When children go to school, they meet new faces and spend time in a foreign environment. Some are shy about making new friends while some are not. One thing that is common among them is the sense of acceptance and belongingness that makes them desperate to walk in the direction of their peers.
What is peer pressure?
Peers can be defined as people belonging to the same age group, like classmates. Making decisions, big or small, is no easy job for a kid and it is natural for them to make the decisions that are vouched by the majority. This action of being influenced by peers and acting accordingly is known as peer pressure.
To understand peer pressure in a better manner, consider the following instances:
- Suppose there’s a science quiz after school and some of the students want to bunk the quiz and hang out in a café and they invite others with them. Most of the kids will give in to temptation and bunk the classes to have fun. This is an example of peer pressure. Here, they can differentiate between what’s right and wrong but they still choose to go out with their peers to have some fun and most importantly, to maintain a good friendship with their peers.
- The decision regarding joining a club or taking part in some activity can be difficult for kids if they don’t have a specific goal, all of these decisions depend upon what their friends are doing. They don’t want to feel left out so they get themselves involved in the same activities as their friends. This is also an example of peer pressure but, here the kid isn’t aware that he or she is being influenced.
All of these examples of peer pressure, give us an idea of why exactly some children give in to the ideas and suggestions of their peer groups. They are either curious about fun things suggested by the other kids or they are afraid that if they don’t go along with the majority, they might be made fun of and can be ignored by their friends.
Effects of peer pressure
The fact about peer pressure is that during childhood, they play a major role in the social and emotional development of children that can affect their future. Children have a tendency to copy their peers, feel competitive towards them, form a friendly rivalry, learn different things from them and therefore, get influenced by them. This influence can have a large impact on their lives, thinking process and decision making.
Peer pressure can have a positive effect or a negative effect depending upon the peer group of the child.
Positive peer pressure:
Peer pressure doesn’t always have to have a negative influence on the child. When your kid’s friend is good at studies or at sports that can influence your kid to be more goal-oriented and this will definitely improve him or her in academics or sports. At times of frustration, kids mostly prefer sharing their problems with their friends, a piece of good advice from a peer will be more influential than good advice from an adult. Therefore, positive peer pressure should be encouraged among kids.
Tips to encourage positive peer pressure:
- It is important to make them understand that every behaviour has an influential effect on others. This will make them more aware of the fact of how their friends influence them and how they influence their friends in the same way. They will be able to take better decisions in life and in the same way help out their other friends who are in need.
- As a parent, you may dislike some of the habits developed by your kids due to the influence of other kids. Instead of forcing them to get rid of those friends, you should have a nice talk with them about what kind of friends they want to have in their life. Talk to them about the values of a good friendship and how friends lift each other up. This will encourage them to demonstrate good friendship with their friends and classmates and at the same time they’ll seek out friends with similar qualities.
Negative peer pressure:
When kids make some morally questioned decision or are forced to do something beyond their will due to the influence of their peers, we call it negative peer pressure. Some of the examples of negative peer pressure can be bunking classes, not submitting assignments on time, lying to parents to get some extra pocket money, spending their tuition fees on snacks, excessive playing of video games, hanging out with friends past curfew time, driving without a license, bullying their classmates and in some extreme cases, trying intoxicants.
We may notice that our kid’s academic performance may be declining or there is a gap increasing between us and our kid. We need to be patient with them and try to understand their needs. We need to understand that kids can’t easily say no when they are being pressured by their mates. They are trying to fit in this society, any denial to their friend’s suggestions or ideas can make them feel anxious about a lot of things like what if their friends bully them or ignore them. They have it tough to deny the above-mentioned examples of negative peer pressure even when they know that it is wrong.
How to deal with peer pressure?
The problem here cannot be solved if the kids themselves don’t take action. As parents, all you can do is advice your kids when they feel pressurised and anxious.
Suggestions to give to your kids when they are in a tough spot:
Tell them that if a situation doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t. They should always stick to what they feel right even if their friends seem okay with whatever is going on.
If they are having difficulty to say “no” directly then they can use humour to deflect pressure or attention or they can even plan about how to react in different situations to effectively avoid any activity they don’t feel good about.
You can advise your kids to confront their friends directly about how they feel about a particular situation.
If they don’t want to be in a situation then they can always get away from it with an excuse like for instance “I have some plans with my parents” or “I need to save money for my cousin’s birthday so I can’t spend anymore”.
Advise them to make friends with someone who shares a similar value. Denying together for something is always easier than denying alone.
Kids are more susceptible to get influenced unlike adults because they are in a stage where they are learning about their social place and identity. They are very hypersensitive to the opinion of others. We must take proper care of our kids as we all want them to have meaningful and healthy relationships both in personal and social life throughout their lives. It can be achieved when we are loving, supportive and have open communication at home. In this way, kids will share their problems with their parents and parents can help their kids to deal with peer pressure.