Independent thinking is high up on the list of things parents want to teach their children. But when it comes to peer pressure, no child is immune. It’s true that some are more resilient than others, but every child is susceptible to pressure from their peers.
Peer pressure come in all shapes and sizes. It can be harmless or life-threatening. The key to getting your kids through it is to help them recognize peer pressure for what it is.
How to know when your kids are being pressured
When your child does something she shouldn’t, it’s difficult to know whether it was her idea or if she gave in to peer pressure. You may wonder if it even matters.
But if you want to help your child overcome peer pressure, you’ll want to get a feel for her susceptibility. Look for the following signs:
- Changes in behavior with changes in friends — if your child’s mannerisms change when he hangs out with new people, it’s a sign that he’s trying to fit in. Even if it’s on a subconscious level, the desire to fit in can make your child vulnerable to peer pressure.
- Risky behavior — If your child suddenly starts engaging in risky behavior, peer pressure may be at the root.
- Making comparisons — If your kid is constantly comparing herself to her friends, she may be more susceptible to peer pressure.
- Doing things he doesn’t want to do — If your child tells you he did something he didn’t even want to do, that’s a sign of peer pressure.
- Focused on image — It’s normal for teens to be somewhat image-focused, but if it’s extreme, your child may be more prone to cave during peer pressure. Focusing on image tells you that your child cares a lot about what other people think.
What to do if your child is being peer pressured
If your child is getting into trouble as a result of peer pressure, don’t dismiss her role. Before you even address the peer pressure, address the action. Explain why her behavior was unproductive or dangerous. If she’s acting on peer pressure, you may get a response like, “I know. I don’t even know why I did it.”
Once you’ve addressed the action, it’s time to address the peer pressure. The goal of this conversation is to get your child to understand the dangers.
How to talk to your kids about peer pressure
Ideally, you’ll want to start talking about peer pressure when your child is young. Peer pressure happens whenever your child does something he or she wouldn’t in an effort to fit in with other kids. It can start as early as preschool, but it typically doesn’t get dangerous until somewhere around middle school and high school.
Here are some tips for having a productive conversation:
- Keep it a conversation — When you lecture your child about peer pressure, you’re essentially pressuring them to do what you want them to do. It’s parent pressure against peer pressure, and it doesn’t work. Instead, keep it a conversation by asking questions throughout the talk.
- Ask your child for input — Talk about what peer pressure looks like and ask your child for examples. When your child recalls stories of him or his friends succumbing to peer pressure, the connection will become more real.
- Stay involved in your child’s life — As kids grow into teenagers, many try to create a little distance between themselves and their parents. This is normal, but it doesn’t mean you should completely back off. Respect their space and privacy as appropriate, but continue talking about what’s going on in their lives and get involved when you can.
- Maintain reasonable rules — If you’re the parent who has the strictest rules, chances are good that your child will break at least one. And after they break one, it’s easier to break others. Pick your battles by setting reasonable rules.
- Talk about addiction — Addiction is one of the most dangerous outcomes of peer pressure, and it often starts with alcohol or marijuana. Make sure your kids understand that addiction is a disease that almost always requires professional help to recover from. It goes far beyond “looking cool” in the moment. It can actually ruin the rest of their lives.
- Talk about the power of instincts — Teach your child that he should trust his instincts. When something doesn’t feel right, it’s okay to walk away.
- Continue the message — Peer pressure is relentless, and so should be your resolve to fight it. Find fun ways to help your kids resist peer pressure through role-playing.
- Establish a secret code — Come up with a letter or phrase that your child can text to you that signals she needs a phone call. With this call, you can give your child a way out of whatever is happening around her. For example, if all her friends are doing drugs and she’s uncomfortable, she can text you. You’d immediately call with a reason she needs to come home, and she can leave the party without any other explanations. A system like this can help kids avoid feeling like outcasts while sticking to their principles.
Peer pressure is a scary phrase for any parent, but you can equip your kids to handle it properly. Keep talking about the dangers of risky behaviors and why your kids should think for themselves.
What are your best tips for battling peer pressure?
Identity Magazine is all about guiding women to discover their powers of Self-Acceptance, Appreciation, and Personal Achievement. We ask that every contributor and expert answer the Identity 5 questions in keeping with our theme. Their answers can be random and in the moment or they can be aligned with the current article they have written. In that way, and as a team, we hope to encourage and motivate each other, thus inspiringyou to Get All A’s.
1. What have you accepted within your life, physically and/or mentally? Additionally, what are you still working on accepting? Now, we’re not talking about resignation, rather stepping into, embraced, and owned.
I’ve accepted that I’m human and that is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, being human is great! It’s exhausting trying to be perfect all the time. I’m still working on trying to accept that criticizing myself is more harmful than helpful. I’ve gotten better over the years recognizing when I’m criticizing myself unnecessarily, but I slip up every now and again, but that’s okay. I embrace my humanity and imperfections!
2. What have you learned to appreciate about yourself and/or within your life, physically and mentally? On the other hand OR in contrast, are there elements of who you are that you’re still working on appreciating?
I’ve learned to appreciate self-love. When I started to love myself, I took better care of myself both mentally and physically every day. I’m still working on appreciating the accomplishments that I have and trying not to compare my success or timing of success with people around me.
3. What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? Tell us not only what makes YOU most proud but also share the goals and dreams that you still have.
One of my most rewarding achievements in life in learning how to seek help, both in my loved ones and through professional support. What makes me the proudest is accepting that I can be vulnerable and I don’t have to do everything on my own. The goals I still have are learning to overcome negative thoughts entirely and stop surrendering to self-doubt when it happens.
4. Of course, we all have imperfections, or so we think. In truth, we are all perfectly imperfect. What are your not-so-perfect ways? Likewise, what imperfections and quirks create who you are–your Identity?
My not-so-perfect quality is that I push myself beyond my limitations which at times can be frankly unhealthy. I try to make myself do everything at once, but the best course of action is to take things one step at a time. But simultaneously, this demonstrates that I always strive for the best, I have many goals I want to accomplish, and I want to make the most out of the time I have on this earth.
5. “I Love My…” is an outlet for you to appreciate and express all the positive traits that make you…well…YOU! In fact, sharing what you love about yourself will make you smile, feel empowered, and uplift your spirit and soul. (We assure you!) Therefore, Identity challenges you to complete the phrase “I Love My…?”
I love my honesty because it helps me stay grounded. Honesty is also just refreshing and enables me to genuinely connect with others as opposed to putting on a mask to appear a certain way. I want people to know me for my authentic self.