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Peer pressure

SURESH was a well-behaved boy until he entered Year Two. He started displaying bad behaviour, ranging from stealing to calling other children names.

Once he even pulled a chair from under another child, causing the child to fall and hurt himself. He was scolded by his teacher, and beaten by his father. 

Finally, Suresh’s mother sat down and talked to him, and found out that he was only doing these naughty things because his friends asked him to.

Many children engage in naughty behaviour because their friends put pressure on them to do so. Often the offending children do not want to carry out these naughty tasks, but do so because they fear they may lose their friends, or they feel it will make them look good in front of their friends.

Having friends is important to most children. It makes them feel wanted and special, and they thrive on being part of a large group. It gives them an identity. Hence friends play an important role in shaping each other’s behaviour. 

To overcome peer pressure, the child needs to understand what friendship is all about. Many parents are taken aback when asked to help children understand this concept. In reality, not many children know what a real friend is.

They think that friends are there for them
to play with and be their companions.
Thus they think that they are indebted to their friends.

Parents could begin by explaining to their children what real friendship is. Explain that friends care about how they feel. In addition, friends try to see the best side of them. 

During school and playtime, friends share things, and want to spend time with each other. When the child needs help, they can also turn to their friends. Parents could get the child to think if the kids who are putting pressure on him are real friends.

Index - Nurturing the thinking child
Your Kids can, if you let them think they can!
The road to change
Echo of Life
Touched by an Angel
Dad, I'm thinking of something
The touch of the master's hands
Give your child the reason to say; Why not?
Peer Pressure by Dr Teoh Hsien-jin
Memory, the cement of learning
A guide to brain-based learning
Exercise, movement and learning
The Defiant child by Dr Teoh Hsien-jin
Stress and Motivation in Learning
Developing Through Play


At this point, the parent can help the child think of ways to either change the kids who are exerting peer pressure, or help the child find new friends.

When communicating with new friends, tell your child to smile, ask polite questions, accept how the friend feels, listen and let the friend talk without interrupting, share things, and say nice things about the other person.

Naturally, the child cannot be expected to know how to say these things on his own, so parents would have to demonstrate and role-play with the child.

To try and change the kids who are putting pressure on the child, the child could begin to use the communication skills described above. The child can learn to say no to bad behaviour. This skill is called assertiveness.

Assertiveness is a simple skill that involves telling someone how their actions are affecting you, and what you would do for them if they did otherwise. It is a non-aggressive way of communicating one’s requests to another person. 

Sometimes this works, and the gang realises that it is better to respond to positive behaviour in exchange for rewards. 

However, there will be occasions when the gang puts more pressure on the child. At this point, the child needs to realise that this is called bullying. He needs to report to the teacher that the other kids are trying to force him to do something that he does not want.


Children need to be told that peer pressure will continue if they give in to their peers. The child must understand that when he does something naughty, he takes the blame and not his peers, and that his peers are just using him. Children need to make sure that their friends are not taking advantage of them.

Children who are used to giving in to peer pressure, may get involved in gangsterism, drugs and teenage sex later on in life. Children whose parents teach them to deal with peer pressure when they are young, are in a better position to cope with stress in the long run.

The child could begin by telling the other kids how he feels about their actions. He could say: Every time you ask me to be nasty to James, I feel a bit worried that it would hurt James.

Here are some examples of what a parent can suggest to the child. Then the child could say what he would prefer to do instead, and what he would do for his friends. I will share my sweets with you if you do not ask me to do nasty things to James.

Article courtesy of Amway Malaysia’s One by One Campaign aims to promote positive mental health in children through a series of workshops and camps. For details log on to  Thursday April 27, 2006 Star


After going through this exercise, your child may ask where he could find friends if the kids who were putting pressure on him were not going to be his friends.

Helping the child
find new friends would mean teaching the child a few skills to develop friendship. Some of the skills will focus on encouraging the child to become a more positive and empathetic person. 

Parent can help the child think of ways to either change the kids who are exerting peer pressure, or help the child find new friends.


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George Lois

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