No parent ever wants to hear “I knew you’d be mad but I wanted the girls to like me” or “I tried to say no, but Jake wouldn’t listen.” But unfortunately, eventually we hear them nonetheless.
We have all fallen victim to peer pressure at some time or another so why should our kids be any different? Because most parents want to believe our children will be better than us. Still, following the crowd, failing to stand up to peers, and being submissive are realities many adults face so author Michele Borba argues we need to equip our children with the skills to combat peer pressure.
According to Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me, “A survey of 991 kids ages nine to fourteen revealed that 36 percent feel pressure from peers to smoke marijuana, 40 percent feel pressure from peers to have sex, 36 percent feel pressure to shoplift, and 40 percent feel pressure to drink.” Luckily, Borba believes assertiveness skills can be taught to kids so if your child has difficulty speaking up or letting her opinions be known there is hope.
According to Borba, here’s what you should do:
- Bring the issue into the open. For example, “I noticed during playgroup today that Johnny told you to throw sand in the sink, and you did it. You know better. So let’s talk about why you went along.
- Share your beliefs. Such as, “In our family we don’t watch violent movies so tell your friends you can’t go.
- Refrain from labeling. The more you say your child is shy the more likely she will become it.
- Stop rescuing. “If your role has been apologizing, explaining, or basically ‘doing’ for your child, then stop. Your child will never learn how to stand up for himself.
- Model assertiveness. “If you want your kids to be confident…make sure you display that behavior. Kids mimic what they see.
- Teach them about strong models. Like Abe Lincoln, Gandhi, Rosa Parks.
- Don’t tolerate excuses.
While we’re all still pretty much guaranteed to say at least once in our lives, “What were you thinking?” Borba believes if you teach your children to say no from a very young age you can avoid them becoming victims of peer pressure.
If you do nothing else, help your child learn to look assertive. “Pushover kids usually stand with heads down, shoulders slumped, arms and knees quivering, and eyes downcast. Even if he says no to his friends, his body sends a far different message, and his words will have little credibility. So it’s crucial to teach your child assertive body posture: to hold his head high with shoulders slightly back, look his friend in the eye, and use a confident, firm tone of voice.”
Otherwise, no quickly becomes yes.