Facts About Peer Pressure: Exploring Its Impact on Individuals and Social Dynamics for TeensSep 19, 2023
When considering the facts of peer pressure, most people share statistics about alcohol, sex, drug use, and the like. These facts about peer pressure can be frightening, but they do little in terms of giving parents the confidence to help their teenagers navigate the complex social dynamics of middle school and high school.
In this article, we will take a look at something different—the evidence-based skills that parents can use to equip their kids with the confidence to resist peer pressure.
Skill #1: Help your teenagers live in alignment with their strengths, values, and interests.
The obvious fact is this: People that will most likely be victims of peer pressure are those who do not feel that they belong. They do things they might otherwise not do because they want to fit in.
When we help our teenagers build a strong sense of self around their own strengths, values, and interests, our teens will naturally gravitate to kindred spirits who accept them for who they are. Peer pressure might still exist, but it will be less intense because your teens will already know that they fit in.
To help your kids develop a strong identity, help them:
- Pinpoint what they are good at, and then spend time around people who admire or share these strengths.
- Identify their own personal values, and seek out friendships with people who live in alignment with this personal code of conduct.
- Make time in their schedule to pursue their interests with friends who share these interests.
Simply put: When your teenager has a strong sense of who they are, they are less likely to fall victim to peer pressure.
Skill #2: Teach them to “feel people out.”
Here is one of the undeniable facts about peer pressure: Our teenagers know when they are being pressured. They can feel it in their bodies. (That’s their Inner Wisdom at work.) And here’s another fact: Our teenagers also know when someone feels good, safe, and kind. They can feel in their bodies when they can be at ease around a person, and when they need to be on guard.
People that will most likely be victims of peer pressure are teenagers who don’t pay attention to those warning signs—or teens who care so much about fitting in or belonging that they dismiss them.
So we can help our teens resist peer pressure by teaching them early on to: 1) feel people out, and 2) stack the deck in their favor by surrounding themselves with people who make them feel hopeful, optimistic, and capable while distancing themselves from people who drain their energies or make them feel insecure, envious, or judgmental.
In fact, we suggest changing your language around your teenager’s friends away from “likeability” and toward “feelings.” For instance, rather than commenting that you “like” your teenager’s friend, say that the friendship “feels safe and supportive.”
This reinforces the concept of “feeling people out,” which is an important component of Inner Wisdom. (Keep reading.)
Skill #3: Teach them about Inner Wisdom.
One of the facts about peer pressure that parents do not always consider is this: As parents, we contribute to our teenager’s willingness to go with the crowd. From the time they are tiny, we tell them to listen to their babysitter, listen to their teacher, listen to their coach, listen to their parents. We tell them: Be polite, don’t make a scene, respect authorities.
And while some of this is appropriate, we also want to teach them about “Inner Wisdom.”
We have all experienced that feeling of knowing something is wrong, but having no rational reason to feel that way. Everything looked fine on paper, but a nagging feeling persisted in your gut that you just could not ignore— and if you did ignore it, you came to regret it later.
What about the reverse? We have also all done something, taken a leap of faith, without a shred of evidence that you should, simply because it felt right?
That gut feeling, inner voice, or intuition is what we call Inner Wisdom. Think of Inner Wisdom as your own personal guide post, telling you what is right, good, and true for you–and steering you away from things, situations, and people who are not good for you.
Inner Wisdom exists in all of us. One of the facts of peer pressure as related to Inner Wisdom is this: The stronger the voice of Inner Wisdom, the less likely your teen will succumb to peer pressure.
This begs the question: How do you strengthen your teenager’s Inner Wisdom? Here are a few ideas:
- If they are having a hard time making a decision, ask them to close their eyes and imagine making one decision. Then ask: “How does this decision feel in your body?” Now ask them to imagine what it feels like to make the other decision. Again, ask them to describe how this feels.
- Teach them to ask this question whenever they are processing a negative emotion: “What do I need to feel better that is within my control?” This is the mantra of resilience, and it helps your teenager stay in touch with that important Inner Wisdom that is always directing them to take care of themselves.
- Teach them to “feel people out.”
When kids are taught to trust their Inner Wisdom, guess what happens? They take their cues not from their peers, but from themselves. They understand that they are worthy, capable, and valuable just as they are. As they go through life, their Inner Wisdom guides them toward relationships that are healthy and supportive, toward careers they are deeply passionate about, and toward hobbies that light their souls on fire.
If they learn to listen to it, their Inner Wisdom will remind them that their dreams are important, that they should not compromise on what matters to them, and that their own happiness of worthy of respect and admiration.
We believe that raising teens can be joyful and rewarding. We also know that most parents weren’t given a manual for navigating the teenage years. If you are interested in evidence-based skills for raising teenagers (and loving it), check out The Teen Toolkit.
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