7 Ways Parents Can Help Younger Kids Resist Peer Pressure

Ways to teach your child to be strong and think independently

Teens at party
Parents can help teach kids to say no to peer pressure and value independent thinking. Cultura RM Exclusive/Marcel Weber/Getty Images

As parents, we dread the idea of our kids bending to peer pressure. We imagine our children giving in to friends who tempt them with alcohol or drugs, or even encouraging them to join in on bullying. We know how difficult it can be to resist the power of a group and go against the tide, and we know that even parents have a hard time standing up to peer pressure.

That's why it's especially important to teach children the skills to think independently, have confidence in themselves, and learn how to handle and resist peer pressure during the school-age years, when kids are developing a sense of who they are and what values they believe in.

While there are many benefits to peer influence, such as when kids volunteer and help others and inspire other kids to join in their work, or when some kids on a winning sports team set an example and congratulate and comfort the losing team. Peer pressure, on the other hand, can have negative consequences, such as when kids decide to form cliques and bully others or dare each other to do something dangerous or harmful. Here are some important ways parents can help their child learn how to be strong and think independently and resist the strong pull of peer pressure.

  1. Help your child understand the difference between peer pressure and peer influence. Teach your child to distinguish between pressure—peers trying to convince her to do something she may not want to do—and influence—peers who may inspire her to do something positive and good for others and for herself.
  2. Teach your child to say no. It's a powerful word, and one that even grownups sometimes have trouble saying. It's hard to be the one to stand up and go against a group, especially if that group is comprised of your friends, classmates, or other peers. It's hard to go against the tide and be different, and it takes tremendous emotional and mental will and strength to be able to say, "I don't agree."
  1. Practice with your child ways to be respectful when disagreeing. As important as it is to feel strong and confident enough with yourself to disagree or say no, it's also important to do it in a way that's respectful to others. Go over ways your child can disagree in a friendly manner, such as by saying something like, "I know you think x and I respect your opinion but I believe y and I hope you can respect my opinion, too."
  1. Highlight the many upsides of standing apart from the crowd. Remind your child that people who are creative and successful often take a different path and think differently from everyone else. Just going along to get along isn't always the way. While it's important to learn how to work with others and cooperate, being an individual who knows how to be different is a very important skill.
  2. Be sure your child knows that social dynamics and situations change all the time. Relationships and group configurations can seem to be one way and then quickly change into something else; it happens even among grownups, and can be even more fast-changing among kids. Kids who understand this and who learn to see things with an eye toward the future are at a huge advantage because they know not to be too upset by something that's going on at one particular moment in time.
  3. Show your child how to try to see things from the perspective of those who are putting pressure on other kids. Insecurity might be the motivation behind some kids using peer pressure to try to convince others to act or think just like them. And some of the kids who seem to be part of the larger, popular group may actually want to break free and be more independent but are not confident enough to do so. For example, some kids who are constantly on social media sites like Instagram or Snapchat might secretly feel pressured to keep up, and may want to quit but don't for fear of not fitting in.
  1. Teach your child the power of self-confidence. Remind your child about the importance of believing in oneself and having the courage to follow one's own personal beliefs and likes and dislikes, even if that means not always following what the majority of others are saying or doing.

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