Encouraging the positive in your child is another skill to use to help them in their daily battle to manage negative peer pressure. We've spent many months overviewing the proven effective Peer Pressure Reversal skills as outlined in my book by the same title. Your child's peers often reinforce your son or daughter's poor decisions by praising and rewarding him or her for going along with their trouble idea. Your child may be told that the trouble invitation is fun, that everyone is doing it, and that he won't get caught. It's a tough call for most youth because they want so badly to fit in.
One of the most powerful parenting skills at your command is to verbalize praise for your child's good decisions. It expresses your loving approval of their behavior and therefore helps reinforce your child's good decisions. Praise also helps to set boundaries of acceptable behavior and shows your concern for their well-being. Praise also role models the skill so that they learn to praise others.
When most parents think they are praising, they are actually giving either encouragement or a compliment. Let's learn the difference. It's like good, better, best with praise being the strongest of the three types of positive words.
Encouragement is predicting success. For example, when your child is worried about an upcoming test and you say, 'You know all the sample questions so I'm sure you're going to do well tomorrow,' you are giving encouragement. It's 'rah-rah' in cheering them on.
A compliment is an 'atta boy.' It tells your child that you are pleased, but is not specific therefore it cannot reinforce the behavior since it was never mentioned. Compliments might sound like these: 'You're so smart!' or 'You're the best!' These can actually back-fire as they can make a child feel better than others and cause feelings of entitlement.
Praise is different'and stronger! It reinforces a specific behavior and helps the behavior to occur again. Praise might sound like this: 'I noticed how you continued to concentrate to solve that one math problem. I admire your diligence!' or 'You were so nice to share your toys with your company. That was very kind!'
Next month we'll cover the two most common problems when parents attempt to praise their children. Until then, practice being specific when you praise.
Excerpted from Sharon Scott's book, Peer Pressure Reversal: An Adult Guide to Developing a Responsible Child, 2nd Ed. (
Copyright ©2007- 2014, Sharon Scott. No reproduction without written permission from author.
P.S. Please check out my other column, 'SmileNotes'
Sharon Scott, LPC, LMFT, is an internationally recognized family therapist with a private practice in north Texas. She is considered the leading expert on peer pressure having trained more than one million people across the U.S. and in Australia, Canada, Switzerland, South Africa, Spain, Malaysia, the Philippines, Turkey, and Micronesia in her proven techniques. For information on bringing Sharon to your community or school to present one of her 29 dynamic workshops for children, teens, parents, or educators, please see her website www.SharonScott.com .