Two-thirds of preteens in a recent study said that—if pressured by friends, they would do something they wouldn’t normally do.

To help kids withstand peer pressure and do the “right” thing, parents can:

  • Listen compassionately without judging. When children get picked on, they need to vent their feelings without being put down or told the event isn’t worth getting upset about.
  • Don’t back down on your values. When peers insist it’s cool to smoke or be disrespectful of adults, your child is likely to test these behaviors and attitudes on you. Reinforcing your values—through your words and deeds—provides children the continued moral guidance they need.
  • Show children how to stand up for themselves. When there’s a problem with a peer, don’t try to solve it. Help your child figure out how to handle the problem himself.
  • Encourage your child’s self-esteem. If someone puts her down, acknowledge her hurt feelings. But then urge her to evaluate the situation beyond her feelings. You might say, “I know what they said hurts. But are those girls people whom you really admire? Do you think you can trust them to be good friends when times are tough?”
  • Praise children for doing the right thing. Say things like, “Going against the crowd takes guts. I’m proud of you.”

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