Knowing what we stand for, choosing what we want for ourselves, and learning how to say “no” to peers and “yes” to ourselves is critical for following our inner voice when peers/friends pressure us to do something we don’t want to do.
One of the biggest concerns that parents have about raising kids today is negative peer pressure. In a 2003 survey of over 20,000 parents taken by Dr. Phil, parent’s top two goals were:
1. Raising children with self-confidence 2. Creating enough internal strength to resist temptations/peer pressure.
Parents of teens reported that their no.1 issue was “peer pressure” – what do they [their children] do when they are not with them.”
I’m sure you’ve seen the statistics showing that alcohol use, drug use, and sexual activity is occurring at a younger age than just a decade ago. Children are experimenting with and engaging in risky behaviour, sometimes as early as 13 years of age.
I see over 1200 kids (9yrs – 18 yrs) a year both on a one to one basis and within the school system and the number 1 issue ‘always’ is self-esteem, self-belief and self-confidence.
In this every changing, fast paced world run by social media and camera phones, the mistakes our kids make could follow them for the rest of their lives. This needs to be explained to them from a very early age. There is no such thing as delete on social media – teach them when they put something up on social media sites they have to be happy with ‘everyone’ seeing it. There is nothing private. Getting older siblings, cousins, older friends or a mentor tell stories about what happened them or their friends can make it more real. You may say the exact same thing but they are not you and in my experience this helps them to really take it seriously.
Peer pressure can also cause tremendous stress on our kids. Kids just want to fit in, be accepted, and to be liked by the other kids at school. Fear of being rejected, teased, laughed at, or losing friendships can cause a lot of anxiety and even depression. Academia is important but the feeling of ‘fitting in’ and ‘belonging’ should not be underestimated. This is essential for them to feel happy and confident.
So what can we do?
We can talk about peer pressure with our kids and prepare them for how to handle negative peer pressure.
There are three areas that must be covered.
To resist peer pressure, kids must
• know their values and what they want for themselves
• understand what peer pressure is and how to spot it
• learn how to say “no” when they are being pressured to do something they don’t want to do.
1. Know their values and decide what they want for themselves First, we can talk with our children about what their values are. What do they want for their lives and why is that important? What, as a family, is important to us and why? How different families may have different values. How do they feel about lying, cheating, stealing, dares, experimenting with drugs or alcohol, and engaging in sexual activity? Do they understand the consequences of these activities? Communication is key.
2. Understand what negative peer pressure is and how to spot it.
Second, talk with them about what peer pressure looks like, sounds like, and feels like so they recognise it when they see it. Sometimes situations “sneak up” on our kids and they are in a tough situation before they even realise it. Try to share your own experiences with them.
3. Learn how to say “no”
Third, teach them how to say “no” and practice it over and over and over again so it becomes a reflex for them.
“Thanks, but I don’t want to do that”
“No thanks, thats just not for me”
“I don’t like that but you go ahead if you want to”
“Just because I don’t want to …….., doesn’t mean we can’t be friends”
Let them know they can come to you if they feel under pressure or don’t know how to deal with a situation. Again, share some of your own experiences with them when you were their age – it helps to normalise things for them.
Look for teachable moments.
If you see examples of peer pressure on television, discuss the scenario with your children after the programme and talk to them about different ways to handle the situation. There are so many movies now that really help – ’13 going on 30’, is one I particularly like.”
Look for changes in their behaviour. This could indicate that they are facing a peer pressure situation.
Watch how they act around their friends. If you see anything that concerns you, discuss it with them afterwards. Sometimes just asking, “Are you happy with the choices you made today? might be enough to get them thinking.
Finally, help your kids start feeling more “grown up” in other ways. Kids often experiment with adult behaviour because they want to feel more grown up. Discuss with them what they think would make them feel more grown up and come up with a plan to make that happen (as long as they are being responsible and trustworthy).
Explain to them –
“When you say “no” to others, you say “yes” to yourself. What you want for you gets to be more important than what your friends want for you.”
“It takes courage to grow up and become who YOU really are.”
“Peer pressure is the pressure you put on yourself to fit in!”.