HKQ Kids

Under Peer Pressure

We’ve all been there: when you’re a kid, fitting in with your group of friends feels like the most crucial thing imaginable. While it’s definitely important that kids feel comfortable and accepted by their peers, this desire for acceptance can be manipulated through the effects of peer pressure.

Peer pressure can be understood as the influence that groups of people of similar status can have on an individual; oftentimes, this influence may be fighting against an individual’s own judgment or already-established opinions on a topic. Peer pressure isn’t always negative; for example, it can convince your child to try something new that’s also healthy and productive, like joining a new club or sport at school. However, the need to conform and be accepted can be powerful, so much so that it can take precedence over a child or teen’s best interest. Negative peer pressure among kids and teenagers takes many forms. Some of the most common subjects of peer pressure include dangerous behavior and rule-breaking, bullying, and drugs or alcohol. Here are some tips and talking points to go over with your kids to help them avoid the pitfalls of peer pressure.

  • Tell them to trust their gut. If your child sees or hears something that feels wrong, they’re probably right in the first place. Hesitation means that the choice in front of them is a complex one that should be thought through. Initially feeling unsure or suspicious about something is a sign that you should listen to your instincts.
  • When confronted with an option, think about the outcomes this way: would I want to hide what I’m doing? Oftentimes, a child or teenager will engage in dangerous or harmful behavior in order to gain respect from their peers. However, they should ask themselves if they’d be trading their respect for the respect of other important people in their lives. This includes self-respect as well. If something makes you feel guilty or ashamed, that’s another sign of peer pressure at work.
  • Learn to recognize the typical lines you might hear in a negative peer pressure situation. Phrases like “Nobody’s going to find out,” or “Don’t be a chicken,” are classic signs that your kids should avoid whatever is being asked of them.

Of course, understanding a situation as an example of peer pressure is one thing, but navigating through it is another matter entirely. It can be difficult to save face when refusing to take part in something that a group of people expect someone to do. Here are some strategies for dealing with that.

  • A stretch of the truth may be okay under these conditions. “Having to be home at a certain time” or making a similar excuse can save your child from an uncomfortable situation.
  • Under some circumstances, especially in cases of bullying, you can attempt to convince a group that what they’re doing is wrong. Nonchalantly saying, “No, that’s not cool, I’d feel bad if someone said that to me,” can go a long way in changing at least a few minds in a group.
  • On that note, in situations involving group texts, it can be easy for mob mentality to take over. These private groups can be used to exclude others, talk badly about them, or even plan bullying/harassment against them on social media. It can be intimidating to try and go against the group at large, but if your child can talk one-on-one to someone in the group who they feel closest to, they might be able to gradually convince others that their behavior isn’t okay.
  • Above all, you should try to be firm and clear about your stance on something you don’t want to do. Saying “I’m not sure” leaves the door open to being persuaded and pestered about it in the future. Making your position and opinion clear and unyielding will make it less likely that you’ll be bothered about it again.

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