Helping Your Kid Overcome Peer Pressure

Patricia Belton
Helping Your Kid Overcome Peer Pressure

Driving a car without obtaining driving license? Or spending the night out with questionable friends? Teens make thousands of bad life choices, which make their faces go red out of embarrassment. And most of such decisions are influenced by their peers.

No doubt, peers have a significant impact on the teenagers. Young children especially fall under the influence of other kids. They imitate their behavioral patterns and learn how to reach in this or that case following the example of their peers. It’s a good sign if this example is positive. But when a kid starts taking up bad habits, it is a sign for parents to get involved.

Table Of Contents

Peer Pressure Definition

Peers are the people who socialize with you the most; these can be your friends, classmates or simply acquaintances who are of the same values in life. How to define peer pressure? Peer pressure is the influence that peers have on each other.

Struggling to be a part of something can make you behave in a certain way. Social pressure makes children do something they wouldn’t do under normal circumstances. The normal circumstances are the neutral environment, which doesn’t impose a teenager to do what’s accepted by other individuals.

While some kids understand they are being influenced, others don’t define pressure and the impact someone has on their choices and decisions. They start to dress the way they are told to; they take up the hobbies that are imposed by older kids; they change their circle of friends to hang out with children they don’t feel comfortable with.

  • Peer pressure as its best is described in the ‘Clockwork Orange’ written by Anthony Burgess. The novel’s protagonist, Alex, is the leader among his friends. Although all the boys in Alex’s gang are vile and cruel, one of them, Pete doesn’t seem to take a particular side during fights. Later, Pete repels the previous vicious values and marries a girl. He lives a calm life enjoying nights out with his wife and a couple of new friends.
  • Don’t you think that Pete was living under Alex and the gang’s influence all his teenage years? When the Alex and the other boys were no longer around, Pete managed to change his life and his beliefs completely. Maybe he only acted violently before because he was under peer pressure?

The influence the gang had on Pete may be defined as indirect pressure. There are also two other types of pressure: direct and self-motivated. Let’s define each peer pressure type and address them in detail.

  • Direct pressure – Direct pressure is called such because it addresses the kid directly. When someone tells your child what they should do or how to act this person has a direct impact on your child.
  • Indirect pressure – Indirect influence does affect the behavior of a child circumstantially. The group of kid’s friends can do particular activities together, but the kid isn’t likely to do such activities alone.
  • Self-motivated pressure – This type of pressure is imposed by the kid themself. Self-motivated pressure occurs when the child tries to change their lifestyle and values in order to fit in a particular group of kids.

When it comes to handling the peer pressure, it matters what kind of peer pressure the child is experiencing. Parents have to define which pressure their child suffers from and why do they give in to peer influence.

Why Do Children Submit To Pressure?

Not all the children are submitted to peer pressure. While some children are easy to influence, others can stand up for themselves.

Children who give in to peer pressure usually lack self-confidence. They don’t find themselves funny or smart, so they start looking for the person who is more popular, confident and more courageous than they are. They make themselves to act differently to be liked by stronger individuals.

Some kids are afraid of being the odd ones out in their community. They worry that other children will disregard and make fun of them because of their individuality. So, they start forgetting about their hobbies and interests, to show they don’t differ from the rest of the group.

Other children give in because they want to try new things. They are excited about new experiences and leave own values and preferences behind.

Often kids don’t realize they are submitted to pressure. Being in their young age, they are unable to analyze own choices and define peer pressure nature. They quit own hobbies, abandon old friends and change their personality without understanding that they give in to peer pressure.

Consequences Of Peer Pressure

Pressure can push children to do various things. It can make kid change their behavior and reconsider own priorities. Look at some of the most widespread consequences and negative effects of peer pressure.

  • Urge to wear fashionable clothes – Adolescence is the time when a child finds own way to express themselves. And self-expression is often about clothes. If your kid wants to be a part of some group, they may start reconsidering their style and clothing choices.

    Clothing forms the self-image of a teen. When the group of kids the child belongs to, buy that expensive belt with two circles, the kid may want to purchase that accessorize too not to differ from others. Maybe the child doesn’t really like that belt. But the peer pressure makes them decide in favor of the group, not their own preferences.

  • Reconsideration of attitude – Peer pressure makes teenagers reconsider their attitude to certain things in life. Children copy the attitude of their friends and other cool kids. If their friends skip classes and ignore homework, the child may also do that to be liked or respected.

    Reconsideration of attitude also concerns the relationship between kid and parents. Often kids who are submitted to peer pressure, stop sharing any news with parents, ignore calls and miss family gatherings.

  • Teenage dating – Teens are often submitted to pressure to date the particular person. They believe if someone doesn’t have a partner, there is apparently something wrong with that person.

    The pressure gets higher when the sex is involved. Teens often rush into sex life, just because their friends are already doing “this.” They don’t think about consequences but rely on the opinion of the cool kids in school.

    Adolescents don’t realize it’s ok to be in a relationship and not to have sex. They want to prove they are adult enough and fit in by having intimacy with their dates.

  • Drugs and alcohol abuse – Many kids try drugs and alcohol in their teenage years. And they often do it not because they want to. Majority of teens try alcohol and drugs because their cool friends do it.

    Imagine the shame the kid may be submitted to if they refuse to take drugs in front of all the people who were invited to the party. That’s why many of them don’t say “no” to drugs and alcohol.

    And it’s not because they don’t know about dangers and long-term effects of substance abuse. It’s because the risk not to fit in is more dreadful for the children than the substances themselves.

  • Bullying – Most of the children don’t realize the fact that they are being influenced to treat others poorly. Bullying is another consequence of peer pressure. Bullies aren’t usually alone. There are always two or three friends who are ready to help them in case of a fight.

    Maybe some kids don’t enjoy harassing others? But they give in to pressure of the most active children and take the path of least resistance, bullying those who don’t fit in.

With all the consequences, peer pressure seems to be a very negative phenomenon. But it can also be positive. How can someone influence your child positively?

Does Positive Peer Pressure Exist?

Peer pressure isn’t always about bad life choices and unhealthy attitude. Teenagers can influence each other positively and inspire others to not to give in to negative influence.

Positive peer influence often promotes personal growth and development of a teenager. Students who take part in various scientific projects can cause interest among their classmates and alternate their peer’s attitude towards studying.

Adults tend to act the same regardless they are alone or in a group. Teens, on the other hand, are more receptive to their community influence. Developing their inner voice and sense of an identity, they address their peers to find out how to act in this or that case.

Teenagers pay considerable attention to the opinion of other cool teens. They are more likely to follow the advice of the peer than from the adult. It’s not like they find advice from adults useless. Teens rely more on the opinion of those who share the same interests, values, and experiences as they do.

Positive peer pressure

What can parents do to ensure positive peer pressure? Make sure your kid is surrounded by inspiring and intelligent people. Tell your child about local hobby groups they can visit to meet friends. Teach them how to be a good example for anyone and influence other kids positively.

It is defined that’s peers (close and not close friends) play the great role in the overall developments of a child. But not only other kids can influence your son or daughter. Your kid also may pressure their friends without you noticing. How to recognize your child is a bad influence?

  1. Ask teachers – Teachers see your kid every day. They watch as kids face challenges, communicate with their peers and deal with challenging tasks. Teachers can tell you a lot about the behavior of your kid. Ask whether your child cooperates with other children freely and initiate new ideas in the classroom.
  2. Foster open communication – Take time to talk to your child every evening and ask how their day was. Try to define what relationship your kid has with friends. Ask open questions to find out whether they like spending time with particular friends or not.

    Also, don’t forget to mention your kid’s friends and ask how they are doing. If your kid avoids answering such questions, there may be something wrong between kids.

  3. Watch peer relations – You should watch how your kid influences others. Invite your child’s friends for a sleepover and observe their interactions. What do they talk about? What things do they like doing together?

    You can learn a lot by watching your kid communicating with others. Examine whether the behavior of your kid changes when there are peers around.

Helping The Child Overcome Negative Peer Pressure

Every parent knows the results of peer pressure can be destructive for the child. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that pressure is dangerous. If your child listens to the same music as their friends, they indeed are not exposing oneself to dangers and risks.

Consequences of bad pressure can appear immediately. Once parents can’t prevent peer pressure, it’s essential to learn how to help your kid deal with it. Pay attention to some advice below:

  • Stay connected – Teens spend more time hanging out with peers than at home. It’s easy for parents to get disconnected from the child once they see their kids not often. But the bond between you and your child is crucial for their balanced development.

    Show your interest in everything that is important for your child. Ask them about school projects they take part in, new friends they meet in school and tell about your day in details too. If the kid hears about your everyday struggles and problems, they will more likely tell you about own worries.

  • Tell them about ‘Power Of No” – Saying ‘no’ to people and things can sometimes be challenging even for adults. Kids experience even the worse struggle when there is a person in their life who wants them to say ‘yes.’ Often kids who can’t or don’t know how to refuse are the most susceptible to pressure.

    Tell your kid that saying ‘no’ is the skill that can help them avoid things they don’t want to do. It’s okay to refuse. It’s no big deal if you to leave the party early because you don’t feel like partying. It’s normal to refuse to smoke because you hate the smell of cigarette smoke. Make sure your kid isn’t afraid to make own choices even if there is the group of other teens offering a cigarette.

  • Back them up in any situation – In case your kid feels unsafe, they should be able to contact you immediately for help. Tell your child that you can back them up in any situation without being angry or mad.

    If you don’t want your kid to be embarrassed about calling you in any risky situation, you can ask them to send you coded alert. Agree on simple 3-digit code or few words that would tell you that your kid needs your hand now.

  • Help them develop a wide social circle – Encourage your kid to meet new friends and take part in extra-curricular activities. The wide social circle is important for the youngsters. It can help survive the difficult times and restore balance in life.

    It’s normal when some of the children stop communicating with your kid or vice versa. But it’s necessary for the teen to have some peers around. By ensuring your kid is not alone with their worries and problems you can guarantee someone will always help your child when you are not around.

Should You Be Concerned About Peer Pressure?

Negative peer pressure is not a myth, but a real problem. If you define a change in your child’s behavior patterns, it might one of the consequences of pressure.

Change of priorities, interests and friend circle can sometimes be healthy for the kid. If the change is followed by warning signs, there might be peer pressure involved.

Warning Signs That Your Kid Is Under Pressure

  • Depression, bad moods for no apparent reason
  • Reluctance to maintain communication with friends
  • Sudden loss of interest in old hobbies
  • Posting lots of photos on social media
  • Unusual bursts of anger
  • Eating/sleeping disorders

Some of these signs are pretty obvious. But there is one of them, which may arise many questions among parents. How posting a lot of photos on social media can show that your kid suffers from peer pressure?

The research conducted by scientists from Harvard and Vermont Universities proved the connection between social media posts and depression. The scientists elaborated a system that analyzes and scan the photos people post on social media. They found out that users who have depression post darker images, which attract more comments on Instagram and other platforms.

The scientists claim the further research is needed to prove the connection between low moods and social media posts. Although, some real-life examples show there is something on kids’ social media parents have to be concerned about.

One of such examples is the story of Madison Holleran. Madison was the girl who had it all: friends, popularity, success in school. There was something that led her to a terrific choice to commit suicide.

Madison was an Ivy League student and star athlete. Her Instagram is full of pictures depicting happy moments Madison shared with her friends and family. And who could tell she was depressed?


A post shared by Madison Stacy Amelia (@maddyholleran) on

Madyson Holleran on a party with friends shortly before her suicide

Madison’s parents told that she never had drug issues or any other substance addiction. She didn’t have a boyfriend, so there wasn’t a love affair involved. Three weeks before her death Madison told her mother she was having suicidal thoughts. They arranged a meeting with a therapist.

But the therapy didn’t seem to make progress for Madison. Suddenly, this happy-looking girl decided to end her life. Madison’s fathers told his daughter was experiencing a heavy workload at Penn school and possibly, was suffering from mental illness.

It’s difficult to tell for sure what exactly made Holleran jump to her death from a building. But it is evident that a girl suffered from pressure. Although her photos prove Madison had a lot of friends to share her pain with, she didn’t do it and handled all her problems alone.

Her parents say Madison wasn’t happy at school. They considered the transfer, but it was too late for the girl. Madison’s father decided to keep her Instagram account active to raise the awareness that online profiles don’t reflect the real life of the people.

What can parents learn from Holleran’s story? Parenting is not an easy task to handle. Especially if you are a parent of a teen, who is going to make own mistakes either with or without your help.

But as a parent, you can ensure your kids aren’t pressured by society, friends or themselves. Mobile apps like mSpy may help you find new ways to deal with peer pressure. Also, tell your child about teen hotline that can help them deal with pressure and understand they are not alone in their struggle.

Defining peer pressure parents should always keep in mind that all children are different. They perceive the world in their own way and understand the friendship differently. You need to elaborate own approach to teaching your child how to resists peer pressure and stay open and friendly to others people.

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Patricia Belton was raised in a single-working-mother family, that’s why she’s deeply interested in family issues. She graduated from New York University with a Bachelor’s degree in Classical Literature, married, mother of 2 kids. Mrs. Belton writes for different e-journals, participates in versatile online/offline conferences and forums connected with kids and influence of technology.

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