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Put Peer Pressure in Its Place

During the teen years, peer pressure can be very strong. It can push kids to do things that they don't really want to do. This pressure can come from friends or other kids at school. But parents can counter it, if they're ready to help.

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

Pushed toward behavior

Teens can feel pressure to drive recklessly, have sex, smoke, or use drugs and alcohol. It's not uncommon for teens and preteens to try smoking, drinking, and use marijuana. The best shield against peer pressure is to help your child stay away from bad influences until they are old enough to understand the risks. It’s also important for your child to have the confidence to make decisions on their own.

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

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

A parent can't control a child. The child has to learn self-control. What you can do is act as a resource for your child's judgment and step in when there's danger. Modeling self-respect and correct behavior in front of your child is the best way to teach that behavior. 

Get your child ready

Here are some ways to help your teen get ready to hang out with friends when no adults are around:

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

  • Role-play situations that they may be faced with that might make them feel unsafe or uncomfortable. For instance, practice a situation in which your child says no to an offer of drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes. It's important to rehearse these things. This helps your child feel comfortable with what they 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 with your child about how to avoid situations you don't want them to be in. Talk with them about how to stay away from people who break the rules. It's helpful to keep your child out of situations where they may feel pressure to follow unacceptable behavior. Then they are much less likely to behave that way.

  • Let your child know that they can always come to you to with any problems, especially when they are feeling pressured. Keep the lines of communication open and honest.

  • Nurture self-esteem in your child. A child or teen with strong self-esteem can make decisions and follow through on them, despite what any friends say. To nurture self-esteem, be generous with praise. This helps your children see themselves in a positive way. Help them stay away from children who ridicule, bully, 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.

Online Medical Reviewer: Maryann Foley RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Pat F Bass MD MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Paul Ballas MD
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2021
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