Parenting Solutions: Peer Pressure (page 3)
Follows the crowd, is submissive and easily swayed, engages in risky behaviors at a friend's urging, doesn't stand up to peers, has difficulty speaking up and letting his opinions be known when with peers
The Change to Parent For
Your child learns to say no and develop assertiveness so that he can stand up to peer pressure, make positive choices, and refrain from engaging in risky behaviors.
Question: "My daughter is such a follower, and I know it's because I always intervene on her behalf. How can I help her be more assertive and less likely to do what other kids tell her to do?"
Answer: If you want to help your daughter stand up for her beliefs, then switch your response. If your role has been apologizing, explaining, or basically "doing" for your child, then stop. No more rescuing and no more speaking for her. Your child will never learn how to stand up for herself; instead, she'll forever be relying on you. Then start reinforcing any efforts she makes to be assertive. "I know that was tough telling Kara you had to leave early to make your curfew." "I'm proud you were able to tell Leslie that you didn't want to go to that movie." The sooner you nurture assertiveness, the sooner your child will resist that peer pressure.
One Simple Solution
If You Want an Assertive Kid, Don't Hover!
Researchers find that parents who encourage their children's social endeavors at a distance are more successful in raising assertive kids. In fact, those parents who tend to intervene in their kids' social lives actually hinder their children's peer relations. Better to stand back and supervise your child informally whenever he's with friends. It will boost his confidence and his ability to stand up to them on his own.
Pay Attention to This!
Peer Pressure Is Stronger Than You May Think!
A Time/Nickelodeon survey of 991 kids ages nine to fourteen revealed that 36 percent feel pressure from peers to smoke marijuana, 40 percent feel pressure to have sex, 36 percent feel pressure to shoplift, and four out of ten feel pressure to drink.89 And those pressures are felt at younger ages: 7 percent of fourth graders, 8 percent of fifth graders, and 13 percent of sixth graders have drunk beer, liquor, or wine coolers in the past year. Teach your kids refusal skills so that they can stand up to these pressures.
If You Want Your Kid to Engage in Less Risky Behavior, Be a Hands-On Parent
If you ever wondered if parents can counter negative peer pressure, wonder no more. A survey of over a thousand American teens found that those who lived with "hands-on" parents were four times less likely to engage in risky behaviors like drinking, smoking, and taking drugs.90 Hands-on parents are ones who have clear household rules and expectations for their teen's behavior and monitor what their teens do, such as the TV shows they watch, the CDs they buy, what they access on the Internet, and where they are on evenings and weekends. So stay involved in your child's life!
Let's face it: it's not always easy to buck the crowd. But for your child's own self-confidence, independence, and future success in life, it's important he learn to stand up to his peers and not be a pushover. Studies show that today's kids are engaging in riskier behaviors (drinking alcohol, taking drugs, smoking, shoplifting, engaging in promiscuous sex) at younger ages, and peer pressure is a big contributor. A national survey by Boys and Girls Clubs of America of forty-six thousand teens found that peer pressure was one of their biggest concerns and that they wished their parents would them teach skills that worked to help them resist those pressures.88
Teaching refusal skills is exactly what we must do to help our kids cope in the real world and stay safer. Research proves not only that this is doable but also that parents can be tremendously influential in helping their kids learn to handle negative peer pressure, deal with uncomfortable choices, and make wiser decisions that will keep them out of trouble. The best news is that by teaching your child these habits, you'll also be nurturing the crucial leadership traits of assertiveness and confidence that he will need in all arenas for the rest of his life.
Signs and Symptoms
Here are a few signs and symptoms that your child may be negatively influenced by peer pressure and that it's time to boost his assertiveness and teach refusal skills:
- Explains that he did things he didn't want to do because the kids "told him to"
- Makes excessive new demands for "stuff" that other kids have
- Is easily pushed around or swayed by other kids; is hesitant to speak up to them
- Ignores your rules and values to do what his friends want
- Misleads you or lies about his whereabouts; is secretive about where he is or what he's doing with friends; is unwilling to share or discuss his activities or plans; has new "secret" meeting places
- Engages in risky behaviors: steals or shoplifts, uses alcohol or drugs, has unexplained cold or cough medications or your prescription drugs in his possession
- Dresses or adopts behaviors of other kids that are out of character for him
Step 1. Early Intervention
- Figure out the reason. If you want to help your child be less likely to be pushed around or to buckle to peer pressure, it's time to pay closer attention to the problem. Your first task is to identify why your child is so easily swayed and is hesitant to speak up, and then address that issue. The following list offers some things to consider. Check those that apply to your child or situation:Has unassertive role models; is only copying what he sees
- Has low self-esteem, a self-consciousness; is less mature than other kids
- Is unsure of social status; wants to be "one of the guys"; fears rejection if he doesn't comply with peer wishes
- Has a speech impediment of some kind (lisp, stutter, delayed speech, limited vocabulary, or hearing impairment); believes his opinions don't matter
- Relies on someone (you, a sibling, or a friend) to speak for him; has been overprotected by adults who solve his problems or intervene on his behalf
- Has not been encouraged or reinforced for assertiveness; is told to "stay quiet"
- Is shyer or has a more sensitive temperament; harder for him to speak up
- Hangs around a faster or tougher crowd
- Is bullied or harassed by peers; is fearful of intimidation by a peer or peers
- Has poor decision-making abilities; lacks refusal skills
- Is unsupervised; has permissive parents; is allowed to engage in risky behaviors
- Stay connected. Research shows that those parents who have strong emotional relationships with their children have kids who are less likely to engage in risky behaviors. So build a close bond with your child and focus on developing an open and honest relationship so that he will tell you his concerns when he is in trouble or having problems.
- Share your beliefs. If you want your child to say no, make sure he knows what you stand for so that he can share those beliefs with peers. Share your values and state your rules over and over. "We don't watch violent movies, so tell your friends you can't go." "The next time a friend dares you to smoke, just walk away. You need to stick up for what you know is right."
- Set limits and boundaries. Make your rules clear to your child and set clear consequences if your child breaks those rules. Know where your child is at all times and who he hangs around with. Be clear as to which places are off-limits. If your child is not where he said he would be, set a consequence. Your child needs to know you are serious about mandating your rules; this will help him if he's ever in a risky situation: he can use you as an excuse. "My dad would ground me for life." "My mom checks up on me. She'd know."
- Use historical figures and real-life examples. Share examples of individuals who stood up for their beliefs and didn't follow the crowd. Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., and FBI whistle-blowers are a few. Look for examples of courageous folks in your community or on the nightly news. Let your child know that you value individuals who don't follow the crowd and who stand up for what they believe is right even if their opinion is not popular.
- Know your kid's friends and parents. Kids are less likely to use risky behaviors if they are well supervised and stick with friends who share similar values. Get to know your kid's friends and their parents. Exchange phone numbers. Find out their rules, movie-viewing policies, and curfews, so you can support each other and so your child will know that those parents are watching his behavior as well.
- Nurture self-esteem. Kids with higher self-esteem are less likely to be easily swayed by peers because they have confidence in their own worth. So involve your child in activities that capitalize on his strengths, dole out earned compliments that stress his talents and qualities, and provide opportunities that boost your child's selfregard. Your child will rely on that inner confidence when he needs the strength to stand up to a peer.
Step 2. Rapid Response
It isn't easy to stand up to a peer, but kids who are more assertive are better able to buck peer pressure. Here are ways to help your child learn to be more self-assured so that he can speak up:
- Model assertiveness. If you want your child to be confident and assertive and to stand up for his beliefs, make sure you display those behaviors. Kids mimic what they see.
- Let your child speak up. The best way for your child to learn to be more selfassured is for him to have the chance to sound off and be heard. So listen more and speak less. Look for opportunities to ask your child what he thinks or feels about an issue. It may take some time, but gradually he will learn that you want to hear his opinion. He'll then be more likely to speak up in front of others.
- Point out your concerns. Offer comments that help your child focus on what he should change so that he is more assertive. "I noticed during playgroup today that Johnny told you to throw sand in the sink, and you did it. You know better. So let's talk about why you went along." "You know Rene's house is off-limits, but you went along with the group anyway. You have to learn to stand up to your friends and do what you know is right."
- Hold family debates. The best way for kids to learn to speak up is right at home, so start weekly "Family Debates." Set these simple rules: everyone is listened to and gets a turn; others may disagree, but must do so respectfully; and no put-downs!
- Find a less bossy playmate. Is your child always bossed around by a bulldozertype playmate or sibling? If so, he'll never have the opportunity to speak out or stand up for himself. Invite peers who are a tad on the reserved side or a bit younger or less mature so that your child can assume the "leader" role every once in a while. These new friends don't have to replace his current crop, but they give him the chance to be less led and more assertive. And let a bossier sibling know that everyone in your home has equal billing.
- Play "What if?" A study of over one thousand sixth graders found that those who could exercise good judgment were less likely to engage in risky peer behaviors.91 You can help your child learn to anticipate the outcome of tricky situations by posing "What if?" scenarios. For instance: "What if your friends dare you to … give them your test answers? smoke in the parking lot? take the test off your teacher's desk? ask your brother to buy beer? steal a CD from the music store?" The trick is to help your kid think through all the consequences and weigh those choices so that he can make the best decision.
- Don't tolerate excuses. Suppose you've been working on these skills, but your child is still agreeing to do things he knows are wrong so as to go along with the group. Don't excuse him for going along with the crowd. Set a consequence. Monitor his behavior more closely. Let him know that he needs to earn your trust. Your job is to make sure he is safe and does the right thing. His job is to abide by your house rules.
Topics can be the hot-button issues in the world, in school, or right in your home, including house rules, sibling conflicts, allowances, chores, curfews, parent-set movie restrictions, the war in Iraq, or legalizing drugs. Whatever the topic, encourage your hesitant child to speak up and be heard.
- Coats and Car Seats: A Lethal Combination?
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- Child Development Theories
- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- First Grade Sight Words List
- Social Cognitive Theory
- The Homework Debate
- GED Math Practice Test 1