Standing up to peer pressure is one of the greatest challenges that children face. Many are unable to stand up to the challenge and are led into participating in risky or even illegal activities. Help your child deal with peer pressures by doing the following:
- Strengthen the bond with your child. He will be more likely to respect your views and values and better able to resist peer pressure if he has a good relationship with you and feels you are a source of support. This bond needs to be nurtured long before your child's teenage years.
- Promote your child's self-esteem. Children who are confident and have positive self-worth are more likely to pursue friendships with children who are good role models and better able to resist negative peer pressure. Find opportunities to boost your child's self-esteem and enjoy success by involving him in activities that capitalize on his strengths and interests. And, of course, praise him for things he does well at home.
- Set a good example. Your child is a keen observer of what you do and may learn more from what he sees than what he hears. If he sees that you are constantly striving to keep up with other parents, he will likely do the same with his peers. If he sees you drinking and smoking, he is less likely to resist engaging in these behaviors. If you do drink or smoke, giving it up will make a vivid impression on him.
- Talk with your child about peer pressure. Let your child know that you understand how hard it can be at his age to do things that make him stand out. Tell him that his peers may respect his decision not to join them in an activity even though they may not express it, and that some may even admire his courage in resisting what they could not. Help him understand that a friend who is pressuring him to do something that may be harmful is not much of a friend. Appeal to his desire for autonomy by encouraging him not to let others manipulate or make decisions for him.
- Avoid overreacting when talking about peer issues. Your child may tell you things that may make your jaw drop. If you overreact, you will discourage him from talking with you about these issues again. At the same time use these teachable moments to introduce some cautions without moralizing or lecturing. Although it may seem as though he is dismissing what you are saying, he will hear you.
- Choose your battles carefully. Don't make an issue out of your child's wanting to wear the same clothes as his friends or adopt a trendy hairstyle. Make your stand on high-risk peer behavior. Battling your child constantly over minor issues may drive your child toward peers who are similarly alienated from their parents. Not sweating the small stuff will enable you to be more effective when you challenge him on the larger issues.
- Help your child develop good decision-making skills. If he can learn to trust his own instincts when making decisions, he will be less likely to let others make decisions for him. Encourage him to think through the possible consequences of the decision he is facing, including whether it may cause him harm. Let him know that giving in to the pressure now may make life harder for him later on.
- Help your child develop responses to peers. Help him figure out what to say to peers who are pressuring him to participate in high-risk activities. Suggest responses that are short and simple and that he can say comfortably. If he is receptive, role-play with him or encourage him to practice in front of a mirror.
- Get to know your child's friends. Make a point of encouraging your child to invite his friends home. Spend some time with them and assess whether they are positive influences.
- Don't hesitate to set limits for your child. Your willingness to say no to him sets a good example and may help give him the courage to say no to a peer when faced with a potentially harmful situation.
By A Better Child