As kids get older, peer pressure can get in the way of how well they do in school.
Why? By the time they turn seven, children start caring more and more about what other kids think of them — and less about what their parents or other adults think.
Kids who want to get approval from their peers and become more popular will often take part in risky behavior like cheating in class, shoplifting, tagging, drugs, alcohol, and sex — all which can send them on a downward spiral and take them away from focusing on their education.
Here are six other ways to help your child resist peer pressure and stay on the right path:
1. Don’t overreact
When your child talks with you about what friends are doing, you may hear things that upset you. But if you overreact or lecture, your child won’t want to bring these issues up again. Stay as calm as you can, without yelling, blaming, of lecturing. Instead, use these moments to get your child thinking about the consequences of risky behavior: “I wonder if your friend realizes she could be arrested for shoplifting?”
2. Talk about what makes a true friend.
Help your child understand that a friend who is pressuring him to do something dangerous, hurtful, or illegal is not much of a friend.
3. Get to know your child’s friends.
Encourage your child to invite friends home. Having his peers around will help you decide whether they are good or bad influences.
4. Talk about what independence really means.
At this age, your child wants more independence. Point out that if this is a goal of his, he shouldn’t let other kids decide what she should be doing — that’s not independence!
5. Role play peer pressure.
Ask your child what he wishes he could say to his friends if he didn’t have to worry about what they’d say if he said “No.” Then suggest ways he can say it. Keep your advice short and to the point. Remind him it’s easiest to stick with simple things that he can say comfortably. (Check out “Five steps to resisting peer pressure” for ideas on what your child can say to a friend who is pressuring him.)
6. Model saying “No”.
When your child hears you setting limits clearly, firmly, and without a lot of explanation, this helps him see that it’s OK to do the same. When you say, “No, that’s not okay with me,” you’re giving your child the same language he can say when someone tries to talk him into doing something he shouldn’t.