something because “everyone else is doing it.” The difference between positive and negative peer pressure is the situation and the outcome. Peer pressure is POSITIVE when it encourages kids to
- Develop healthy values and positive attitudes and habits
- Respect others
- Try new positive activities in a safe environment
- Work hard
Negative peer pressure, on the other hand, encourages kids to miss school, develop bad habits and attitudes, get into trouble, and bully or alienate other kids.
Using positive peer pressure
A key element of harnessing the power of positive peer pressure is to encourage your child to choose friends who are supportive and will be a positive influence. Talk to your children about what makes someone a good friend. Reinforce that a friend never tries to force you to do something you don’t want to do and stands up for you if someone else tries you to force you to do something.
It is also important that you don’t overuse positive peer pressure. It may be all right to encourage your child to, for example, try out for the tennis team because his friends are also trying out. But while peer pressure can be a positive force in your child’s life, one of your ultimate parenting goals should be for your children to develop independent thinking skills. While you want your children to have friends and be socially capable, you also want them to make decisions for themselves. Friends trying out for the tennis team should only be one reason your child should try out — other good reasons might be that he or she
- Enjoys playing tennis
- Has time for another extracurricular activity
- Wants to get more exercise
By teaching your children to be independent and to think decisions through on their own, you will equip them to deal with all kinds of peer pressure.
Stacey Schifferdecker is the happy but harried mother of three school-aged children—two boys and a girl. She is also a freelance writer, a Children’s Minister, a PTA volunteer, and a Scout leader. Stacey has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and French and a Master’s degree in English. She has written extensively about parenting and education as well as business, technology, travel, and hobbies.
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