Managing Peer Pressure
What is peer pressure?
Everyone has peers. Peers can be your friends who are about your age and have similar interests and experiences. Peers can also be other kids who are about your age and are involved in the same activities with you or are part of a community or group you belong to. You may not consider all of your peers to be friends, but they can all influence you.
Peer pressure can be positive or negative. When peer pressure is positive, it pushes you to be your best. Negative peer pressure is when someone who is a friend or part of a group you belong to makes you feel that you have to do something to be accepted. It’s the negative peer pressure that we usually think of when the phrase peer pressure is used. When you give in to negative peer pressure, you often feel guilty or disappointed with yourself for acting in a way that goes against your beliefs or values.
Some examples of negative peer pressure are:
- Needing to dress or act a certain way.
- Cheating or copying someone else’s work or letting others copy your work.
- Not including certain people in social activities.
- Taking dangerous risks when driving.
- Using drugs or alcohol.
- Shoplifting or stealing.
- Engaging in sexual activity.
- Engaging in bullying or cyberbullying.
- Projecting a misleading/false image on social media.
Pay attention to how you feel. If something doesn’t feel right about a situation, it probably isn’t. Even if your friends seem ok with what is going on, the situation may not be right for you.
Plan ahead. Think about how you will respond in different situations. Plan what you can say or what you can do.
Talk to the person who is pressuring, let him or her know how it makes you feel and tell the person stop.
Have a secret code to communicate with parents. Something you can say or text to your parent(s) that lets them know you need out of a situation. Parents can either call or text to say that you need to come home, or that they need to pick you up.
Give an excuse. It should be ok to say “no” without needing to apologize or give an explanation. But it may make it easier to say no if you have a ready reason. Perhaps saying you have a medical reason such as asthma or allergies that makes it dangerous for you to take anything. Or even stating that your parents need you to come home, if you feel it would be best to leave the situation all together.
Have friends with similar values and beliefs. It is easier to say “no” if someone else is also saying it. Saying “no” together makes it easier for the both of you.
Get support from a trusted adult such as a parent, teacher, or school counselor. A trusted adult can listen to you and help you with strategies that might work in your situation.
20 Ways to Avoid Peer Pressure
Alison Bell (writing in Teen Magazine) suggests:
- Ask 101 questions.
For example, if a pal pressures you to smoke, ask her why she smokes, how long she has smoked, if she minds having ashtray breath.
- Say “No” like you mean it.
Make eye contact, then say “No” forcefully, with authority. The more certain you are in your refusal, the less people will bug you.
- Back-up a no with a positive statement.
For example, if you’re turning down an offer to smoke weed, say something like, “I like my brain the way it is, thanks.”
- Be repetitive.
Don’t hesitate to state your position over and over again.
- Practice saying no.
Practice saying ‘no’ in safe environments, like when your big brother asks you if you’d like to spend Saturday night doing his laundry.
- Get away from the pressure zone.
Leave the scene… make your exit.
- Avoid stressful situations in the first place.
If you know there’s going to be alcohol or drugs at a party, make other plans. Or, if you’re going out with a guy, avoid being alone with him… anywhere he might pressure you to get more physical than you want to be.
- Use the buddy system.
Find a friend who shares your values and back each other up.
- Confront the leader of the pack.
The best way to handle a peer pressure bully is to nab him (or her) when the two of you are alone and explain how you’re feeling and ask him/her to get off your case.
- Consider the results of giving in.
Take a moment to think about the consequences of your actions.
- Look for positive role models.
Ever notice that the real popular and successful teens at your school are the ones who weren’t afraid to say what they like and don’t like?
- Don’t buy the line that everyone’s doing it.
The truth is, everyone’s NOT doing it.
- Seek support.
Talk out any peer pressure you’re experiencing with other friends who are also feeling the squeeze. I can be reassuring to know that you’re not the only one.
- Be your own best friend.
Remind yourself every now and then that you’re special and nuke any negative statements.
- Find ways to excel.
Challenge yourself to do your best. Focus your attention on following your personal goals instead of the goals of the group.
- Don’t pressure others.
Watch out for any subtle forms of pressure you may be exerting.
- Speak out!
Fight peer pressure by taking the side of the underdog. Supporting others’ opinions will send the message that you think for yourself.
- Watch your moods.
Be aware that your moods can affect your sensibility.
- Evaluate your friendships.
If your friends are always bugging you to do something you’re not comfortable with, remember that true friends like you for who you are, not who they want you to be.
- Find new friends.
If you’ve decided that your friends don’t have your best interests at heart, search out new friends who share your values and interests.
Remember that you are important. Your life counts, and you can make a difference in this world. If you ever need to talk about this or anything else, feel free to get in touch with us. We’re here for you.