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.