Dealing with Peer Pressure
Estimated Lesson Time: 5 minutes
In kindergarten, it was the kids who threw clay out the window. In the fifth grade, it was the kids who skipped class. In high school, it was the kids who smoked, got drunk, and did drugs. Even in our adult lives, there are, and will always be, those people who unjustly influence the lives of others. This influence is known as peer pressure.
Peer pressure is a psychological force exerted by another, or others, in equal standing, which often influences one into acting or behaving in a manner that is generally inconsistent with one’s normal behavior. It is this influence that one can choose to accept or not accept. It is important to understand that no one, besides you, can control the direction of your life. We must take responsibility for the decisions we make in life.
All peer pressure is not always bad. It is certainly possible there can be pressure to “follow the crowd” to do homework and to get good grades. Or if you hang out with millionaires, there can be pressure to make millions of dollars. The key factor is thinking for yourself and doing what is consistent with your goals and life purpose.
Peer pressure is not something that only kids face. Throughout our entire lives, we deal with peer pressure. Some of the most destructive forms of peer pressure are those that cause us to “fall in line” by living a life of accomplishment far below what we are capable of, just because it is what our peers do. Giving into peer pressure as a child begins the life-long habit that keeps most people far away from success. As we know, it is never too late to change and break destructive habits.
Why do people give into peer pressure? The main reason, and the reason preached to most kids these days is the need for belonging. This is part of Abraham Maslow’s “love needs” which is right after safety needs, in the middle of the hierarchy. We all have a desire to fit in and to be accepted. However, one often looks for acceptance in groups that work against one’s achievement of success. It takes a leader to delay this need for belonging and reject the pressure. Soon, others will follow, and the need for belonging will be met.
Here are some other reasons why people give in to peer pressure, that are less known but equally as responsible.
- The lack of self-confidence to go one’s own way. It is easier to follow the footsteps of another than to make your own. There is also a certain level of safety that comes with following another. Taking the road less traveled by making your own choices takes self-confidence and self-assurance.
- The desire to avoid embarrassment. Many people fear embarrassment more than death. Knowing this, it is easy to see how important effective communication can be in responding to peer pressure. For example, if a bunch of peers surround a teenager and asked him if he wants to smoke a cigarette like the rest of them have, and all the teenager can think of is, “but... my mom said I should just say no.” then he is in trouble. It is best to prepare yourself and your children with witty, yet clear and firm responses to known peer pressures. For example, in the above situation the teenager could say, “Hmmm, spend my life wasting money, offending people, having bad breath, and slowly killing myself... Tempting, but no thanks.” A good response cannot only save one from embarrassment, but give others the confidence to not give in to the peer pressure as well. Those who lead are often well respected by those who follow.
- The lack of using one’s own mind. Again it is reacting, rather than responding that causes one to get in trouble. Think about the consequences of your actions, both present and future. Don’t give in and sacrifice your long-term goals for short-term gratification.
- The lack of unbiased information. When someone feels pressure from peers, they are often presented with biased information. Again it is preparation that can help one to avoid peer pressure by knowing all the facts. Anticipate peer pressure in life and get the facts from a reliable source. Educate yourself and your children—don’t count on the school system to do it. Some of the more common peer pressures experienced in youth that can be prepared for today are smoking, alcohol, drugs, sex, cutting class and committing crimes. The biggest peer pressure in adulthood is being expected to behave, act, and perform like your peers rather than becoming the person you are capable of becoming. Know the reasons for and against these pressures.
People are often categorized as either leaders or followers. Be a leader. Think before you act and act on what you believe. Never allow others to influence your actions or behaviors without using your own mind and be consistent with your goals in life. Success often follows those who refuse to follow others.
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Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):
- Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
- Do you have any interesting stories related to this lesson? Do tell!
- What do you admire most about this person? (success biography days)