We want to fit in, be liked,
be popular, be noticed, be witty, don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb,
don’t want to different, not be made fun of. Just plain curiosity could also be
the reason behind us being influenced.
Influence is the influence to behave a certain way, that is
exerted by peers.
This sounds a lot like peer
pressure. Is peer influence and peer pressure the same? Yes, the only
difference between the two is how it is exhibited. Peer pressure is when you
hear children say, “Stop being a wimp!” Whereas peer influence is when children
hangout with a bully just because he seems strong and start thinking its ok to
bully someone. So as I see it, it is important to talk about peer influence as
it works on a more subtle level.
So, at what age does
influence develop? In children, influence starts as early as when a child
starts to pay attention to what others think about him/her. Wow! That’s early
Who are susceptible to it?
It has been that kids who
don’t have many friends have higher chances to get influenced easily. They want
to protect their friendships, hence will probably do what they think thier
friends might want them to do. They are worried they might lose them otherwise;
and to add to their worries making new friends might not be as easy.
Kids who are not comfortable
being themselves, want to gain popularity, or those who are hanging out with
older kids are also at risk. Research also shows that boys have a higher chance
to fall for peer pressure than girls. Boys have a need to ‘fit in’ in the
group, while in case of girls the influence is more individual, they don’t care
about the whole group till they have their one or friends.
Today’s generation values being
neutral. There is no right or wrong. It is more like saying, “Its his choice.”
Today’s children feel that if I allow myself to be pressurized into doing
something, lowers my status in my peer group. They feel it uncool to pressurize
someone. They respect differences!
How would we equip our
children to resist it?
Teach them to be comfortable to say NO! Everyone has a right to say NO!
them make their boundaries. Their first responsibility
is to themselves. Empower them to vocalize their thoughts by using “I feel…”
statements and respect them. For example, “I feel irritated when you keep
repeating things over and over again, mom.”, ” I don’t feel comfortable around
their Boundaries. Acknowledge their feelings, but guide them to
express them respectfully. For example, they are allowed to be angry, but not
allowed to be mean.
their strengths! Teach
them to accept and love themselves the way they are. They need to realize
that as an individual they are unique. There is no other person identical to
them in this world. “One thing is right for one person, doesn’t make it right
their support system to bank on while making decisions, but final decision is always theirs!
Teach them the importance of making good solid relationship based on values like
loyalty and trust.
Have a dialogue about all situation– school
trips, birthday parties, meeting friends at a coffee shop. Start with what all can happen. Then ask
how they would deal with them. The trick is to get the answers from them.
on strong sense of self-worth. Children who are grounded
in their values know “Cool is when you don’t care whether others think they are
cool or not”
9. Keep the communication lines open
influence is present everywhere, positive and negative. The important thing is
to be aware of how are we getting affected by it – growing as individuals and
in relationships or is it leading to feelings like rejection, dissatisfaction
and harming our relationships. The
toughest pressure we face in our life is the pressure we put on ourselves. So listen
and trust yourself! And most importantly be kind to yourself! J