Peer Pressure And How To Deal With It
Children receive pressure from friends and peers as they make a decision. Clothing styles, music choices, and social behaviors are all influenced by feedback from peers. Parents and other adults can assist children in understanding peer pressure, how to respond to such pressures, and discuss such issues with children of different ages.
A 4-year-old preschooler may want to pick out her own socks. A 15-year-old teenager may beg to attend a late-night party at a friend’s house. In either case, a child is learning to make decisions and may be influenced by others. Making a decision on one’s own can be a challenge, but learning to do so is a key part of a child’s healthy development. As children grow, they learn to observe others and make choices about how to act in the real world. Also, they learn that other people may try to influence how you act and dealing with such pressures can be difficult.
Peer pressure generally is defined as a type of mental or social pressure or stress a person feels from peers, such as friends or classmates, who seek to influence you to think, look or act in a particular way.
Peer pressure may be negative, such as if others pressure a person to do something unhealthy, such as experimenting with drugs or vandalizing property. However, it also can be a positive influence; for example, a person’s friends might encourage her to study hard with them for a test in school.
The Search Institute lists developmental assets for young people, and among them are “positive peer influence” and also the child’s ability to “resist negative peer pressure and dangerous situations”.
How children perceive and respond to peer pressure is closely linked with how they develop, the choices they make, and their health and well-being. Some kids may give in to negative peer pressure due to a desire to be liked, fit in or try something new that others are doing. Other kids learn to manage pressure from peers and make their own decisions while giving thought to what others say or suggest. In either case, understanding children, peer pressure, and how to talk to children and teens about peer pressure is helpful.
Every child is faced with peer pressure at one point or another. Dealing with these situations can be awkward and uncomfortable. At times children can go along with what their friends suggest, simply because they can’t find a way out rather than happily conforming to their friend's demands. The following tips can help a child get themselves out of such sticky situations should they arise:
Listen to your gut:
If you feel uncomfortable, even if your friends seem okay, it means that something about the situation is wrong for you.
If you think you may be offered alcohol or drugs, think ahead about how you will handle it. Decide &even rehearse what you will say & do. Learn a few tricks (ex: if you hold a drink like water or soda, you are less likely to be offered alcohol).
Arrange a “bail-out” phrase you can use with your parents.
Call home when you’re feeling pressured & say, “Can you come & get me? I’m feeling sick.” Or use another phrase your friends won’t notice.
Blame your parents:
“Are you kidding? If my mom found out, she’d kill me.” If a situation seems dangerous, don’t hesitate to get an adult’s help.
Hang out with people who feel the same way you do. Choose friends who will stand up for you & do the same for your friends. If a voice tells you a situation is not right, chances are you’re right. Having one person stand with you makes it easier for both people to resist.
The power of numbers:
Make a pact with your friends to stick to your guns. Often, knowing that your friends will back you up can help you feel more comfortable being assertive. Sometimes “we” feels stronger than “I”.
Give a reason why it’s a bad idea:
Maybe you don’t want to drink because you know drinking has messed up someone else’s life. Backing up your refusal with a reason gives it more power.
Just say no, plainly & firmly:
In some situations, just saying no without a lot of arguing or explaining is the best response. Just make sure your “no” is strong & determined. Thanks, but no thanks. Be polite. It’s just not something that you’re into.
Make a joke:
Sometimes humor is the best way to respond. It can lighten a serious mood. It can also move attention away from you & onto something else.
Make an excuse why you can’t:
Maybe you have something else to do, or you have to be somewhere at a specific time, or something else that will interfere. Whatever it is, say it & stick to it.
Suggest an alternative activity:
Lots of kids wind up doing stuff they shouldn’t because they lack other options. They’re bored. By thinking of something better to do, you’re offering everyone an “out”. You just might be surprised who might take you upon it.
Repeat yourself if necessary:
Sometimes it takes more than once, on more than one occasion. Just because someone asks more than once, that doesn’t mean you have to give in.
Ignore the suggestion:
Pretend you didn’t hear it & change the topic to something else. Act like you don’t think the idea was even worth talking about.
Leave the situation:
If you don’t like where things are headed, you can take off. It might seem risky, but with you leading the way, other kids who really don’t want to do it either may follow you.