Five techniques for resisting peer pressure

Peer pressure - ways to resist it

How can we help our kids resist peer pressure?

The older they get the more important friends seem to become to our children. The fun of just playing together as little tots and the freedom to refuse another grit-in-the-eyes sandpit play-date gradually gets replaced with, “Well, if you don’t come round to my house after school, I won’t be your friend anymore”. The pressure to conform and fit in with other children’s requests begins to grow:

“You’ve got to wear pink scrunchies in your hair tomorrow, or you won’t be in the gang!”

“Pick on the new boy tomorrow lunchtime, otherwise you’re a sissy.”

These jibes and taunts so easily escalate and take our kids somewhere they don’t really want to go: into cruelty, exclusive attitudes, and ultimately on to things like smoking, drugs and under-age sex. That’s depressing and scary at the same time. So what can we do?

Here are five techniques that will increase our children’s confidence and help them resist unhelpful peer pressure.

  1. Give them some simple assertiveness training and teach them how to say ‘no’.  Help them learn to say it firmly but without judgement or aggression, as this will only backfire on them and make the situation more emotional.  A firm “No thanks!” is often all it will take, but a good fall-back is always “My parents will kill me!”
  2. Teach them to ‘calibrate state’. This simply means that they train themselves to become observant and notice the behaviour, posture, facial expressions and tone of voice of the people around them.  Once they’ve mentally registered these they’re able to notice any changes that occur in them.  For example, if someone stands up and starts to speak more loudly, becoming threatening in their body language, or leans in to a neighbour in a conspiratorial way your child can pick up on these things very quickly and realise that it’s time to leave.  They learn to spot the threat before it becomes a danger.
  3. Get them to talk to ‘mum’. In fact, get them to argue with mum. Why? According to Alex Lickerman “teens who are able to express their own views with their mothers resist peer pressure the best.” If they learn to articulate their opinions and argue their point of view at home then they’ll be much better at holding their ground against a group of pushy peers. And, hey, notice how it says ‘mothers’ – that’s a gold star for us ladies then!
  4. Ask your child why their friends have given so much power to the group leader. He (or she) is only powerful because they allow him to be. If no-one took the bait he was offering he would lose his control over them.
  5. Get your child to question their friends’ motives. If they can really see what’s in it for their mates, ie understand how their engagement only serves to puff up their friends’ egos rather than be of any benefit for themselves, it might make it easier for them to stand up for what they really feel is the right thing to do.

And just so you can’t say I never give you anything, here are three quick tips you can use in a flash.

  1. Empathise. Don’t belittle your child’s emotions by saying something like, “Oh, it doesn’t matter if you’re not part of the club/group/gang”. Of course it matters to them. Tell them you understand and would feel just as left out, disappointed, or hurt as they do. Often just acknowledging their feelings is all that’s needed for the intensity of the emotion to dissolve.
  2. Create a get-me-out-now code. This is a word or phrase that your child can use to let you know they’re really not happy with what’s going on and they need you to rescue them NOW! It could be something they call out to you from across the park or something they say or text on their mobiles. One family, apparently, used to use the phrase “How’s Auntie Beth?” As soon as the parents got that message they swung into action and picked up their child!
  3. Teach your child a reflex response. By this I mean help them develop the habit of responding to an unhealthy invitation with an immediate alternative option. For example, when a friend suggests they bunk off double maths, they could say “Well, if you want a bit of fun why don’t we go to the cinema later?”

These are only a few ideas, so I’d love to know what you would recommend.

How would you prepare your child to deal with peer pressure? The more suggestions we get the better equipped our children could be.

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  1. Adrienne
    4 years ago

    Oh my gosh Jackie, that’s just horrible.

    In reading through your post I think back to when I was in school. As I got older I was made fun of because I had large breasts. The boys use to make fun of me and the girls would give me a hard time. They weren’t cruel though and it was nothing like it apparently is today.

    I read sometimes about kids killing themselves because of being bullied so much and I can’t even image having to go to school every single day of my life knowing what I have to face from the other kids. I didn’t have a lot of confidence when I was younger so my heart goes out to all those poor kids who have to deal with this type of cruelty.

    These are truly wonderful suggestions you’ve shared here. Arguing with their Mom, I would have never thought about that but it would help in giving them that ability to hold their ground I agree.

    What a wonderful post you’ve shared and I’m sure that it will really help a lot of parents who have children going through this right now. I wish it wasn’t the case but unfortunately it is a sad state this world is in.

    ~Adrienne


  2. Jackie Charley
    4 years ago

    Yes, Adrienne, it’s a tough world sometimes for our kids. When I was at school my mum got so worried about the immodest way young girls dressed that she made me go to school in a maternity dress! It was like wearing a green tent, and I was teased mercilessly by kids asking if the big pockets were for my milk bottles! I have forgiven her (!), but I think she regrets having forced her paranoia onto me in that way. It certainly didn’t help me confidently explore my adolescence and discover who I was! Ah, mums … ! We have a lot to answer for sometimes, don’t we?

    I quite like the idea of creating a family debating society though to get my kids articulating their thoughts about stuff. It wouldn’t be terribly grand – more like discussions over dinner, but it could do the trick.


  3. Jackie Charley
    4 years ago

    You’re welcome, Laura. Love what you and your daughter are doing! Practise so makes perfect, and what she’s doing now will stand her in such good stead as she grows up. Kids are amazing at providing creative solutions, aren’t they?

    Mind you, when I was discussing with my youngest son what would be the most effective way to keep his room tidy, he said “You tidy it and I get paid!” Cheeky monkey! He’s certainly an optimist.

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