How I Talk To My Kids About Peer Pressure

Mural As a parent, I believe that dealing with peer pressure is one of the hardest battles you have to fight. Especially since the truth is that no matter how old you get, you never escape it and that isn't what your kids want to hear.

We've got two teenagers in my house and I've watched as peer pressure rears it's ugly head from time to time.

I certainly don't have all the answers, but when the National Education Association commissioned a post with my thoughts on the topic I couldn't say no.

Don't Jump Off The Bridge Unless You Want To

Every parent has played the "if your friends all jumped off a bridge would you?" game before.

Having grown up where sometimes that sounds like a fun idea, it never completely resonated with me.

The way I've always talked about it with my kids is that it is a guarantee that their friends are going to do stupid stuff over the years. If they in any way feel uncomfortable with what they are doing, they should say no.

We also made it clear to them that the reality is their friends are going to pick on them, give them a hard time and push for them to play along. We tell them that it isn't easy to go against the grain, but that in the long run it is better for them to do so.

Finally, we know they too are going to make stupid decisions and if that is what they really want to do, they'll pay for their mistakes. But, they also might have a great time in the process. (Just think of some of the stupid stuff you did over the years...)

True Friends Won't Hold It Against You

For a long time I worried that the concept of friends had been ruined by social media. When you can "friend" someone with a tap of your finger or a click of a mouse what does that really mean?

Thankfully, I've seen that my kids know the difference between a true friend and a buddy or online acquaintance.

We taught them from an early age that the people who really pushed them aren't their true friends. It was and is important for them to know that friends will understand when you don't want to do something and while they may give you a hard time in the short term, in the end it won't matter.

And while the Internet has inflated the number of "friends" people have, we are constantly reminding them that the reality is most people have a small number of true, core friends.

The Stakes Get Higher As You Get Older

This is the part that truly scares me to my core because I know that bad decisions have greater consequences as my kids get older.

They get peered pressure to make fun of someone when they are little, then it might grow into trying drugs or alcohol and eventually it might involve risky sex or driving carelessly.

We've been very blunt with our kids that as they get older they need to think even harder about what they give in to doing.

That no matter what their age, they are responsible for their choices, but that the consequences can be much worse the later in life they make the bad decisions.

Peer Pressure Never Ends 

No matter how old you are, peer pressure still pops up from time to time. In the office, at neighborhood gatherings and anywhere that other people are, it still happens.

We didn't lay this one on the kids until they were old enough not to be scared by it, but it is an important lesson for them to know.

Be Strong. Be Confident

At the end of the day, this is the key to surviving peer pressure. The better you know yourself and where your morale compass points, the stronger you'll be to just say no when that is the right decision.

I remember the first time I was offered hard drugs in college and for a minute inside panicked because it was a new group of people that I wanted to be accepted by. I had no desire to try them so I simply said, "No thanks. I'm all set." and with that the situation was over. No pressure at all since I firmly stated what I was thinking.

I've told this story to my children. Not to scare them away from drugs, but to let them know that it is up to them to be confident enough in their decisions to push through anything.

Peer pressure is a tough thing that we all deal with and I hope my thoughts help you deal with helping your kids deal with it.

Get more great parenting advice from a variety of writers on the National Education Association Parents site.

Disclosure: This post reflects a collaboration with the National Education Association’s Raise Your Hand for Student Success campaign. All thoughts and opinions are, of course, my own.