As most parents learn quickly, peer pressure is one of the most difficult challenges of rearing kids safely. According to a USC study, peer pressure is so strong because humans place more value on social rewards than on the rewards of doing the right thing when alone. In other words, the risks of bad behavior are worth it if the person achieves a higher social status. So what can a parent do to keep kids from succumbing to peer pressure—without overstepping? Try these suggestions:
Start giving your child the tools to withstand peer pressure as early as possible. Strive to teach your child to get strength from within instead of from others. Tell them that they have intrinsic value that doesn’t rely on what others think of them. You can start this dialogue as soon as your child is able to verbally understand you.
Encourage Independent Thinking
If your child doesn’t naturally think independently, you can sway them to come up with their own ideas by consistently asking them what they think about things. If they offer answers that have to do with popular opinion, encourage them to come up with their own reasons for what they think and believe.
Some kids are naturally independent thinkers. They may appear obstinate or prideful, ignoring what others have to say. There is a good balance to be struck between being stubbornness and independent thinking, however, so don’t be too quick to squelch a child who refuses to listen to others. Encourage the kind of independent thinking that considers other ideas, and help your child to learn how to weigh the pros and cons to reach an independent conclusion.
Let the Good Outweigh the Bad
It’s good to remember that peer pressure can work both ways. Look for signs that your child is competitive. If they are, you can use that trait to your advantage when it comes to keeping your kids from peer pressure that is harmful. Consider introducing people into your child’s life who will inspire healthy competition. Ideas include having your child join a chess club, a tennis group, or even a reading club. These are all ways your child can experience peer pressure to excel instead of peer pressure to act out or break rules.
Maintain Open and Honest Communication
Make your home a safe harbor where your children can feel free to tell you what’s happening in their lives without judgment. If your child feels they can come to you without “getting in trouble,” you’ll hopefully be the first to know when one of their friends is tempting them with sex, drugs, crimes, or other age-inappropriate behaviors.
Keep Kids Busy With Home and Family
The best influence in your child’s life is the family unit. Whatever your family structure, it’s important that your child has a strong connection to their home and family. This structure will serve as a foundation for their entire lives, and will help to keep them grounded no matter where they are. Try to keep your kids busy at home with family matters to ensure that they spend plenty of time interacting with parents, siblings, cousins and aunts and uncles. If and when their social situation gets confusing due to peer pressure, your child will have their choice of close family members in which to confide and gain strength.
Provide Positive Reinforcement
One of the strongest deterrents to peer pressure that your children can have is feeling confident and good about themselves. If your child has a strong sense of who he is, has a sense of accomplishment, and feels capable, he will be less inclined to let someone tell him otherwise, or try to persuade him to do something he shouldn’t. Your positive reinforcement will go a long way toward giving your child the willpower to say, “No thanks, that’s not for me.”
You can’t keep peer pressure from being an influence in your child’s life. But you can supply the emotional support and encouragement he can use to resist negative peer pressure. These ideas on how to keep your kids from peer pressure might work in your household. What are some other ways that you help your child stand up to peer pressure? Please let us know in the comments section below!