Peer Pressure: Be Your Best Self
Peer pressure can be positive or negative. A child’s positive influence over another can challenge that child to eat more fruits and vegetables, potty train quicker, or learn to tie their shoes. On the other hand, negative pressure can erode a child’s self-confidence, cause an already shy child to withdraw, or place a child in harm’s way.
Your involvement in your child’s life can help protect them from factors such as peer pressure that put them at risk for substance use later in life. The following exercises will help your child learn how to deal with stress, impulse control, and peer pressure. In addition, these activities are designed to build your child’s self-confidence and refusal skills to help him/her value their own opinions and resist negative peer pressures. Consistent across studies, children with low self-confidence and refusal skills are more likely to engage in alcohol use when they are older. Therefore, it is important to help your child build the necessary skills now in order to prevent risky behaviors, such as substance use, from happening later on in life.
A FAMILY OF BALLOONS
Celebrate your child’s accomplishments and help them build the confidence to say “no” to negative peer pressure!
All you need for each family member is:
- a photograph
- a big round balloon
- construction paper
- lengths of string or thin ribbons
Have everyone in the family pick their favorite color balloon and construction paper. Help young children cut the construction paper into 2 inch wide strips.
Then, have a family discussion of what each person does best, from riding a bike to making the best meal, giving the best hugs or counting to 10. Help children write each accomplishment on a construction paper strip. The more strips, the better.
Next, blow up the balloons for each child and tie on the string or ribbon. Help children glue their photographs to the balloons and place their construction paper strips along the string.
Note: If you don’t have balloons and construction paper, print out copies of “Be Your Best Self” (see below) and have the child place his/her photos (or self-drawn portraits) inside the balloon drawing. Then, help your child write out what he/she believes they are really good at. Make sure you hang the finished work where others can see it.
My Very Best Self!
The following exercise consists of two parts. The first part of the exercise will teach your child different ways to say “no” and resist outside peer pressure to engage in risky behaviors. The second part of the exercise includes a role-play activity in which you will play the part of your child’s friend who is pressuring your child to participate in deviant behaviors. Your child will play the part of herself/himself and have the opportunity to refuse the peer pressure. Encourage your child to use the information learned in Part 1 so they can practice different ways to say “no.”
Part 1: Ways to Say No
- Say, "No, thank you." If an individual pressures your child into doing something that he/she does not want to do, simply tell your child to say, “no, thank you.” If the pressure continues, your child may need to use additional tactics such as, “No, thank you. I am not allowed to do that.”
- Be a broken record. If an individual continues to pressure your child, tell your child to say “no” as many times as he/she needs to. This can hopefully put a stop to the peer pressure or provide your child with an opportunity to think of something else to say.
- Give a reason. Providing a reason can also help put a stop to the peer pressure. Encourage your child to provide reasons such as, “I do not want to do that,” or “I am not allowed to do that.” You can provide examples of other reasons as you see fit for your child.
- Walk away. In some situations it can be as simple as walking way or ignoring the offer. It is important to remember that this may not work in all situations as your child may not necessarily be able to walk away without giving a reason or saying “no.”
- Change the subject. Encourage your child to change the subject or do something more positive. For example, your child can say, “How about we do __________ instead?” Your child can use their confidence to refuse the peer pressure and encourage a friend to participate in healthy behaviors.
- Assert yourself. Being able to assert oneself in any situation is an important life skill. Your child can use this skill with any of the above reasons to say “no” to peer pressure.
Part 2: Role-Play Exercise
Role-playing is one strategy that can be used to help children build their skills and confidence to say “no” to risky behaviors.
The following role-play examples will provide your child with an opportunity to practice their refusal skills. You will be assigned the role of the friend encouraging your child to participate in risky behaviors. Your child will respond to the situation and practice their skills of refusing the peer pressure.
Please note: Your child’s answers will vary; however, we have provided an example answer for each situation. Encourage your child to use different ways to say “no” to the peer pressure from Part 1 of this activity.
Again, your child’s answers will vary. The examples are provided above to help you encourage your child to deal with specific situations and use their problem-solving and refusal skills. As a parent, you know the kinds of pressures your children must face. Use the examples to help your child use their accomplishments to counter pressure from others and show how feeling good about themselves makes them stronger.
- Friend (Parent will play this role): “Let’s not stay at the playground like the teacher says. It will be more fun to run to the other side and hide behind the bushes.”
(Note to Parent: If you sense that your child needs help, you can provide them with the following example response: “No, I’m really good at swinging and sliding. Besides, I want to follow the teacher’s instructions because he/she needs to know where we all are.”)
- Friend (Parent will play this role): “I don’t want to eat the peanut butter crackers in my lunch today. I would rather take Billy’s cake.
(Note to Parent: If you sense that your child needs help, you can provide them with the following example response: “No, Billy is my friend and my parents taught me that it is not nice to take things from others. Plus, I made my own special raisin and apple snack and it’s much better for me than cake.”)
- Friend (Parent will play this role): “I don’t want to play kickball with the rest of the kids. Let’s sneak back to the room.”
(Note to Parent: If you sense that your child needs help, you can provide them with the following example response: “No. Kickball is fun and I’m good at it. I want to play and help my team win.”)