Understanding Peer Pressure
This article belongs to Australia - Land of the Free? column.
I wrote this article for children. I'm sure some of TheCheers readers have children. Show them this article. It may help to explain the pressure some of their peers place on them and how to deal with it.
Who are your peers?
They are someone who is the same age, status, or ability as you. When you were little your parents chose your friends by putting you in playgroups or arranging for you to mix with children they chose. Now you are older, you can meet new children and choose your friends.
Therefore your peer group are children like you. Such as school students in the same class, or the other players you play sport with. Perhaps you are in a dance group or have lots of friends in your street. Maybe you just have a group you hang out with.
As you face life away from your parent's control, your peers become more important to you. School and sports take you away from home and you spend a lot more time with your peers. They often shape your behaviour, you will feel you want to be a part of the group and agree with what they expect of you.
A part of being human is the need to belong to a group. That wish came from the very early days of our existence, when the only way to survive was to form into a tribe for defence. Being with other people makes you feel safe.
Being part of a peer group can be good for you.
You can find approval with friends and share lasting bonds.
Children the same age can set good examples for each other. If one of your peers is doing well at school or in sport it can inspire you to succeed too. It could make you want to have goals. Others may be kind and caring and this could persuade you to act the same way. Just watching someone your age who is very gifted in music, sport, or being a leader, even though you don't know them, could move you to follow a dream.
You can seek your friend's advice and views on any problems you may be having. Their ideas can help you make choices on anything from how you dress to how to handle tricky family troubles.
Being with peers helps you to get to know a much wider group of people and try out your social skills. You get the chance to build new friendships and work out your differences.
Peers can help you study. They can listen and help when you're upset. Sometimes they may have had problems just like you and can help you to solve them.
You might want to join the same clubs as your friends. Or maybe just listen to music you've never heard before.
Peers often give each other good advice.
Being part of a peer group can also get you into trouble.
Bad Peer Pressure
Sometimes your peers might pressure you into something that you are uneasy with – such as stealing or teasing someone. Now you have to decide whether to please the group or do what you think is right.
What can you do to avoid doing the wrong thing?
Listen to your inner sense of right and wrong. If you feel ill at ease, even if your friends seem okay with it, it is likely to be out of place. Be self-reliant and listen to your own inner values.
Plan ahead for the risk of bad pressure. Even practice what you are going to say if you are offered something you know is wrong.
Feel comfortable saying no. If you are with good friends they should understand and support you.
Choose your friends carefully. Try to be with people who won't put pressure on you.
Think of yourself as a leader and act like it. This allows you to feel you can assert yourself and express opinions.
You may be pressured to conform to wearing certain clothes, or to do something you know is wrong. Maintain your values – say no. How you act has a lot to do with the way you feel about yourself. The lower your self respect the more you can be pressured into gaining approval by the group.
The best way to handle nasty situations is to refuse to let yourself down. See giving into bad peer pressure as not part of your own values. That way it will make you think twice, and more likely to behave correctly.