Strategies to teach your child to manage pressures within their peer group
Being a child can be challenging as you deal with navigating choices about friends, social appropriateness, and ways to feel accepted. Children are confronted with a number of messages about the world through their parents, their friends, and the media and at times it can be tough coordinating choices that satisfy all three sources. How can we teach our children to manage social pressures that they know are incorrect or can elicit negative feedback or consequences?
1) Work with your child on creating value system. When a child knows their values and sets of expectations, it becomes clear what choices would align and what choices would counteract their value system. When we make choices in line with our value system, we feel good about our decisions and can anticipate positive feedback or praise. If we make decisions that go against our core values, we experience consequences or negative feedback. For instance, if it is within a child’s value system to treat others with respect, it might feel strange for them to follow a friend’s advice to talk back to a teacher.
2) Teach assertive communication. Children may feel uncomfortable communicating their needs effectively to their peers out of fear that they may be seen as aggressive or mean. Instead, assertive communication projects a firm boundary in a calm tone. Assertive communication looks like:
“Please stop, I do not like that.”
The message is clearly stated in a non-threatening and calm tone. It is expressing a need and should not risk an overtly, escalated response from a peer. If a child were to yell this message or say it in a mean tone, the message changes and can appear aggressive. As long as the child remains calm and reasserts their message, appropriate reactions from others will ensue. Encourage your child to practice assertive communication with you when they are not happy with a directive in lieu of yelling or experiencing a large, upset reaction.
3) Work with your child on identifying positive qualities that they look for in friends. In this conversation, help your child come up with at least 5 traits that are important in having a friend so as to separate those who do not fit this mold. This will help your child decipher between peers vs. friends and how to choose individuals to spend their time with who embody traits that make them feel comfortable.