As our kids grow older, they’re faced with some challenging decisions. Making decisions on their own is hard enough, but when other people get involved and try to pressure them one way or another it can be even harder. This is called peer pressure. People who are their age, like their classmates, are called peers.
Peers influence their life, even if they don’t realize it, just by spending time with them. It’s only natural to listen to and learn from other people in their age group. Peers can have a positive influence on each other. For example, another student in Mathematics class taught you an easy way to solve quadratic trinomials. This student will be your role model and try to be more like him or her. You could also get others excited about your new favorite book, and now everyone’s reading it. These are examples of how peers positively influence each other every day.
However, peers can sometimes influence each other in negative ways. For example, a few kids in school might try to get you to cut class with them, your classmates might want you to drink or even smoke. Without proper guidance from parents, some kids might give in to peer pressure because they want to be liked, to fit in, or because they worry that other kids might make fun of them if they don’t go along with the group. Others go along because they are curious to try something new that others are doing.
Peer influence is not necessarily a bad thing. For teens, as school and other activities take you away from home, you may spend more time with your friends than you do with your parents and siblings. As you become more independent, your peers naturally play a greater role in your life.
While it can be hard for teens to resist peer influence sometimes, especially in the heat of the moment, it can also have a positive effect. Just as people can influence others to make negative choices, they can also influence them to make positive ones. A teen might get good grades because the social group he or she belongs to thinks getting good grades is important. In fact, friends often encourage each other to study, try out for sports, or follow new artistic interests.
In this way, peer influence can lead teens to engage in new activities that can help build strong pathways in the brain. This means that teens have the potential to shape their own brain development. Therefore, skill-building activities like physical, learning, and creative endeavors that teens are often encouraged to try through positive peer influence-not only provide stimulating challenges, but can simultaneously build strong pathways.
Thus, the most basic way to respond to peer pressure is to just say ‘no.’ Standing up to peer pressure will save you the trouble of getting pressured again in the future because it sends a clear message that you’re not interested.