We’ve all experienced it at some time or another. A colleague says to do something, and you unwillingly follow along. A friend tells you to buy something; you buy it without actually wanting to. Your relatives convince you to go on a trip and you half-heartedly go because they really wanted to.
Even as adults, we still succumb to peer pressure which is simply the pressure others in your peer group put on you to influence you or to make you choose something over another.
Now, peer pressure isn’t always a bad thing because at times, your peers can actually influence you into making positive and good decisions in your life. But, peers can sometimes have a negative influence on you. It can be especially dangerous for kids who are just beginning to learn how to manage their emotions and develop a stronger sense of what is right and wrong.
Why do children give in to peer pressure easily?
- Children like to fit in with their peers and be liked by them.
- They are curious to try things that children in their peer group are trying.
- Other kids make fun of them if they don’t follow along by calling them names such as ‘baby’, ‘scaredy cat’ etc.
- The need to belong and feeling safe by being part of a group.
- Children feel better about their selves and feel popular by going along with other popular kids.
- They want to experiment with new things.
- Sometimes they are even forced or threatened to try something when they don’t want to.
Peer pressure can become worrisome when your child starts delving into negative behaviours such as skipping class, lying to you about their whereabouts, shoplifting, being deceitful, dressing inappropriately, using drugs or exposing themselves to riskier, immoral or illegal activities.
What can you do?
Remember that changes in your child from peer pressure can be subtle and may not happen overnight while other children may adopt new ways of behaviour very quickly.
- Strengthen your bond. Constantly work on the relationship you have with your children by communicating, sharing your experiences, spending time together, discussing serious and non-serious topics, playing games and listening to them. It will all boil down to the quality of relationship you have with them that will allow you to notice the change in behaviour and to discuss it openly with them.
- Keep an open mind. The world you grew up in is very different from the world they are growing up in. Their challenges or the pressure they might be facing may be very different from yours. Always listen to them with an open mind and heart, free of judgment and anger.
- Communicate. Talk to your kids about peer pressure before you have to talk about it. Show them videos or share stories with them about situations they might encounter and ask them what they would do in that situation. You can be honest about the times you succumbed to peer pressure or felt it strongly but decided to make different decisions despite what your friends did or said.
- Accept changes. Your child will change as they get older and develop personalities of their own. Be accepting of those changes and know that not everything is a result of peer pressure and not everything done due to peer pressure is negative. Maybe your child decides to wear all black or talk in a different style; accept that these minor changes are okay as long as they are not taking bigger or harmful risks.
- Build up their confidence. Low self-esteem is a big cause of falling prey to peer pressure. When kids don’t feel confident about themselves, they tend to follow others to gain approval and validation. Encourage your child, teach them self-acceptance and love them unconditionally so they don’t feel broken when their peers don’t accept them.
What You Can Do Next?
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ABOUT THE FOUNDER
Internationally Recognised Emotional Literacy & Mindfulness Expert Tenille Bentley is the founder of The Emotional Literacy and Mindfulness Academy and the author of the children’s emotional literacy books with Jazzy and Pinky and The Energy Ball. Giving children a wonderful introduction to understanding their emotions and what do with them.
Tenille has been featured on Channel 9 News and other major outlets. Her work has been recognised in the community by The Governor of Western Australia, The Prime Minister of Australia and Australian Financial Review.
As a child she experienced severe anxiety and emotional traumas as well as bullying which left her feeling isolated, and unable to understand why she was feeling the way she did. As an adult this impacted her ability to make healthy decisions because she didn’t have the tools to understand her emotions.
Which is why she is passionate about equipping parents with the tools to support their children to make better decisions in life and healthy ones to help support and create a balanced home life.