Peer Pressure from Negative Peers - Are learning disabled children at risk?
All students are likely to face negative peer pressure problems throughout their childhood, teen years, and early adulthood, but learning disabled children are especially vulnerable to negative peer influence. LD children are at higher risk for being influenced by negative peer pressure because they:
- May feel isolated and different from others because of their disability.
- They may be drawn toward students with behavior problems, low achievers, and rebellious students because they believe they will be more readily accepted by these students.
- May be willing to break rules, take risks, try drugs or alcohol, or have early sexual experiences to fit in.
- May miss social cues from other students that signal problems.
- May not fully understand potential physical, monetary, or social consequences of their actions in their efforts to fit in.
Why Teach Your Child to Say No? Dealing with Negative Peers
As parents of learning disabled kids, we focus on teaching them to comply with our requests and instructions in school. We teach them to avoid obvious dangers such as strangers, drugs, and sexual predators, but we rarely teach them how to say no to negative peer pressure in its more subtle forms.
Typically we don't make as much effort to teach children to resist the less obvious forms of negative peer pressure. Subtle peer pressure involves manipulative behaviors that may not, on the surface, appear clearly dangerous or severe. Subtle pressure, however, can lead to more serious problems. Examples of ways kids may attempt pressure your child include:
- Making fun of their opinions, religion, or values;
- Attempting to control friendships with other children;
- Encouraging your child to break minor rules; and
- Using guilt to influence your child's choices of activities at home and school.
Teaching Your Child to Recognize Negative Peer Pressure
Recognizing negative, inappropriate peer requests is the first step in teaching your child how to say no. It is never too early to begin teaching your child to pay attention to her feelings about what she is being asked to do. If she has physical feelings such as fear, nervousness, sadness, upset stomach, worry, or other negative reactions to what she is being asked to do, she should say no to her friend or leave the situation to get away from the person pressuring her. Encourage your child to consider what would happen if she gives in to inappropriate pressure from others.
- Would she or someone else be hurt?
- Would someone's property be damaged?
- Would someone get in trouble, be socially embarrassed, or lose the respect and trust of peers or adults; or
- Would he compromise his personal morals or give up something important to him?
Teaching Your Child to Think About Negative Peer Pressure
The best way to teach your child to think for himself in dealing with negative peer pressure is to spend regular time with him before a problem occurs. Help him identify his own personal goals, interests, and the things that are most important to him. Demonstrate positive ways to think about pressure situations by modeling and talking about interactions with others.
- Make a point of discussing your day and your child's day during a drive home or while doing homework, working on a hobby, or completing household chores together.
- Use a conversational approach in talking about how you handled negative influences at work or talking about the possible consequences of choices that you or your child are considering.
- Using open-ended questions and invitational statements will help your child think about alternatives. "Talk to me about your day. Tell me about your friends' science fair projects. What are your thoughts about __________?"
- Ask your child's opinion on situations she discusses with you. Encourage her to predict what will happen and why. Ask her how she thinks the situation could have been avoided or improved. Can you share stories from your own experiences, good or bad, that can help her think constructively about the situation?
Teaching Your Child to Say No to Negative Peer Pressure
Saying no can be difficult for kids who just want to fit in. Pre-task rehearsal can help you and your child practice ways to say no and avoid peer pressure. Here are some starters:
- Say no with a compliment. "You've got a great group coming to your party, but I'm just not a party person."
- Say no while acknowledging the other person's efforts. "I know you've worked a lot of hours babysitting to buy those jeans. I'm not buying any. Low-rise jeans aren't my style."
- Say no with an alternative idea. "I know you're worried about your test scores and that you think you can't pass without cheating. I'm not going to do that. Want to come with me?"
- Say no with humor and directness. "No way I'm lying to your mom for you. My mom works for the FBI. She'll find out."
- And for serious matters, say no with truth. "No, I'm not trying marijuana. It's dangerous, and if you really cared about me as a friend, you wouldn't ask me to do it with you.