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How to Make Your Child Immune to Peer Pressure

By Judy Flury, Ph.D.

 

One of the biggest issues on parents’ minds these days is how they can keep their child from giving in to negative influences when they are away from home. If you’re like most parents, many times you feel like no matter how hard you try to teach you child right from wrong, all of your efforts go out the window when your child is exposed to negative behaviors and peer pressure in school, on TV, and at other places on a day-to-day basis.


Your concern is justified. Aside from the effects of negative peer pressure that we as parents have seen with our own eyes, research also shows that peer pressure is a major problem. For example, a study by Dielman et. al. showed that adolescents’ “susceptibility to peer pressure” is an even bigger factor in drug use than a lack of self-esteem. The good news is that even though peer pressure is a very real problem, the situation is not as bleak as it may seem. Asa parent, you have plenty of power to help your child overcome peer pressure and act appropriately, even in the face of overwhelming pressure to “go along with the crowd.”


Whether your child is of elementary school age and the behaviors you’re worried about are talking while the teacher is talking or teasing others when in the company of certain kids; or whether your child is of middle school age and you’re worried about more serious issues such as the pressure to become involved with drugs, the following are some concrete steps that you can take with your child at any age to help them avoid the trap of following others kids’ negative behaviors:

1. Sit down and have very frank and open discussions with your child about peer pressure -- tell them what it is and give them examples of how they may face it in their daily lives.

Tell them that you know that even if they are trying to behave in a class, for example, other kids may try to get them to talk or to engage horseplay in line. For older kids, you can talk about the pressure they may experience to steal something or try drugs, for example.

Share with them how even as an adult, you are faced with peer pressure and have to work to 
overcome it as well, and give them some examples. Very few parents actually discuss the issue of peer pressure with their kids, instead leaving it as an issue to address when and if problems develop. Proactivity is always better than reactivity, though, so it’s best to have these discussions early, and periodically.

Many parents shy away from having these sorts of talks with their kids, because they don’t think the kids will pay attention to their “preaching."  However, you would be surprised at how much children and adolescents take in, and how much they remember when the time comes, even if it looks like they’re not paying much attention to you when you’re talking to them!

2. Share stories with them of famous people who have “gone against the tide” and refused to do what others were doing, and then went on to accomplish great things or garner great respect
because of their refusal to just go along with the crowd or with popular opinion.

Show them that there is strength in going against the crowd, and that the weakness lies in following the crowd.  You know what your child values. If they are into sports, find examples and stories of this type about sports figures. If they are old enough to value money, give them examples of millionaires who amassed their fortunes by going against the grain, and who persisted even though others made fun of them for not doing what everyone else was doing. (On the other hand, you probably don’t want to tell them about the people who got rich after dropping out of school!)

 

3. Allow your child to hold different opinions from yours, and ask their opinions on certain issues, then respect their opinion.

This builds a sense of self-worth and the ability to stick to their own opinions and values, and not waffle as soon as someone expresses a view that is different from their own.

 

To be continued on the next blog post...

 

 



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