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Put Peer Pressure in Its Place

In the whirl of adolescence, peer pressure can get the best of children and push them to do things that they don't really want to do. Whether this pressure comes from friends or other kids at school, parents can counter it, if they're ready to help.

It's natural that children get some guidance from outside sources, including their peers. But uninformed or bad guidance may send children down the wrong path.

Pushed toward behavior

Adolescents can feel pressure to drive recklessly, have sex, smoke cigarettes, or use drugs and alcohol. Smoking, drinking, and use of marijuana among adolescents and preteens are not uncommon. The best shield against peer pressure is to help your child stay away from the bad influences until he or she is old enough to understand the risks. Another element of protection is your child's having the confidence to make decisions on his or her own.

The most precious thing is self-respect, which is instilled from a very young age. Children without an identity, or those who live in troubled households, are very likely to feel confused or disappointed in their parents and have a need to rebel.

You can nurture self-respect if you help your children view themselves in a positive light and praise them for good decision-making.

The parent can't control the child. The child has to be self-controlled. What the parent can do is act as a resource for the child's judgment and step in when there's danger. Modeling self-respect and appropriate behavior in front of your children is the greatest form of teaching that behavior. 

Get your children ready

Here are several ways to prepare children for hanging out with friends when no adults are around:

  • Get to know your children's friends and their parents. Children whose friends do not smoke, drink, steal, or lie are far less likely to do these things.

  • Role-play situations in which your child says "no" to an offer of drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes. It's important to rehearse these scenarios so that your child feels comfortable with what he or she can say. A shy child or teen might prefer to say "No thanks" or "I have to go." A more confident or outgoing child or teen might prefer "Forget it!" or "No way!"

  • Also talk to your child about how to avoid situations you don't want him or her to be in or how to avoid people who break the rules. If your child is not in a situation in which he or she feels pressure to follow unacceptable behavior, he or she is much less likely to behave that way.

  • Nurture self-esteem in your children. A child or teen with strong self-esteem can make decisions and follow through on them, despite what his or her friends say. To nurture self-esteem, be generous with praise, so that your children see themselves in a positive way. Help them avoid children who ridicule or try to shame them.

  • Discuss sex and sexual health before your child becomes sexually active. Listen to your child, but make your values and opinions clear.