Peer pressure - we all have heard about this term multiple times. What does it mean? Is it always bad? Who are influenced most by it? How to cope with it? These are the few questions that come to our mind when we hear this "peer pressure".
What is Peer Pressure?
According to Social Psychology, we are social animals. We like to be a part of social group Thus, we follow the given social norms. We learn from seeing and observing the behaviours of those around us. "Monkey see, monkey do" goes the saying.
So, to feel accepted and valued by our friends and social circle, we do things that we wouldn't do otherwise. This is called peer pressure. For example, like smoking, drinking, not working or studying hard enough, etcetera.
However, it is not always about doing things that you don't want to. It can also be positive. Having a positive effect on the teenager. For example, a hairstyle, style of clothing, genre of music, getting involved with more school activities and projects.
Types of peer pressure
Spoken peer pressure
This could be either one-on-one or in a group setting. When it is one-on-one, it's easier to have a choice and not do what the other person is suggesting or persuading or asking us to do. However, in a group setting the pressure is more wherein we try to conform with the group norms and give in to the demand or persuasion or request of others, even if we do not want to.
Unspoken peer pressure
This is more common in a group setting. When the group makes a decision as a whole it can influence your actions and you tend to follow the decision irrespective of what you want. This is so that you are accepted and be a part of the group and want to fit in. For example, everybody has decided to go to a French restaurant and you want to eat pizza but you agreed to go anyways because you don't want to feel left out.
Direct peer pressure
This is the most powerful influence and it can be spoken or unspoken. It directly forces a person to choose a path based on what is presented to them directly For example, you are at a party and your friend hands you a Cigarette. This implies that smoking is a requirement to be a part of the group putting you on the spot to make a decision immediately and to take the cigarette and smoke. When this happens we are under immense pressure to disregard our views and beliefs to fit in or to avoid being rude and to be polite.
Indirect peer pressure
It is subtle and it is an unspoken pressure and it can exert a strong influence and pressure on the other person. For example, when we learn that alcohol or drugs consumption is popular amongst the kids that party, we may feel an indirect pressure to experiment with them.
Negative Peer pressure
When a teenager is asked to do something that goes against their moral code or family values and beliefs, it is called negative peer pressure. This is a very common form of peer pressure.
Positive peer pressure
When peer pressure is positive in the form of healthy behaviours, healthy eating, staying fit, getting good scores in tests, etcetera, it results in positive influence on the teen. For example, if your friend wants to join badminton training, it might influence You too to join the same.
What happens when we interact with our peers?
When interacting with our peers we get different cues and signals from everybody. So, when we get cues like smile, praise, approval and acceptance, we feel that we are a part of the group and that we are liked by others.
"Monkey See monkey do". We learn new behaviours by:
a. paying attention and observing others,
b. retaining the information that we observed,
c. recreating these actions,
d. which when Praised by others is reinforced.
Developing brain during teenage years
The teenager brain is still developing and has fewer resources, and is unaware of the consequences of the learned behaviour. Hence, they are much more vulnerable to learn risky and negative behaviour and is easily influenced by peer pressure (both negatively and positively).
How to cope with peer pressure?
l . Practice saying NO.
2. Find out what you truly feel about doing something and be honest about it. If you do not feel okay or you feel uncomfortable, then do not do it.
3. Avoid people that make you feel uncomfortable.
4. Recognise unhealthy pressures and friendships.
5. Spend more time with people who influence you positively.
6. Help others whom you feel are being pressured into doing something they do not want to do.
7. Try and maintain a healthy balance between being yourself and fitting in with the group.
8. Ask for help — if you feel you are not able to cope and feel lot of pressure, do not hesitate to ask for help from parents, teachers, and other friends
1. Build your teenagers confidence: Encourage them to try new things in which they will succeed. Praise them in every little achievement they get. This will improve their self-confidence and self-esteem, which in turn, will help them resist negative peer influence. This will result in making safe and informed decisions. Thus, preventing them to be succumbed to peer pressure.
2. Teach them self compassion: Teach them how to love themselves. Inculcate the importance of self love. Open communication inculcate the importance of self love. Open communication. The way we take care of others, we forgive others, we praise others, et cetera. , similarly, we must take care of ourselves and pamper ourselves. We must not be too critical of ourselves. We must learn to forgive ourselves and not be too hard or critical on ourselves.
3. Open communication: Provide a safe space, without any judgement for your young teenager to come and openly share his/her ideas, thoughts and feelings with you. Try and be as supportive as you can.
4. Teach them ways to say no: For example — if all of his/ her group friends are getting tattoos and he/she does not want to get a tattoo, he/she can simply say that 'he/she is allergic to the tattoo ink and so, cannot get a tattoo'.
5. Secret coded HELP message /word: Have a coded word between you and your child, which he or she can use to ask for help in presence of his or her group. This way the group doesn't know that the child needs help and at the same time you are able to protect your child and remove him or her from a tricky situation. Your child is more likely to ask for help if they know they won't get into trouble.
6. Encourage a wide social network: If your child has the chance to develop friendships from many sources, including sport, family activities or clubs, it will mean they've got plenty of options and sources of support if a friendship goes wrong.
7. Know your child's friends: Call them over, speak with them, etc get to know them. This way you will know if your child is being pressured into doing something that he or she doesn't want to do and whether his or her friends are a positive or negative influence on your child.
These above pointers will help your child cope positively with peer pressure.
However if you see the following warning signs in the child, you need to take a professional help from a psychiatrist and therapist for the same.
1. Sudden changes in behaviour.
2. Low moods, tearfulness or feelings of hopelessness.
3. Anger, aggression.
4. Loss of appetite.
5. Loss of sleep.
6. Spiralling down in academics.
7. Being aloof and socially distant from everybody.
If these changes last for more than two weeks, it is a topic of concern and one must take help from a professional psychiatrist.
"I'm not in this world to live up to your expectations and you're not in this world to live up to mine." - BRUCE LEE.