You are 12, 13, 14… ?
You can notice puberty, i.e. anatomical and physiological changes daily by looking in the mirror or listening to your friends' commentaries. Adolescence is more complicated. We will try to describe it in a few sentences.
Come on! We’ll all skip Maths! Who wants to write that test? We’d rather walk and eat something. Let’s go! – says your classmate. Sounds familiar? Will you do the right thing and do Maths test? Or, will you accept your peers’ suggestion and skip the class?
The older we are, the more often we have to make challenging decisions. Some of them do not have clear answers, some are about important issues (skip classes, try cigarettes, lie to parents, etc.). Independent decision making is difficult in itself, and even more difficult when other people who are important to us are involved and when they are trying to persuade us to make some decisions. Children of your age are your peers. When they try to persuade you to do something, it is called peer pressure. It is something everybody has to face, even adults. How can we deal with it?
Peer pressure can sometimes have positive effects, and sometimes negative. Peers influence your life even if you do not notice it, because you spend time with them. Sometimes you dress similarly, listen to the same music, have the same hobbies, which is not strange since we choose people with similar interests and thoughts for friends. It is in human nature to listen and learn from others in the same peer group. You learn from them and they learn from you. Your friend may teach you how to better memorise history lessons or shows you some trick in the ball game. You can admire your friend for being a good athlete and try to be as similar to him/her as possible, or you can intrigue your peers to start reading the book you have been reading. Positive peer influence can help a violent friend to change his/her behaviour. On the other hand, your peers can urge you to skip classes, your friend from the football, or handball club can urge you to play rough with a friend in the club, not to pass him/her the ball, or a friend from your neighbourhood can urge you to steal something.
Why do children yield to peer pressure
Some do because they want to be part of the group, to fit in, or are afraid that their peers might ridicule or mock at them, that they will not have friends if they do not comply. Others yield because they are curious and want to try something that others do.
How to resist, not yield, be yourself
It is difficult to be singled out in a group and say NO to peer pressure, but you can do it! Respecting your own feelings and beliefs about what is good and what is not, can help. Inner strength and self-confidence can help you say NO, resist to something you know is not good, and leave. Having a friend who will also say NO, and who will support your decision and respect you, also helps. It reduces the strength of peer pressure and makes resistance easier. You should also help your friend to resist peer pressure, stand by him/her and give support, unless you consider his/her behaviour harmful and dangerous. In such situations and when you are exposed to pressure and when it is hard to resist, talk to some adult whom you trust, your parent, teacher, teacher’s assistant… Do not feel quilt if you have sometimes yielded. Talk can help you to feel better and prepare you how to be more successful dealing with negative peer pressure next time.