Peer pressure is something we’re warned about early in life, but it doesn’t translate exactly the way we’re prepared for. Oftentimes, kids are told by adults that peer pressure will manifest itself in the form of a friend telling you directly to misbehave. In the D.A.R.E. program, you’re trained to recall the proper responses to these encounters, such as “let’s play a game instead.” You quickly realize, perhaps through trial and error, that this kind of training is completely ineffective.
Since my own introduction to dealing with peer pressure was somewhat traditional, I was interested in what tips and information are available about it today. I first looked at KidsHealth.org, which has been available for many years to give information to kids, teens, and parents. Their article “Dealing with Peer Pressure,” which is completely geared towards a child audience, starts off with a pretty innocent example of peer pressure: you’re being tempted by your coolest classmate to skip math class and get lunch instead. This scenario isn’t quite as extreme today, but perhaps at the time this article was written it was. Regardless, this opening set the tone for the rest of the article. The strategies offered by KidsHealth.org lead to the same ineffective, unrealistic idea–only associate with kids who don’t act out, and if your friends begin to misbehave, cut them off immediately. The one good tip in the article is to find a friend to join you in resisting peer pressure and it will be easier to do. This relates back to the experiment we observed in class, in which a participant answering multiple choice questions about line length felt more confident about deviating from the crowd when he was given a partner.
Another article I looked at was directed at teen readers. WebMD published an article about how teens in particular should deal with peer pressure, as that’s a major time for young people to explore new things. The article gives several scenarios about trying alcohol, smoking cigarettes, and having sex with a girlfriend or boyfriend, all of which sound way more severe to the writer than to most American teenagers, so it’s difficult to level with. There is one good tip in the article, which is to always assess the risks of whatever activity the opportunity includes. For instance, if you’re likely going to be arrested or at the very least damage a long-term relationship with someone like a parent, it may be best to avoid that behavior.
The last article I looked at was for parents, and it was exceptional. One of the most important tips in this article was to avoid calling your kids any kind of judgemental name in response to an activity they’ve done that you’re displeased with. The result of this is your child feeling emotionally damaged since their parent has just negatively labeled their character according to their actions; this is a very condemning format of communication with teenagers. Instead, the article recommends taking cell phones, as that is a better method of punishment than name-calling. Whereas verbal agression is only damaging, negative punishment like taking away privileges from teens will be more effective in preventing the behavior you want your child to stop.
The reality of being young today is that most kids bond over drug use, drinking, and partying; if you develop close relationships with people who already do this, you’re likely to get dragged this kind of activity so as to preserve your connection to the person, or you may lose that friendship altogether. What parents and teachers need to understand about peer pressure is that it’s not easy to recognize right away, and refusing to succumb to peer pressure can end up causing damage to a young person’s social life due to the connections they will lose. When your environment is full of illicit activity, avoiding it and trying to go your own way will ultimately lead to social isolation. I believe that the biggest part of successfully growing up and accepting this kind of environment is to not judge people based on their actions, but by the way you know them as a person. People go through different habits throughout life stages, and those habits shouldn’t change your mind about that person’s character, especially if it’s your child. That being said, it’s important to make your own choices and always assess risk, as any one of your decisions can change your life drastically.