How do you teach kids to say no to peer pressure?

Ever catch yourself telling your kid-- don’t give in to friends requests or say no to activities they want to do? Stop, think and you’d probably realise you are no different from the friend. Why? Because you want your kid to blindly follow what you say. So how do you empower your kid to be a leader?

Joseph Allen, clinical pyschologist and co-author of “Escaping the Endless Adolescence: How We Can Help Our Teenagers Grow Up Before They Grow Old” said that kids who did well in school knew how to say no to peer pressure as they could negotiate with their friends.

His stand on this matter comes after observing the development of  150 13-year olds near the University of Virginia over the course of ten years. Part of his experiment included observing how two best friends negotiated a decision. He found that those teens who were able to reason out their arguments with their friends in a controlled manner using reason and logic, had higher examination results, were in a healthy romance, were in control of their social life and more.

The study also revealed that the ability to argue healthily with their best friend came from learning how to do the same with their parents. "It turns out that what goes on in the family is actually a training ground for teens in terms of how to negotiate with other people," said Joseph Allen, the lead author of the study,

So how do you encourage your child to agree to disagree with you?

1. Respect them

Often as parents we devalue our childs rights as individuals by expecting them to do as we say, because we know best. For example, at the end of a long day when we are exhausted and ready for bedtime to be over,  we may forcibly make our kids brush their teeth or change into their PJ's. When we do so, we show them that we don’t respect their feelings and decisions, simply because we feel we know what is best. Instead the right approach would be to treat such situations with a mixture of planning, sensitivity and a sense of equality.

2. Negotiate

As they grow up and start to push the envelope, discuss how to resolve the issue together. Take into consideration what they’re asking for and if it’s not something you are keen on, propose an alternate suggestion and back it up with a valid reason instead of “Because I’m your parent”. If you start doing this before they enter their pre-teens and continue throughout, your child may be better off for it.

3. Teach them to be assertive

It’s said that the best way to learn something is through example. Kids are like sponges in that aspect. So, if you as the parent are assertive in situations that call for it, your child will pick up on that trait and use it themselves. As they get older though, show them how to validate their answers to their peers. It could something as simple as “No, I’d rather not do this because I have to babysit this afternoon”.

4. Talk to them, instead of at them

It seems obvious, but many parents unwittingly ignore what their child is really saying and immediately cut them off with either a dismissive remark or criticism. Take a step back and listen to what your child is really saying to you- whether verbally or through actions. Hold back criticism until the air is a little less tense and share your concerns.  If it happens that there is an issue at school and they don’t know how to react, perhaps role-playing possible scenarios that may come up in school about an issue is the way to go.

5. Trust them

Your child is more wise than you give him/her credit for.  Trust in your childs ability to self-regulate. Talk to them in a sincere and kind manner, explain what you feel is the right decision, offer your guidance but ultimately trust in their natural ability to discern what's good and bad.