Parent's Resource Center

Peer Pressure & Peer Choices

By Ron Goldsmith

MSW, DCSW, Project Leader, Family & Community Resiliency/CYFAR Project, South Dakota State University Cooperative Extension Service, Brookings, SD (John Burton, Jr., PhD and Darlene P. Moss, PhD, Project Co-Directors)

Do you remember the last time you wanted your mom or dad to buy you something? Did they have a look on their face like you just KNEW they wouldn't go for it? Did you try to change their mind? Did you say something like, "But everyone has one"? When you say that, you're really saying that you want to fit in with other kids your age, or your peers. No problem, even though that's just one way of fitting in.

Why is fitting in, or belonging to a peer group, such a big deal anyway? Because we all have a need to be attached to other people and groups of people. It started when you were little, and you needed your mom, dad, or another adult to take care of you. Over the years, your attachment to them, and their bond to you, has grown stronger and stronger.
Now that you are older, you can do a lot to take care of yourself, be more independent, and make more choices on your own. Some kids think that they have to push away their parents or other caring adults to "belong" to a group of friends. Do your friends own you? Of course not! You make your own choices, and are old enough to accept responsibility for them, along with their positive or negative consequences. The good news is that you can CHOOSE your actions and your friends, and still be close to your family.
Some kids want to fit in so much with their peers that they will even choose to do things that they know are wrong. Some people call it "peer pressure" when friends try to make other friends do something wrong. I call it "peer choice," because you can choose who your friends are and what you do together. You know that "everyone else is doing it" is not an excuse to make a choice that hurts you or someone else.
Let's say that a friend tells you that smoking cigarettes is really cool. "Here, try one." So now there's two voices in your head. One says, "I want to be cool and fit in. If I say no, everyone will think I'm weird." Another voice says, "Give me a break! Don't you know that smoking is stupid! No way anyone is going to make me do something that's bad for me What kind of a friend are you, anyway?."
It's up to you to make the choice that's good for you. Know what? It takes guts to say no. It takes time to learn that not everyone will be your friend anyway, not matter what you wear, say or do. So, it's important to make choices that YOU can live with. You can do it! Good luck!


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Revised: November 14, 2006