We usually think of peer pressure as being a problem for teenagers, but peer pressure is a fact of life for all of us. Taking steps now to teach your children to deal with peer pressure, can give them the skills they will need as teenagers (and adults!) to withstand peer pressure.
by Stacey Schifferdecker
We usually think of peer pressure as being a problem for teenagers, but peer pressure is a fact of life for all of us, no matter what our age. At a recent school book fair, I overheard one child urge another to “Just put it in your bag” about the .45 cent eraser the first child did not have money to buy. Probably, neither child really thought that taking the eraser would be stealing, and they just needed to be gently reminded that taking something that doesn’t belong to us is wrong. But by taking steps now to teach your children to deal with peer pressure, you can give them the skills they will need as teenagers (and adults!) to withstand peer pressure.
What is peer pressure?
We human beings have an innate need to fit in and feel like we belong – that we are a valued and important part of a group. We need our peers, and we want to fit in. Peers are important, but they can have either a negative or a positive effect on our lives. On the positive side, peers can encourage us to try new things and give us a safe place to express our thoughts and try out new ideas. However, peers can also make us feel left out and lead us to make foolish choices we wouldn’t otherwise make.
Equipping your child to resist peer pressure
You can help your child withstand peer pressure, no matter what his or her age! Your child needs to
Develop independent thinking skills. It is OK for your children to listen to peers and consider their ideas and suggestions. However, remind your children that they are ultimately responsible for their own actions. Don’t accept “But he told me to do it” or “It was her idea” as valid excuses for bad decisions. Expect your children to think for themselves. Encourage them to make decisions, helping them to think through all sides of a situation.
Feel confident and accepted. If your children are confident and feel accepted in your home and family, they will have less need to “do anything and everything” to be accepted by a peer group. They will know they can walk away from a bad situation and go someplace else where they are loved and honored. To help your children develop this confidence, encourage them, love them, and applaud them.
Give your kids information. All parents have to say no sometimes – it’s part of our job description. However, we can explain to our children why we are saying no. No, you can’t watch that movie because it has bad language. No, you can’t drink a Dr. Pepper with dinner because it’s not healthy and the caffeine will keep you awake tonight. No, you can’t play outside right now because you need to pick up your toys.
Explaining why you are saying no does not take away your parental authority. In fact, it sets a good example for your children because it shows that you put thought into your decisions. Of course, some children will try to turn your explanation into an argument with the inevitable “But…” If they are being reasonable and rational, you can discuss your decision and maybe even change your mind (you’ve just taught compromise and negotiation skills!). But if they are being whiny and argumentative, refuse to be drawn in.
Talk about what other people do. No, I’m not suggesting you initiate a gossip-fest with your preschooler. But as you watch television and read books together, talk about what the characters think and do and how they make their decisions. If you see a character responding to peer pressure, ask your child why that character made that choice and what he or she could have done instead.
Encourage positive friendships. At this age, you still have some control over who your child plays with. Talk with your child about how to be a good friend and how to choose good friends. Encourage friendships with other children who seem to have a positive influence on your child, and encourage your child to be a positive influence toward others.
As your children grow up, they will be more influenced by their peers. Start equipping them now so they cab comfortable with their peers but also able to withstand 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.