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.

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6Teach confident body language.

Push-over kids usually stand with heads down, shoulders slumped, arms and knees quivering, and eyes downcast. So even if he says "no" to his friends, his body sends a far different message and his words will have little credibility. So it's crucial to teach your child assertive body posture: hold your head high, shoulders slightly back, look your friend in the eye and use a confident, firm tone of voice.

It will help your child see what the confident body posture looks like so she can use it herself. So role play with your child the "confident look" and the "hesitant look." Then encourage your child to be on the look-out for "confident" or "hesitant" posture in other people. Look everywhere: at the mall, on the playground, even television and movie actors. Soon your child will instantly be able to spot confident posture and copy and use it himself.

7Use a firm voice.

Emphasize the tone of your child's voice is often more important than what he says. So tell your child to speak in a strong tone of voice. No yelling or whispering. Be friendly but determined. Just tell the friend where you stand. A simple "No" or "No, I don't want to" is fine

8Reinforce assertiveness.

If you want to raise a child who can stand up for his beliefs, then reinforce any and all efforts your child makes to be assertive and stand up for his beliefs. "I know that was tough telling your friends you had to leave early to make your curfew. I'm proud you were able to stand up to them and not just go along."

9Hold family debates.

The best way for kids to learn to express themselves is right at home, so why not start "Family Debates" or if you prefer the more gentler-sounding approach: "Family Meetings?" Start by setting these five rules: 1. Everyone is listened to. 2. No putdowns are allowed. 3. You may disagree, but do so respectfully. 4. Talk calmly. 5. Everyone gets a turn.

Topics can be the hot button issues in the world, in school or right in your home. Here are just a few discussion possibilities: house rules, sibling conflicts, allowances, chores, curfews, parent-set movie restrictions. "Real world" issues could include: reparations, the Iraq War, the draft, lowering the voting age, legalizing drugs. Whatever the topic, encourage your hesitant child's to speak up and be heard.

10Don't tolerate excuses.

You've been working on these skills, but your child is still agreeing to do things she knows are wrong to go along with the group such as going to sneaking into a R-rated movie or using bad words. If this happens, be sure to take clear action to reestablish your rules and your child's need to stand up to peer pressure.

It s not always easy to buck the crowd.

Everyone wants to be liked. But for your child's own self-confidence, independence and future success in life, it's important he learn to stand up to a friend. So continue to encourage each and effort he makes, and help him practice the skills of assertiveness until he can confidently use them alone. And above all, remember simple changes can reap big results. So don't give up.

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