Peer Proofing Your Child, Part 1 Counselor’s Corner by Sharon Scott, LPC LMFT
Peer Proofing Your Child, Part 1
By Sharon Scott, LPC, LMFT
Our children have been put in a precarious position: not only are they continuously bombarded with outside messages and opportunities beyond our control, but in many cases they are insufficiently reinforced in the home to withstand negative pressures. Research indicates that 87% of America’s youth face at least one peer pressure situation every day! It could be to gossip and be in a clique or to loan homework answers or to lie to parents about where they’re going or to drink alcohol, etc. The invitations to trouble are endless.
Of course, good decision making by our children begins with good values, and most parents try to teach their children the difference between right and wrong. ‘Knowing’ the difference between right and wrong fosters a child’s desire to avoid trouble, but it doesn’t help that child visualize the consequences of negative actions or provide that child with practice in how to reverse peer pressure in a realistic way’one that will work in real-life social situations.
Thus, although it is essential that children be able to distinguish good decisions from bad ones, unless they are also strongly skilled in refusal skills, such as my Peer Pressure Reversal techniques (outlined thoroughly in my book for parents/educators Peer Pressure Reversal; in the teen guide How to Say No and Keep Your Friends; and in the elementary-age book
Parents often teach their children two basic versions of the Peer Pressure Reversal skill: (1) to simply say no, and (2) to walk away from peer pressure situations. These forms of resistance can work in some instances if the child has a good measure of self-confidence (and the pressuring child isn’t really strong).
But a quiet, reserved child won’t use them for fear of appearing unfriendly and becoming unpopular. In situations between close friends or involving popular kids, this fear increases, and it becomes difficult to say no in any form. Walking away from the problem can be difficult, too, and is not always possible if a child is at a sleepover or in a friend’s car. Again, children fear being teased or worse, cut out of the group.
We adults even have trouble saying no or walking away from peer pressure situations. But we have developed numerous variations and alternatives’ ways of responding to social pressure without offending our peers’ and so can draw on them when we need to. Moreover, adult peers tend to back off when confronted by resistance. This isn’t the case with children.
When they’re caught in a peer-engineered trap, children can free themselves by making use of my simple, logical, three-step skill called Peer Pressure Reversal (PPR). The simpler version for the younger child (grades K-4) is called Too Smart for Trouble.
Let’s begin with Teaching Step 1 which is to Schedule.
With your child select a day, time, and location for the PPR practice in advance, so that it fits into the child’s social schedule as well as your own. The appointment needs to be kept and not cancelled when something else comes up that conflicts with it. PPR practice should be fit into the child’s schedule as routinely as soccer practice, Scout meetings, music lessons, homework, chores, and other responsibilities. It is every bit as important as any of those other activities.
The first PPR session (Introduction which will be overviewed in my next month’s column) will take about 30-45 minutes. Starting the following week, 15-minute practices should be held once each week for the next four weeks. These fun ‘fire drill’ practices are necessary to renew the child’s enthusiasm, to practice responses the youth may not have used or mastered yet, to check that the child is using the PPR skills, and to praise their efforts.
Many parents tell me that instead of arguing with their teens about what radio station to listen to in the car, they turn off the computer and work on a few quick PPR practices! I also remember one mother who told me that she began telling her three young children in the car that she would teach them to be Too Smart for Trouble and that Nicholas, a Cocker Spaniel, would help (Nicholas is my savvy ‘co-author’ in the book!).
She said her children hounded her to learn it immediately so she ordered pizza instead of cooking dinner and, by the time Dad got home, they were ready to teach the skills to him. Later she would find them practicing the material with the dog, their dolls, and the Teddy Bear!
When taught and practiced properly, kids like this material because it gives them power and control over their lives. They are learning how to say no and stay out of trouble and be able to keep their friends at the same time!
Copyright 2018, Sharon Scott. No reproduction without written permission from author.
The guide for parents/educators on how to peer-proof children and teens is Peer Pressure Reversal: An Adult Guide to Developing a Responsible Child, 2nd Ed.
Her popular book for teens, How to Say No and Keep Your Friends, 2nd Ed., empowers kids to stand out,not just fit in!
A follow-up book for teens, When to Say Yes! And Make More Friends, shows adolescents how to select and meet quality friends and, in general, feel good for doing and being good.
Sharon also has a charming series of five books for elementary-age children each teaching an important living skill and "co-authored" with her savvy cocker spaniel Nicholas who makes the learning fun.Their book on managing elementary-age peer pressure is titled Too Smart for Trouble.
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