Just Say No
"What were you thinking?" "But didn't you tell the kids it wasn't right?" "You did what?!!@!" Are you concerned that your kid always seems to go along with the crowd? Does she have a tough time speaking up and letting her opinions be known? Have you noticed that your child can be easily swayed to do what the other kids want? Some kids may call him a Wimp or a Scaredy Cat, your terms may be more along the lines of submissive, follower or even push over. This may not seem such a big deal now, but peer pressure gets nothing but tougher as kids get older.
After all, if he has a tough time saying "no" to the tamer dilemmas of younger kids, fast forward your concerns to the kinds of wilder, scarier issues he may face later. And there is cause for some concern. A Time/Nickelodeon survey of 991 kids ages nine to 14 revealed 36 percent feel pressure from peers to smoke marijuana, 40 percent feel pressure to have sex, 36 percent feel pressure to shoplift, and four out of 10 feel pressure to drink.
Here's the good news though: assertive skills can be taught to kids. Though it is never too late, the sooner parents start boosting this friendship skill builder, the greater your child's confidence will be in social settings, and the easier you'll sleep. Here are a few strategies from my book, Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me: The Top 25 Friendship Problems and How to Solve Them, you can use to help your child buck the negative peer pressure and stand up to peers.
10 Ways to buck negative peer pressure
Bring the issue into the open.
If your kid is suffering from a lack of assertive skills, it may be very hard for him to talk about this problem so take the lead. "I noticed during play group today Johnny told you to throw sand in the sink, and you did it. You know better. So let's talk about why you went along." "You know Rene's house is off limits, but you went along with the group anyway. You have to learn to stand up to your friends and do what you know is right."
Share your beliefs.
Parents who raise assertive kids who can stand up for their beliefs don't do so by accident. They make sure their children know what they stand for. "In our family we don't watch violent movies. Plain and simple. So tell your friends you can't go." "I don't care if all your friends use four-letter words, for you that's forbidden." "The next time a friend dares you to smoke a cigarette, just stand up and walk out. You need to stick up for what you know is right. I know how much you hate smoking."
If your role has been apologizing, explaining, or basically "doing" for your child, then stop. You child will never learn how to stand up for himself. Instead, he'll forever by relying on you.
If you want your child to be confident, assertive and stand up for his beliefs, make sure you display those behaviors. Kids mimic what they see.
Teach how to say no.
Ask your child to choose phrases he is most comfortable using. "No" can be said alone: "NO!" It can also be followed by a reason: "No, it's just not my style." "No thanks. My parents would kill me." "No, I don't feel like doing that." "No, I don't want to." "No. I have to get home and I'm already late." The child could suggest an alternative: "No. Let's think of something else." "Nope. How bout we go to the skate park instead?" Tell your child it's not his job to change your friend's mind, but to stay true to his beliefs.
Up next: 5 More ways to buck negative peer pressure >>